Archive for July, 2011

July 22, 2011

Secret London Garden #5: The King’s Cross Skip Garden, Pancras Road

by growingpeople

“After the Olympic Park, this is the biggest building site in London”, says Paul Richens, the King’s Cross Skip Garden‘s enthusiastic and wonderfully knowledgeable gardener who shows me around – which is what makes the choice of location for this growing space so remarkable. The garden is located right inside the Kings Cross Central development, home to Eurostar, the new underground station, the nearly-finished University of the Arts campus and future-home to dozens of new office buildings and flats, the whole lot scheduled for completion by 2020. It is, as the name suggests, entirely constructed in a series of recycled skips, and designed to be a travelling garden, hoisted up and moved to new sites around the development as building work progresses.

Building work is in fact due to start at the garden’s current location on Pancras Road in the coming weeks, and it will shortly be re-housed at the other end of the building site on York Way. It will be interesting to see how its new location changes the feel of the space, which is heavily influenced by the juxtaposition of the station’s Gothic architecture, the Eurostar terminal’s metal and glass cladding, and the rubble of the building site, all visible from the garden and defining its very nature. With another 8 years to go before the site’s completion, there’s a real question mark over how, and more specifically, where, this garden may go next and what that will mean for its development and preservation.

Paul explains the garden’s design to me: each skip represents an element of a full-blown garden, so there is a poly-tunnel skip, an orchard skip, a root skip and so on, all powered by what he’s called the Green Engine – the skip housing an impressive wormery and huge tufts of Bocking 14 Comfrey, the organic gardener’s secret weapon when it comes to mulching and nourishing the earth. The skips aren’t just filled with earth, but instead contain wooden beds and a set of stairs down the centre of each one, so that the student gardeners who come along to help Paul maintain the site have easy access to all areas of the growing space.  Educational workshops and talks take place in the garden’s “bio-dome”, the cosy tent space at the rear of the garden.

each skip contains one ton of soil, arranged in beds and accessed through a set of stairs

(left) Paul at work (right) the Green Engine

(left) the Orchard skip (right) the Eurostar terminal overshadows the garden

(left) tumbling alpine strawberries mark their territory (right) the view from the educational tent

The project is an initiative of Global Generation, an award-winning organisation that provides young people with opportunities to get involved in environmental and sustainable projects, under the themes of “I, We and the Planet”, and has been heavily supported by the Guardian, Camden Council, Capital Growth and Big Lottery.

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July 15, 2011

Cooking with flowers

by growingpeople

This needs little introduction. Flowers are the extra ingredient that turn food into a work of art – these species are all suitable for small spaces and containers, and perhaps with the exception of lavender, you’ll need to grow your own as you won’t find them in the shops. Cooking with flowers by its very definition will always mean eating fresh food in season, and their short growing period makes them all the more special.

Lavender shortbread, thanks to theurbanfoodie

Chive blossom on toast, thanks to thekitchn

Elderflower cordial with white dianthus flowers and a lovage stalk straw, thanks to eggsontheroof, the most elegant food blog around – I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Calendula petal and Borage salad, thanks to frenchrecipe

Carrot and nasturtium soup, thanks to stumptownsavoury

Pansy cookies, thanks to stonegable

Courgette blossom fritata, thanks to harmoniouskitchen

 

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July 10, 2011

Beyond lettuce

by growingpeople

Lettuce and lettuce-type things are among the easiest edibles to grow in containers and small spaces, but too often we stick to unadventurous species of Butterhead and Looseleaf, ignoring the multitude of more unusual (and better looking) leaves and flowers that can be used to make a salad.

Herbs, too, are frequently seen as simply a garnish and added in minute quantities that can barely be detected – but if chosen correctly, and combined with milder flavours, I believe that they can be a main ingredient. My favourite salad ingredients, container-grown in my Hackney garden include chard, parsley, chives, golden marjoram, nasturtiums, borage, baby spinach and lovage.

The selections below are all suitable for containers, can be sown now and taste much better than an iceberg.

I recommend Real SeedsWild Garden Seeds and Suffolk Herbs for sourcing seeds.

Lactuca sativa var. romana “Little Leprechaun”

 

Levisticum officinale (lovage)

Celery-like shoots, but a milder taste. The young leaves are one of my favourite salad ingredients.

 

Malva sylvestris (mallow)

The young leaves and flowers can be eaten raw. This is hardly worth growing as you can find it everywhere this time of year (Hackney-dwellers, try the marshes -there’s enough to feed the borough there).

 

Rumex acetosa (garden sorrel)

This perennial herb is mild enough to be eaten raw as a salad leaf.

 

Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)

As the name suggests, the leaves taste of garlic and mustard, are delicious in salad if you like that sort of thing, and grow in abundance in Hackney Marshes.

 

Allium ursinum (wild garlic)

One of my absolute favourites, growing abundantly in British woodland in February and March. Use the leaves and flowers in salad – they taste strongly of garlic, so use in addition to a milder leaf.

Trapaeolum majus (nasturtium)

Adds colour to the smallest of garden, grows in the poorest of soils and the leaves and flowers are delicious.

July 9, 2011

Secret London garden #4: Dalston Roof Park, Ashwin Street

by growingpeople

Initiated by the wonderful Bootstrap company, the development trust responsible for the funding of a multitude of local creative and social enterprises since 1977,  the Dalston Roof Park sits on top of the company’s Print House HQ .

The Roof Park is part food-growing project (in which local residents can participate), part astro turfed summer hangout and part cultural space, its summer program packed with film screenings, live music and poetry readings, complete with a pop-up bar serving cocktails, cider and other refreshing beverages.

Become a “Friend of the Dalston Roof Park”  (free and open to all) to get access to the Park at any time – you just need to fill out a form on Bootstrap‘s website.

The Roof Garden’s fourth-floor view of Dalston Lane’s mix and match approach to architecture


the re-purposed beach hut serves as pop-up bar on summer nights from 4pm

rocking the astro turf

July 7, 2011

July

by growingpeople

Thanks to Naomi, not only is my garden not dead after three weeks away, it also has new additions: golden marjoram (Origanum majorana) and golden feverfew. I’ve never grown either of them before, but I remember learning about feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) on my permaculture design course and loving the name (it’s good at reducing fevers, the story goes).

We’ve finally been able to eat things besides lettuce and radishes – broad beans, carrots and potatoes have all been pulled up and despite not making a full meal, have made additions to a big salad to split three ways. And fresia, verbena, anemone and sunflowers have bloomed, tomatoes are appearing  in abundance and everything’s  making me optimistic.

Things to do now 

Sow fennel, courgettes, marrow, cucumber, french beans, marigolds and wildflowers.

Peel the bottom yellowing leaves from your tomato plants, shred them up, and place them as a mulch around the base of the plats – the potassium rich leaves are needed for fruiting. Stake tomato plants.

Dig up potatoes and carrots. Use the vacated pots for a succession of lettuce and radish.

Re-plant anything that has outgrown its pot into a bigger space.

Keep picking herbs like basil, parsley, lovage and chives, pinching at the base to encourage new growth. Don’t allow them to flower (bolt), or in any case pinch out the flower as soon as it appears.

Plant out broccoli or cabbage seedlings still kept indoors.

Weed and water generously.

My second round of "Paris Market" carrots, perfect for containers, growing to roughly the size of a cherry tomato

 

"Costoluto Genovese" tomato

 

 

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