Posts tagged ‘urban planting’

August 23, 2011

Secret London Garden #7: Wilton Estate Orchard, Wilton Way

by growingpeople

The  longer I do this urban food growing thing, the more I find going on. Which makes sense obviously, but I never cease to be amazed by the range and scale of the projects that communities are setting up. The Wilton Estate Orchard (which also includes a sizeable vegetable garden) comprises 7 types of apple, pear and plum trees and is the result of  a collaboration between the Wilton Estate Tenants and Residents Association (WETRA), Hackney Homes and the London Orchard Project. This fairly recent charity, founded in 2009, partners up with local authorities and community groups, helping residents set up orchards as well as providing the training they need to maintain and harvest them – their website informs us that in the past London was full of orchards: hospitals, universities, prisons and other institutions each had their own, meeting all their fruit needs.

The orchard is located on an unlikely bit of green space running along the corner of Forest Road and Greenwood Road.  What’s nice is that there’s nothing very secret about it at all, it’s right there, opposite the rather good pub and the Costcutter, and yet I bet most people who walk past it daily don’t realise what it is. Heading into the estate you’ll find the slightly more secretive and very lovely vegetable garden which is maintained by the young residents.

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August 18, 2011

A shady lane (everybody wants one?)

by growingpeople

The question I get asked the most when working on clients’ gardens is what to do with the shady bit at the back where not much seems to grow. My answer is always the same – there are lots of shade-tolerant herbs that work very well as ground cover, helping to supress weeds, while having the added bonus of contributing something edible to the garden.

When we grow herbs we tend to think first of species such as oregano, mint and rosemary which really thrive in full sun, but many others will do well in partial shade, or even in areas that are in full shade for some of the day.

Angelica archangelica grows as far north as Greenland and Iceland, so clearly the lack of sunlight is not an issue for it. Its vast umbels are attractive and useful for filling space where nothing much grows, the leaves are good in salads and the flowers, which appear in June are tasty brewed into tea. Myrrhis odorata, commonly known as Sweet Cicely, is a very useful herb which can be used in the place of sugar to remove acidity (think stewed apples). Like Angelica, it quickly takes up vertical and horizontal space in shady spots.

Claytonia sibirica is a winter-flowering herb whose succulent leaves are deliciously bitter and make good ground cover. It’s a woodland plant native to North America and Siberia, so again, not a fan of the sun. This species has pink flowers while those of Claytonia perfoliata are white.

Allium ursinum, or wild garlic, is by far one of my favourite plants and I’ve already talked about it here. It carpets British woodland, so ideal for our purposes. Thanks to zebbakes for the picture and the bread-making tips! In the same family, Allium schoenoprasum, or chives, are easy to grow in shady gardens or among leafy vegetables like cabbages and lettuces. The leaves need to be picked regularly during the summer to promote new growth.

A yellow bay tree (Laurus nobilis ‘Aurea’) will do well in partial shade and the leaves add flavour to soups and stews when used fresh or dried, as will the “midwife’s herb”, Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), whose pink flowers can be used in cooking or be made into a tea thought to aid treatment for uterine infection.

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.

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

 

 

June 1, 2011

Secret London garden #3: St. Mary’s Secret Garden, Pearson Street

by growingpeople

It’s very difficult to photograph St. Mary’s Secret Garden in a way that gives an accurate representation of what this place is all about. Sensory garden, herbaceous border, fruit trees, vegetables and woodland all meet here to create this unique horticultural project which serves as both community space (local residents have keys) and therapeutic garden, welcoming adults with mental health issues, terminal illness, and physical and learning disabilities to help maintain the site. Tucked away behind the Hoxton end of Kingsland Road, this is another of those beautifully still spaces in which it’s easy to forget that you are minutes from the creeping traffic of Old Street and Hackney Road.

The sheer quantity of the planting here is overwhelming – and the garden’s layout so full of curves and hidden pockets – which is why my photographs cannot begin to do the space justice. However much time I spend here, I will continue to be surprised by previously unnoticed little chunks of space (or a sink, suitcase or walking boot) with something fantastic growing in it. The garden offers a full program of courses and events, and is reliant on the work of its volunteers.

(above) A re-imagined chest of drawers, a boot, a toilet (or three), a washing machine drum and a baby’s car seat all serve as planters at St. Mary’s Secret Garden.


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May 18, 2011

Vertical gardens

by growingpeople

I’ve spoken a lot about space saving vertical vegetable gardens already, but I’m coming across more and more ways of creating them that I’m eager to try. The beauty of these is just how many plants they can hold without encroaching on any of your limited floor space.

First, the recycled shoe storer by pippa5 on instructables. The pockets are deep enough to plant salads, spinach, flowers and herbs, but also tomatoes, strawberries, radishes and chard. The only way one of these ugly things should ever be used.

Next, the upright pallet garden by life on the balcony. The sides, back and base are lined with landscape fabric – a black porous materials made from natural synthetic fibers and available from garden centres – and the pallet is then filled with compost before being planted up. Leave the pallet lying flat for a couple of weeks to allow rooting to establish before positioning it upright.

I’m not sure about using this tin can garden for edibles as the metal may leach into the soil but these are perfect for planting flowers to attract beneficial insects. Punch a small holes in the bottom of each for drainage and staple-gun or nail them to a wooden fence.

And finally, not strictly vertical, or particularly productive for that matter, but oh so pretty, are Japanese artist Kochi Kawashi‘s “Manga Farms” – beautiful little sprout gardens inside recycled and water soaked comic books. You won’t get a massive crop out of them but such a novel way to grow a leaf or too. Kawashi has tried it with radish, buckweat, broccoli, rocket and basil.

May 13, 2011

May

by growingpeople

After February and April comes May (we skipped March, sorry, but it’s essentially the same as the other two), and things are getting interesting in the edible garden. Perennials like lovage and echinacea are coming into growth after a winter below ground, and the leaves of the Salix alba and Akebia quinata are back. The seedlings that were sown indoors in the earlier months can now be re-potted and moved outside permanently and the seedlings sown outdoors are now growing vigorously.  You’ll probably find that as soon as you re-pot or plant out, the plants have a growth spurt, as their roots have been constricted for the past few weeks. My tomatoes need a cane to lean on now that they are over 30cm tall.

There’s much to do in May as the more tender plants including fennel, green beans and courgettes can be sown now that the danger of frost has definitely passed. These should all be sown indoors and planted out as soon as the seedlings are strong, perhaps with the exception of fennel, which could be sown out now. I’ve also just sown a purple radish, the Hilds Blue, which is slightly more tender than its common red counterpart.

carrot seedlings sown too close together

Thinning out is vital to ensure the growth of crops including radishes, carrots and lettuce. Look at seedlings and pull out any that are growing too close together – imagine the size of a fully grown carrot and remember that each seedling will need that amount of space if it’s going to reach full size. Don’t be tempted to leave in more seedlings than the space can hold, as they just won’t grow and you’ll end up with nothing at all. Runner beans can be sown now – plant in pairs and pull out the weakest plant as soon as they start to grow, and provide support for them from the very beginning. Climbing plants, including runner beans and peas will grow towards the support provided, and without any, will flop and die.

Potatoes should have masses of leaves by now, and will need to be earthed up – simply bury the lowest level of foliage by adding compost to ensure that the tubers aren’t exposed to any light as they break through the soil (this results in green potatoes that you can’t eat).

The first radishes planted back in April should be ready to eat now – keep sowing as you pick them (the same goes for lettuce) to ensure a continuous supply from now right through to the autumn. The radish leaves are edible too, and delicious sautéed in olive oil or added to soup (they are a little too tough to eat raw, although this recipe for radish leaf pesto is a great way of getting around that).

Beneficial flowers like nasturtium and calendula can still be sown this month if you haven’t done so already – I’m finding the nasturtiums particularly helpful at luring black fly away from my broad beans.

And although it sounds obvious, it’s vital to water a lot, particularly if you, like me, are growing in pots. Most plants can survive on just a little water, but need plenty more water to produce the flowers which will eventually produce fruit in the coming months. In this weather, I’m watering at least every other day, and leaving a plate under each pot to minimise the water that drains away.

Keep on top of weeds, again particularly if growing in pots, as plants already have a limited amount of space and nutrients and the weeds only add to that competition.

May is the month to enjoy watching things grow, as it will all happen in quick succession between now and June – I continue to be amazed at how suddenly the flowers have appeared on the broad beans that were nothing more than little shoots only weeks ago, and how quickly the tomatoes develop from skinny seedlings to thick, strong plants.

Finally – because this is what it’s all about, after all – here’s what’s growing in my garden this month, as well as potatoes, chard, beetroot, Anemone coronaria, spinach, calendula, foxglove, rosemary, fennel, runner beans, parsley, chives, sweet pea, radish, Schisandra grandifloraAkebia quinataSalix alba, sweet pepper, Verbena bonariensis, basil, jasmine, iris, lavender and Myosotis (forget-me-nots).

broad beans and nasturtiums

Philadelphus, raspberry, tomatoes

strawberry, borage and nasturtium seedlings

tomatoes, sunflower, carrot

Echinacea, Potentilla, lettuce

tomato, oca

lovage, thyme

borage, squash, mint

May 6, 2011

Secret London Garden #2: Garden Barge Square, Reeds Wharf

by growingpeople

The residential barges that make up the floating Garden Barge Square are moored at Downings Roads Moorings, Reeds Wharf – east of Tower Bridge on the South side of the Thames. These 200 year old moorings were very nearly the victims of closure at the hands of Southwark Council (who deemed the set-up an “eyesore”) a few years ago, but a successful campaign and cross-party support have enabled them to overthrow the eviction notice and stay put.

Which is a great thing, because as well as being a floating garden, the moorings house over seventy people, including several families with children, businesses and artist studios. The gardens themselves are built onto the roofs of the converted barges, which have been topped with huge metal trays and then filled with a thick layer of soil, the barges then joined together by a series of bridges and walkways. Self-seeded wildflowers first sprung up on the barges in the mid 1980s and provided the inspiration for the further planting up of the floating gardens. The rooftops are now home to an abundance of herbs and flowers, a quince tree, Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Fresia’, Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae, ferns and an apple tree. Evergreen and silver-leafed plants such as lavender and Stipa tenacissima are particularly well adapted to the dry and windy air of the Thames.

As well as contributing to the character of the historic wharf it occupies, Garden Barge Square provides a habitat and shelter for Thames water birds and river fish, and maintains sustainable standards through its numerous Ecological  Initiatives.

Sadly for us (it is a private residence, after all), Garden Barge Square is not open to the public for much of the year, but can be viewed from the wharfs. The Gardens are open for public visits once a year, however, as part of the Open Garden Squares Weekend, which takes place on the 11th and 12th of June.

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