Well, the month of May saw the beginnings of the veg plots; digging and preparing patches of sun-baked clay soil ready for planting. Then in went the seeds; peas, radish, spinach, courgettes, chard and nasturtiums. Later, donations of potatoes, chives, Physalis and others were found a space.
June saw the beginnings of a small herb patch. Volunteers were few in number but enthusiastic, and as more joined in, another patch of peas, beans, radish, beetroot and Swiss chard could be sown. With a bit of sun and plenty of watering, it wasn’t long before shoots were emerging, but so were plenty of hungry snails. The little gastropods snuck out when we weren’t around and munched many a young shoot. Peas were their favourites. Never mind, let’s try staking up some netting we thought. Well snails can still find their way through the smallest gaps. It seemed we weren’t meant for pea success, as stakes and netting were disturbed by unknown hands and snails got the better of us, even after trying barriers of crushed eggshells. Inquisitive and mischievous fingers scattered plant markers, so it was ‘guess the veg’, when shoots appeared. Never mind, the sun was shining and it was good to meet other people interested in vegetable growing and to hear their experiences. Trouble was, the rain wasn’t falling and water was only available from inside the pavilion when open. A couple of volunteers ventured a few early evening watering’s, transporting buckets of water from ‘fairly nearby’ homes via wheelbarrow and trolley. Eventually the rain came and later a plumber, so next year should be easier on our backs. The weeds liked the rain too, so the summer months were busy keeping them at bay.
July saw our first harvest of what became one of our main successes, Swiss chard. Along with potatoes and chickpeas it makes a good stew. We were all pretty much novices in our endeavours but keen to learn, so monthly visits from Sarah Heaton, a professional gardener were welcome. Also appreciated, was a generous donation of vegetables, flowers and trees, which Sarah helped us plant in the pouring rain, while she taught us the apparently ancient ‘Three sisters’ method of planting corn with squashes and beans in between.
August gave us our potato harvest, not huge but a reasonable yield of more than one variety. With Sarah we learnt about the types of seeds that plants produce and how to collect and store them.
September meant kale, cabbage, and the last of the potatoes to harvest and the planting of pear trees. One tree had a place near the children’s play area, but it was soon relocated nearer the pavilion after mischievous fingers sadly damaged the young branches. Sarah took us on a tree identification tour; we found oak with its acorns, field maple with its ‘helicopter seeds’ shaped like wings, silver birch with its catkins and conifers with their pine cones.
In October we managed a small harvest, but unknown visitors had already helped themselves to corn, peppers and cabbage centres. Hopefully they enjoyed! With Sarah we learnt of the different types of soil, their properties and what makes a good compost. So straight off to put more cardboard in my compost bin!
November was a bit different, with a chance to learn new skills building raised beds. All hands-on planks and taking turns with the only drill to fit many a screw. Then the task of filling the beds with tons of sweet-smelling compost, tiring but fun sessions.
December sees a slowing down and a move indoors, to make Christmas wreaths, then outside once more to top up to the raised beds, before a chance to rest ready for next year’s veg adventures.
Author: Shirley Khan
Community Gardener, North Acton
If you would like to take part in the 2022 gardening club now is a great time to get involved! We will be having our first workshop on Wednesday 19th January, 3.30pm - 4.30pm to plan the vegetable garden for the year. We welcome participants of all ages (under 18's must be accompanied by an adult). If you would like more information please get in touch with the Project Co-ordinator, Freya at firstname.lastname@example.org