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Archive for the ‘Runner Beans’ Category

Photo: Sarah Cuttle

Gorgeous weather, delicious cake and a fine array of seeds and plants to give away made ‘Cake Sunday’ a really enjoyable get-together for neighbours participating in our community veg growing scheme. Over 100 households have now joined up to grow flowers and veg in their front gardens (and tree pits on the streets) and it was great to see lots of familiar faces as well as some new ones too.

Photo: Sarah Cuttle

This year we gave away purple French Beans, Swiss Chard, especially good for the less sunny garden, and wildflower seeds for tree pits all around our neighbourhood.

We also had masses of Hollyhock seeds, collected from Lindsey’s front garden to share, as these do surprisingly well in the inhospitable area around tree bases too.

Photo: Sarah Cuttle

Now in our fourth growing season, our green growbags and large planters are proliferating in front gardens, as neighbours are eager to grow a large selection of veg, including potatoes (as above), courgettes, tomatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and some very decorative rhubarb plants.

Photo: Sarah Cuttle

Front gardens are a great place to meet up with nieghbours on ‘Cake Sundays’, chat about all things horticultural and indeed anything else!

As part of the Chelsea Fringe this year, we’re inviting visitors to join us on Sunday May 27th 2013 for another bumper Cake Sunday, with all the trimmings. Amongst many metres of bunting, visitors can come sup tea and cake, and find out more about our community veg growing project. Our beans won’t be at the top of the poles by then, but we’ll  be holding edible window box workshops,

a topiary demonstration by Tim Bushe and hopefully a few heats of the Chelsea Fringe Edible Olympics. Cucumber javelin anyone?

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Today our crack team of neighbours delivered growbags to front gardens for our community veg growing project in Finsbury Park -huge thanks to David, Bernd, Matt, Graham and Liesbet.

Next weekend we’ve organised another Cake Sunday , so that participants can meet up over tea and home-made cake and collect seeds for veg growing this year.

We’ve found that both Runner and French beans grow really well in the free municipal compost (thanks North London Waste and Islington council),

and this year we’re giving away purple French beans, ‘Cosse Violette’, and Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ for those who have extra space to grow in too.

There’ll also be packets of wildflower seeds for tree pits as these really brighten up our neighbourhood along with the veg and flowers grown in front gardens.

Whilst on our travels we came across this fab suitcase which will make a great mini raised bed. Perfect for some Swiss chard I think! We quickly drilled some holes in the bottom and filled it up with compost ready for planting. It may not last many years, but should see us through this growing season at least.

For more durable (and more storable ) mini raised beds, you could look at these gro-beds from Marshalls. Both suitcase and gro-bed are a great solution if you have no soil, but want to grow veg in your garden, and they’re deep and wide enough to grow a large choice of fruit and veg.

Growing in containers and growbags is going to be a challenge this year as the hosepipe ban starts in the South of England at the beginning of April, but planting in larger pots and containers should reduce the amount of watering that’ll need to be done. If you have the room and the money, it would be worth investing in a water butt which can be situated near your veg and this should make watering somewhat easier if no taps are near to hand. Thames Water have some reasonably priced plastic water butts which they’ll deliver to your door too. (I know this is slightly ironic as they’re one of the companies introducing a water ban-come on Thames Water-get those leaky pipes fixed!)

However, despite this potential extra work, I still think that nothing can beat the sheer delight of growing your own fruit and veg and there’s nothing better than leaning out of your window or popping into the front (or back) garden to collect your dinner too.

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This week I climbed up to the roof of Thornton’s Budgens supermarket in Crouch End, N.London, and discovered three fantastic enthusiastic volunteers gardening at ‘Food from the Sky’. If you want to improve your gardening knowledge and have some time you can spare, then what better way to learn than to volunteer.

The  roof top scheme is the brainchild of Azule-Valerie Thome, and now employs an urban farmer, Jack Aspery (above), who directs the horticultural activities once a week, every Friday.

Ayako Tokumine volunteers on Wednesday mornings, every week from 10a.m-1p.m. and on Fridays too alongside Jack. She loves the gardening and feels she greatly benefits from Jack’s shared expertise. When not volunteering, Ayako translates English into Japanese and is interested in environmental and conservation science. She’s also researching insects that come to the roof and developing ideas for organic pest control.

Ed Brooker works as a personal tutor, but loves being involved with ‘Food from the sky’. He’s helping to develop a template to share with other growing projects, acting as a transferable model that other supermarkets could follow.
Vincent McGarry, a retired radio and TV journalist, really enjoys getting involved with the practical demands of roof gardening.
He’s helped build the bottle greenhouse, above, and is continuing to work on ideas to put a roof on the structure that will be able to withstand the elements at such a height.

At the moment, the lovely decorative mustard leaf ‘Green Frills’ is doing well inside the greenhouse,

alongside some Land Cress (Barbarea verna, above)

and some Winter Marvel lettuce.

There’s an impressive array of salad leaves growing merrily away outside the greenhouse for January too, such as Mibuna above, and all the salad leaves are harvested once a week in winter and sold in the supermarket below. How great is that! Areas are being prepared now for growing tomatoes and beans which will go on sale at Budgens later on in the year.

I feel I’ve learned a lot too from my brief visit to this amazing gardening space. At the moment I have a large amount of self-seeded Rocket at my allotment, aided by our incredibly mild winter this year. But seeing what has been achieved by the gardeners at ‘Food from the sky’ has really inspired me to plan ahead for plenty of late summer salad sowings, so that I too will be harvesting interesting and tasty leaves all winter long.

If you fancy volunteering at ‘Food from the sky’, sessions are on Wednesdays 10a.m.-1p.m. working with Azule, the first Saturday of every month from 10a.m.-3p.m. and Fridays 8a.m.-4p.m.working with Jack.

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