Archive for May, 2011

Another spring and another ‘Cake Sunday’.

This is the second year of our community veg growing project and many neighbours got together last weekend in a front garden in North London to pick up their free seeds and to discuss the veg growing scheme for this year over tea and cakes.

Last year we experimented with growing corn, squash and runner beans in growbags in front gardens, with the help of a Capital Growth grant.

It was a huge success, especially the runner beans, so this year we’re giving away free runner bean, spinach and radish seeds (thanks to funding received from the Cripplegate Foundation and Islington Gardeners) and as before, large growbags, full of rich compost, will be delivered to residents’ front gardens in a couple of weeks.

We also have a specially concocted mix of annual and perennial wildflower seeds to give away, which we sourced from Landlife Wildflowers, to sow at the base of our street trees. These tree pits really enliven the area and do encourage dog owners to be more responsible about where their dogs do their business!

Once again, one of our local community police officers was on hand to offer support,

and signed up the local police station at the end of our street to join the veg growing scheme.

This year we’re doubling the number of participating households from 50 to 100 as more neighbours are keen to join in growing vegetables and above all, want to get to know other residents in their neighbourhood. As numbers of participating households increase, the Blackstock Triangle area in Finsbury Park is becoming an even more friendly place to live!

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Cor Blimey! It’s only mid May and I’ve just eaten my first strawberry from the beds in the front garden. It was sweet and delicious and hopefully in a week or so, I’ll have enough strawberries to make an Eton mess-a favourite for one of my favourites.

With yet another day of promised rain passing by, and not a drop felt, I finally caved in and gave the veg a good soak.

The tulips and daffodils dying back in the front garden look messy, but I want them to be able to store up enough energy (by photosynthesizing ) for next near, so the leaves stay until they’ve died right back. The strange upright plant popping up in the left-hand corner of the back bed is a caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris), and planted once, you’ll never be without this curious spurge again, as it self seeds like crazy by catapulting its seeds as far as it can.
Also at the back of the border, I’ve planted out about a dozen sunflowers for a show later in the year and I’ve started taking advantage of gaps appearing by planting out some leeks a friend gave me. Front garden definitely taking on a potager feel (mixture of veg and flowers in the same bed).

So here’s a quick ‘how to’ plant leeks. Although it looks fairly small, I’ve planted my home -grown leeks when they were only about 4 to 5 inches long previously, and they’ve always grown well from such a tiny start. This leek was getting pot-bound, so I’ve given it a very good soak to loosen the roots before planting out.

With a stick, make a generous hole for your leek.

Let the leek drop into the hole,

and then water it into the hole with plenty of water.

There’s no need to firm the leek in with your hands as the water has helped the roots make contact with the soil. It should be fine from now on, but if it still doesn’t rain, make sure you don’t let it dry out.

Out in the back garden, some flowers are being rather forward too. I’ve seen agapanthus heads already forming in a client’s garden(about 6-8 weeks early), and these self-sown Nigellas (above) also seem to be flowering weeks earlier than normal. Don’t think I had any in flower until July las year.  With so much happening in the garden now, I wonder what will be left to see in July and August. Luckily, I ‘ve grown loads of Nicotiana sylvestris (tall tobacco plants) and Cleome from seed and I certainly will be needing these to fill in gaps left this year. It’s still not too late to sow some annuals to fill in gaps in the border. There’s also a great article about how to delay your perennials from flowering by Robin Lane Fox at the FT which is a really useful read if you’re concerned about flower beds with no flowers come the summer proper. Anything strange happening in your gardens too?

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As I sit and write, I hear the wonderful pitter patter of rain in the garden. The smell outside is delicious and strangely familiar too after such a long absence. Hopefully there’ll be more rain later on today as the garden is completely parched. It’s a delightful distraction, but on with the blog now. I often add chives to a salad, but a friend suggested using the flowers too.

They also supply a gentle chive flavour and make the salad much more decorative when there aren’t many other flowers to enliven a dish at the moment, (although my self-sown Nigella look like they may be in bloom any second now). Any other edible flower suggestions from your gardens/allotments ?

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