The attendant images provide some illustration of the disruption to the Garden over the past six months. New sewer pipes have been laid to re-direct waste from the previous Vertically Integrated Wetland Filter to a new Constructed Wetland Filter. This relocation was necessary in order to accommodate construction of a new access road to run alongside the railway, which cuts into the Woodland / Wetland area of the Garden and across the old filter.
Throughout this time, the Garden has been subject to extensive excavation and new site infrastructure installation resulting in earth removal, sub-soil disruption and, most critically, top-soil destruction. Vegetable beds have had to be reconfigured and all cultivation restricted to unaffected areas. In spite of existing statutory measures to provide for remediation, top-soil replacement could not be secured.
And so we are back to reconstituting our soil by compost-making and careful rotational crop cultivation. To short-cut the process, we have introduced a practice of trenching the newly formed beds, and digging in fresh kitchen-waste and of planting more-or-less directly into it. Given the time of the year, we have been planted marrows, butter-nuts and pumpkins in these new beds with some success. Most of the seedlings are “volunteers” transplanted from our established compost rows. Tomatoes are also growing in these conditions without much human assistance. As soon as seed is available, we will sow green manure extensively to accelerate recovery of the soils.
In spite of the disruption to the planting programme, we have had good yields of our best lines from beds that remained productive. Carrots and leeks have grown well. Only now some are going to seed under pressure of heat and drought. We do need more recipes for leeks, which otherwise feel neglected in their prime. Cabbages have been remarkable and are now exhausted with our latest harvest of some 100 heads. The kitchen has increased its coleslaw production. Spinach /Swiss Chard continues to be the most faithful of our growers throughout the Garden calendar. Kale surprises with its vigour but has yet to find its place in the kitchen’s heart. Sweet potatoes perform secretly and with great reward, which will soon become apparent. Beetroot continue to disappoint. Our ordinary potatoes produce small but valued crops. And our bush beans never fail in season. Our first harvest of tomatoes is about to begin and take over the Kitchen’s menu. A final word for the humble turnip which has grown well and sweetly, and is slowly being recognised for its qualities.
We have taken the opportunity to increase the use of hedging around and within the Garden. It is non-indigenous Elder (we now receive garden support from the elders.…) which serves to protect our beds from the prevailing south-easterly and provides flowers and berries for birds and gardeners and Reception and, in due course, wine and jellies for the kitchen. It grows vigorously from cuttings / batons, and in local conditions is non-deciduous providing a green surround throughout the year.
It is an appropriate time to consider introducing fresh approaches to garden management. The vegetable garden area is now somewhat reduced but is still beyond the capacity of our single full-time gardener to maintain throughout the year. Additional labour is provided, in part, by students during community work, but this cannot cover the requirements for continuity of cultivation throughout the seasons. The second requirement is adequate irrigation to maintain plant growth and healthy soil. The Garden requires increased irrigation, to be delivered more efficiently.
There are a number of beds (probably 15% ) which cannot be cultivated continuously for these reasons. If gardeners could be recruited to work these beds, the vegetable garden could become fully productive. Also, we need to commission the second bore-hole, to provide the necessary additional irrigation capacity. This would include upgrading the Nursery irrigation system. The filtrate from the new Constructed Wetland could also be used, subject to quality analysis. Recruitment is underway of those who are garden-savvy and keen to get dirt under their nails. Garden staff will advise, where necessary, and assist with watering when required.
And so we embark on another year of growing things on our small patch. We hope to learn more about the possible, the tasty, and the beautiful. We look forward to walking the Woodland and treading the Labyrinth and offering quiet to restless souls under the spreading Acacia at the Garden’s centre.