We’ve drawn up our outline planting plan for 2015 for the edible growing plot. The big news is that we’re going to try ‘three sisters’ planting: sweet corn, climbing beans and courgettes/squash. The idea is that these three plants help each other. The corn provides a structure for the beans to climb, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil and the squash/cougettes spread along the ground forming a ‘mulch’, protecting moisture in the soil and preventing weeds. We going to use the sunniest raised bed for this: we know courgettes and beans grow well and easily, sweet corn is a bit of an unknown quantity, but having just been given some sweet corn seeds, it’s definitely worth a try.
Having gone through our joint seed collection, we’ve got everything we need for the new season except … chard. We have a whole range of different climbing beans: yellow, green and purple pods. We have Italian courgettes and winter squash. We only need a few tomato plants, but we have plenty of seed. Last year’s attempts with beefsteak tomatoes were not particularly successful, so we’re back to the reliable and heavy cropping cherry tomatoes. Collectively, we have a wide range of salad leaf seeds and despite the frustrations of caterpillar invasions and tough leaves, we are going to grow cavalo nero again in the shadier raised bed at the back of the garden. Our ‘three leaf (chard, rocket, cavalo nero) three cheese’ lasagne has been a hit at two harvest suppers now, and we know it’s easy to grow.
We’re moving our strawberry bed and leaving the growing area in the second ‘orchard’ bed free for the moment for later inspiration. And we’ll no doubt be sowing some marigolds and other ‘companion’ plants to provide colour and distraction for pests. With luck, this year’s frost will have prevented the kind of aphid attack our fruit trees suffered last year but we’ll probably spray our trees next week with an organic garlic-based wash which discourages the aphids. I’m assuming, of course, that the garlic flavour will have worn off by the time we come to harvest the apples: not a great combination.
Just got this lovely video from Jo at Brighton & Hove Food Partnership about volunteering in local community gardens. Our garden is featured towards the end (remember? Jo came round to film last summer).
And if you fancy volunteering with us, do get in touch: email@example.com
Last Tuesday, we ventured out into the London Road station gardens for the first work session of this year. Two of us cleared weeds and straggly plants from the raised beds in the edible growing area and dug over the soil. It’s a bit soggy at the moment and benefitted from getting some aeration. In both plots, the soil is looking rich and moist with lots of worms, thanks to our liberal layering of compost in the autumn. We also cut back the autumn raspberry canes in pots and I’ve given them a top dressing of sulphur of potash.
At this time of year, as we finally feel spring is out there somewhere but are not quite sure when it will arrive, the gardens are looking tired. We’ve been blessed these last few days in Brighton with bright days and no rain, so it was a good time to freshen the soil and bring some colour into the shady garden. Two local shops have been selling cheap and cheerful primula and I managed to pick up 16 for not very much. They are not distinguished or subtle plants, but their unashamedly bright colour is a boon in the poor light of our early spring. We planted some miniature skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ earlier in the winter and their red flowers and glossy dark leaves work well with the reds and purples of the primula. Daffodils are in bud as is our Mahonia, bringing some splashes of yellow to the shady garden. I also think the fuchsia we planted during the early summer are going to survive: they are twiggy skeletons at the moment, but there was green wood there when I snipped off some of the spindly twigs.
Pansies, a few dwarf daffodils and primula are also flowering in our tree pits. And finally the symmetry at the front of the station has been restored. Another sorbus has been planted to replace the one which got blown down in a storm in October 2013: thank-you, Brighton & Hove Cityparks. We will look after it and water it if we don’t have much rain.
It’s that time of year. We’ve moved on from Christmas, but it’s still dark and wet. Never mind – a good time for meeting and looking forward. We’ve just had our Annual General Meeting: our report and accounts can be viewed under Documents above or by clicking here. And here are four key things we want to work on for 2015, in addition to our usual work on the edible plot and the shady triangle of shade-loving ornamental plants.
1. We hope to be bringing splashes of colour again to the area when we plant up (or renew planting in): 3 planters on station platform, the tree pits in Shaftebury Place, 2 planters at The Signalman and the hollows of the trees cut down on Ditchling Rise. We’ve overwintered and propagated lots of geraniums and fuchsias ready for late spring planting, we’ve also got alyssum seedlings on the go, ivy plants are growing well, and I’m hoping the purple red heuchera cuttings don’t get undermined by vine weevils.
2. The big old planters we were looking after at Preston Circus are to be removed. We’ve cleared most of the plants, and we’re talking to BHCC about a new planter at the bottom of Clyde Road with more harmonious paving and a community notice board at Duke of York cinema. We’ve repotted santolina, festuca grasses, a couple of hardy chrysanthemums. Sadly, plants in the Duke of York planters had suffered from vine weevils.
3. We’re also involved with Brighton Greenway to try to make this into a really pleasant walkway up to Brighton station, as well as a thriving wildlife area and mini-park, with interpretation boards celebrating its railway heritage and possibly with some food growing. Next Action Day: Sunday 8th February 12.30 to 3.30 meet back of Clarendon Centre, BN1 4GQ. Contact Madeleine (firstname.lastname@example.org) or me if you’re interested in taking part.
4. And finally … We’d like this year to get another nomination for Southern Railway’s Stars and Tsars Best Community Station award: to do this, we need to keep up efforts to tidy and improve environment at the station, and keep everybody involved in gardening, composting, events etc. We’re going to do a recce of the station and areas which need a bit of attention: the Albion in the Community group did a fantastic job clearing weeds, but they do come back, and walls by the edible plot need repainting. And there’s paint peeling away in various places – all ready for a spring spruce-up, once we get the spring.
This Sunday, the sky was blue, the sun was shining: no rain, and mercifully, no wind. Still cold is easier to deal with. Walking along The Greenway from north to south, we noticed that the graffiti on the walls had been painted out. And there was a warm welcome for us when we reached the Church of Christ the King (CCK), our meeting point. We felt optimistic.
Jess, the ranger, was there with tools and guidance. Our task today was to clear nettles and dock leaves in the grassy areas, clear leaves and dead vegetation around the vines climbing up the walls and pick up littler. We were around fifteen people, including two families and their children. As one of the younger participants observed, ‘This is actually quite good fun!’, as we massacred nettles and dock leaves.
It was good to hear from John from Brighton & Hove Wildlife Forum that the vegetation towards the north end was probably the most important for wildlife. We started to see The Greenway in terms of different areas: a wildlife area from the bridge to the first set of benches, a slightly more cultivated or controlled area from the benches to the entrance from Boston Street. We talked about possibly moving some of the giant implements from ivy-clad pillars to the bare ones.
My young co-worker and I, as we dug up recalcitrant nettles and dock leaves, decided to name the cleared grassy area ‘Chocolate Cake Square’ as we felt our efforts should transform this area into a nice place for picnicking in the summer. The summer, it turned out, was when his birthday was, and we vowed to make the area a great place to eat birthday cake.
It was wonderful to see so many people using The Greenway: dog walkers, people clearly coming from the station, people on their way back from the centre of town, people taking a stroll and people taking a work break. ‘It’s my favourite walk’ shouted out one young man. Two people walking their dog stopped to talk at length. Several thanked us for working on the area.
By two o’clock, we needed a break, and James, the pastor at CCK, provided us with soup and bread around a wooden table: a chance to take a breath and enjoy a really nice moment of coming together. At the same time, the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ demonstration was taking place in Paris. We’d talked about this as we walked over to the Greenway and as we walked back. The giant work implements on The Greenway can be seen as celebrating gardening and/or the steam railway, with its wrenches and shovels. Perhaps we should also have left a jar of pencils in Chocolate Cake Square after our very small celebration of comm-unity.
Interested in The Greenway? Come to Action Group meeting Tuesday 13 Jan, 7.30pm Clarendon Centre (CCK), BN1 4GQ
It seems not many people know The Greenway. True – there’s not much to indicate its presence. It’s a lovely pedestrian pathway into the centre of Brighton. You can access it from New England Road. Just after passing under the iron bridge, there’s a path leading up steps to the right. It goes over the bridge and leads up to Stroudley Road.
It’s got very overgrown and feels rather forlorn now, so a number of local groups are getting together to try to revive it and help it fulfil its potential. It could be Brighton’s Highline!
We are trying to meet once a month to clear overgrowth and pick up litter: come along Sunday 11th January 2015 12.30 to 3.30 to back of Clarendon Centre, Boston Street, BN1 4GQ. Do wear solid shoes and warm waterproof clothing. Bring gardening gloves and secateurs if you have them.
We are also organising regular open meetings for all interested in reinvigorating The Greenway so we can discuss ideas and start to plan a way forward. The next meeting is Tuesday 13th January 2015 7.30pm at the Clarendon Centre, BN1 4GQ. Do come along – the Greenway has a bright potential future!