The vegetable garden has flourished so far in spite of the long periods of dry weather, thanks to Gerald and his team regularly filling up the water bin so we could keep watering. The garden has attracted a lot of positive attention and comment from other park users, with other gardeners giving welcome advice and tips on veg growing. Passers-by may also occasionally benefit from a handful of vegetables if we are picking at the time.
The potatoes fresh from the ground in June tasted wonderful, as did the onions, carrots, radishes and beetroot we harvested over the summer, along with peas, tomatoes, strawberries and raspberries. The runner beans and sweetcorn were battered by the strong winds later in the summer but the beans in particular cropped well. The rainbow chard, with red, yellow or white stems, looks attractive and continues to provide fresh greens, along with the spinach. The courgettes are probably giving their last hurrah, having produced the occasional marrow because the plant was so big we didn’t see some courgettes hiding among the leaves.
Sunflowers and sweet peas planted by the Under-5s Nursery in the Pavilion looked great and added colour, as did the nasturtiums randomly coming up in some of the beds. Winter jasmine and evergreen honeysuckle have been planted to cover the pergola over the seat on the western side. The flowers attract pollinating insects, as well as looking pretty. The runner beans in particular had masses of ladybirds of different types swarming in to feast on the aphids. Unfortunately, our netting over the brassicas we have planted to over-winter acted more as a barrier to the cabbage white butterflies getting out than getting in to lay their eggs and the purple-sprouting broccoli leaves look like a new lacy variety. We will have to do better next year, with a finer meshed netting. The good news is that only a very occasional intrepid snail ventured across the grass, across the bark chipping paths and up the side of the raised bed – how did they do that, we wonder.
Current plantings include more beetroot, cabbages, red cabbage, turnips, parsnips and garlic, with some green manure seeds sown in empty beds – field beans in one and phacelia, which has a pretty blue flower, in the empty spaces of another. These are intended to protect the soil over winter, taking up nutrients and then being dug back in to the ground later.
Weekly working parties on Wednesdays at 5pm were introduced over the late summer/early autumn to cope with all the picking of crops, tidying up and fresh planting that was needed, but with the winter and dark nights approach these are coming to an end and we will revert to the fortnightly weekend working – first Sunday in the month at 10am and third Saturday at 9.30am. Anybody interested is welcome to come and help, children come with their parents, and produce is shared among those working on the plot. We are learning as we go along and having fun. Recently we had a cook-in on site, making lovely vegetable fritters using chick-pea flour over a portable gas stove. Delicious!
Permission has recently been given for an extension which will allow the construction of three extra beds, and early in 2012 Brighton Permaculture will be helping us with planting some fruit trees nearby.