Each year our volunteers produce hundreds of plants from seed to plant out in the distinctive Abbey Gardens raised beds. It is always an exiting and fascinating process. Seeds of different shapes and sizes are put in seed trays, pots and directly into bare soil, days or weeks later the first leaves emerge and the tiny capsule of food and genetic information that is the seed has begun the journey of becoming a mature plant.
Some of the plants we have grown from seed, such as our globe artichokes, will be productive for years and become sizable plants. For others this stage is brief, maybe just one season such as the eye catching Amaranthus caudatus, but it is not the end of the story as seeds for the next generation have been produced come autumn.
Due to the continued support from Chiltern Seeds, each year we have the opportunity to increase the diversity of plants in the garden and try things we have not grown before.
To name just a few new to us this year: German chamomile and milk thistle – used in our new tea blends – beautiful and productive runner bean ‘White Emergo’, striking and long flowering Salvia horminum ‘Blue denim’, novel and tasty Tomato ‘Blue Bayou’ and Agastache astromontana ‘pink pop’ – good for the bees, each plant playing its part in the season’s dynamic performance.
Thank you Chiltern Seeds!
by Hamish Liddle, garden club leader, Abbey Gardens
Pictures by Lydia Thornley
Tomatillo! One of the things we love about community gardening is discovering plants that we had no idea existed. Or at least, some of us knew what they were but weren’t sure how or when to cook them, some of us – well, me – didn’t have a clue but photographed them anyway because they were astonishing things to look at and Hamish and Charlie knew all about them.
Want to find out more? Come along to one of our free garden club sessions. Our Thursday 4pm–7pm sessions have finished for the season because it’s now too dark to garden. But our Tuesday 1pm–3pm and Saturday 10am–4pm sessions are still going strong and there’s plenty to do, both for this season and preparing for the year ahead. Full details of Autumn and Winter garden club times here.
The Garden Club sessions on Thursday have finished until March 2015 due to the fact that Daylight Savings Time kicks in this week and it will be too dark too early in the garden for the sessions.
The Tueasday and Saturday sessions will continue until end of November.
In December, January, and February, we will only have sessions on one Saturday each of those mounts: the 1st Saturday in December, and 2nd Saturday in January and February.
Starting in March, the normal schedule will resume. Please see the calendar here.
In some ways Autumn really is the beginning of the new year for gardeners. Most work around now is preparation for next spring and summer and it’s the time to take stock and plan ahead.
Successes for this year include attractive fruits of squashes, bumper crops of massive potatoes, hot Saturday sessions eating peaches and nectarines, revitalising teas made from our own fresh picked herbs, store cupboards full of Gherkins with Czech marjoram spice mix and a diversity of shapes, colours, flavours and textures in the tomato beds.
Visitors and volunteers all have their personal preferences of plants, edible and ornamental, but most agree that the diversity of planting is one the appealing aspects of Abbey Gardens. We will be building on that by making some additions in the future. We’ll be planting more herbs including bay and ornamentals such as honeysuckle along some of our boundary fence.
We will also be growing more common vegetable types and experimenting with ways of growing carrots to increase quality and yield, although it won’t just be edibles we will be experimenting with but plants with other uses such as dye plants.
There is always a wide variety of activities to get involved with at Abbey Gardens, whether that’s getting your hands dirty or helping make those decisions for the future. The whole process of planning and evaluation is one thing that makes gardening such an interesting and engaging way to spend your time.
From garden club leader Hamish Liddle, pictured above with Nina Pope, one of the garden’s designers and a Trustee, and Alison Gibson, volunteer gardener and for several years, fundraiser.
People bring all sorts to our garden club sessions: energy, skills, ideas, even the odd comedy vegetable…
This Saturday we’ve had Dasha’s Abbey Gardens pumpkin soup, Vicki’s strategic know-how, Hamish’s gardening wisdom – and Loothfur nipped out of the horticulture meeting to harvest coriander for everyone.
What you can’t see in these pictures is the hard work shifting the enormous pile of compost at the other end of the garden onto raised beds being cleared of Summer crops. Here’s to the compost-shovellers!
And this week, we’ve waved off biologist Marleen to her new academic post in Florida – after she’d harvested the biggest potatoes of the season. Good luck, Marleen, and thank you for your bug knowledge.
The hard work goes on, in the garden and behind the scenes.
Cakes that looked like pumpkins. Cakes with pumpkins in them. Carved pumpkins. Pumpkin facts and stories. Cheffing with pumpkins. Pumpkins painted on faces. Pumpkin quizzes. Pumpkin cushions. The Pumpkinhead photo prop. Our gardeners dressed in pumpkin colours… It really has been all things pumpkin at the Pumpkinfest.
A massive Abbey Gardens thank-you to Vegan Peasant, the Regent Community Brass Band, our competition judges, our councillors and community police for giving out the prizes, all who gave prizes including the lovely Sawmill café, our workshop leaders, our stall and setup crews, our Chair, Mike, for MC duties, everyone who made and contributed products for the honesty stall including gherkins by Dasha, teas by Dasha and a team of teabag-filling volunteers, chutney by Freya, food stories cushions and pumpkin pun cards by Lydia and of course, Charlie’s amazing comfrey liquid, Hamish for sharing gardening know-how… and most importantly, our awesome events team.
Congratulations too to our competition and raffle prize winners.
And thank you to everyone who visited and made it another busy, cheerful event.
Abbey Gardens Pumpkin fest – a free event for all ages
Saturday 27 September 2014, 1pm-4pm
Abbey Gardens, Bakers Row, London E15 3NF
Celebrating all things pumpkin, the most expressive of the vegetables…
Come along for the free activities and enjoy the garden
- Enter the pumpkin carving competition – bring your pumpkins already carved or decorated to the event
- Bring your pumpkins, squashes or giant marrows to help us create a Pumpkin Exhibition – you may win a prize
- Children’s pumpkin craft workshop
- Delicious food created by Vegan Peasant
- Pumpkin face painting
- Get your photo taken as a Pumpkin Head
- Enjoy music from Regent Community Brass Band
- Learn the history of pumpkin carving
- Buy fresh produce, as well as homemade pickles, jams and chutneys on our honesty stall
- Garden tours from our garden leader, Hamish Liddle
- Test your knowledge in our Vegetable Quiz
- And our ever-popular tea and cake stall!
All activities are free. Drinks, food and honesty stall produce for donations to the garden.
Five teachers from School 21 (which is housed on the old Rockaby School site in Stratford) came by the garden today on their quest to explore local organisations in order to set up new links with the school and their students. Its always enjoyable to explain the garden, how it came about and how it all works and the conversations it triggers. The garden is a real manifestation of a collective effort with a strong ethos of sharing. The conversations are a welcome reminder of what we all have achieved over the years.
On another note, I am happy to officially confirm that four out of five visiting teachers passed the ‘smell the comfrey liquid challenge’ – an outstanding result.
“Is it an allotment?” It’s the question we’re asked most often by visitors and passers-by. It looks like one. We grow things that allotmenteers grow. But we garden together at our three free garden club sessions a week run by garden club leader Hamish Liddle. The beauty of that is that anyone can come along, from people who’ve never gardened before to keen gardeners, there are energetic and delicate things to do, people can give as much or as little time as they can spare – and it’s sociable gardening. We harvest what’s ready, to share and for our community events (we ask visitors respectfullly not to harvest outside garden club sessions but if you’re interested in our produce do come along to our events and visit the honesty stall).
If you’d like to get involved, come along to one of our garden club sessions: Saturday 10am-4pm, Tuesday 1pm-3pm or Thursday 4pm-7pm, ask for Hamish and fill out a form. Children must be accompanied by a parent or carer.
If you’d like to visit first, the garden is open daily from dawn ’til dusk or come to our Pumpkinfest on Saturday 27 September from 1pm-4pm, a free event for all ages.
Whatever you’re expecting from one of our gardening sessions, there’s always an “Ooh, look at that!” moment at some point. Today’s delights included tomatoes growing in a fan shape and biologist Marleen’s potato harvest uncovering a perfect section through a plant. So when we come and do some gardening, we take away more than our shared harvest, the pleasure of sociable gardening and the satisfaction of helping to make a lovely community space grow – we take a bit of knowledge home too.