GRACE AND FLAVOUR
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Head Gardener's Update...............................................................April 2021
The lockdown is still on, but fortunately for those of us who go to the garden we have been able to keep the plot in good order, preparing for the new season. We are all careful as we don’t want an outbreak here, and are cautious how we select our routes around the gardens paths. We have planned the social calendar hoping the vaccine will allow us to meet later in the year.
After a very cold mid-February, the mild spell that started on 16th February allowed us to start sowing in the polytunnel and in propagators at home. In the polytunnel we sowed in modules and trays: broad beans, kohl rabi, turnips, lettuces, coriander, dill, radishes, spinach, and spring onions. In trays and placed in my windowsill at home, cauliflowers, cabbages, calabrese, fennel and parsley. In a propagator at my home we sowed Florence red onions, Zebrune shallots and Musona White onions. The latter two we have never sown before. In March sowings of peas, beetroot, summer broad beans, dill, wild rocket and more sowings of calabrese, cauliflowers, spinach and lettuce have all been completed
Many of these sowings have now been planted out under fleece to protect them from a very cold start to April.
110kg of seed potatoes have arrived and been carefully placed in trays in full light to begin their chitting. This gives the potatoes a chance to produce some short shoots, rather than developing extremely long shoots in the dark or semi dark. Potato beds can be a difficult planning exercise. 25kg of Nicola had just over 250 seed potatoes, 25kg of Charlotte just over 350. We are not keen to cut the Nicola potatoes in half as often practised in the past as you run the risk of rotting and disease.
The first earlies Rocket have all been planted, we now need to get the second earlies and main-crop planted before the end of April.
Onion sets and Shallot are in the ground and the autumn planted onions and garlic seem to be thriving.
An early March treat has been our cauliflowers, smaller than the summer ones, but still delicious. Polytunnel salads are really developing with the longer daylight hours. Purple Sprouting Broccoli has been abundant at the beginning of April. The daffodil bed has produced masses of bunches of flowers.
Spring is definitely here. We wait patiently for the asparagus…….
There are some new photo's in the gallery if you would like to take a look here.
Click Here to read previous updates from the Head Gardener.
Wildlife Update .......................................................................February 2021
It has been a cold, wet winter with significant snowfalls and temperatures as low as -8°C. In spite of this the red legged partridges have continued to entertain us around the garden. Cold easterly winds brought in the usual flocks of fieldfares and redwings which settled in the lime trees looking for holly berries to gorge on. I was surprised to see our orange Buddleja bush in flower in late December but no sign of butterflies! It has always been a mystery to me how small birds survive during these cold winters. The truth is, many do not, but survival is helped by a whole range of adaptations, anatomical, physiological and behavioural. You can help by putting out high energy food and providing fresh water.
All the nest boxes have been cleaned out and repaired ready for the spring nesting season. A couple of additions have been made, one large box for stock doves as all of last year’s boxes were occupied and a new robin box courtesy of Bob Spackman.
A large tree stump complete with rotting base was excavated at the back of polytunnels. We plan to sink this 30cm into the ground in the wildlife zone to make another beetle habitation. West Horsley Parish Council have generously supplied a mix of native hedging including hawthorn, privet, crab apple, hazel, wild pear, plum cherry, buckthorn, dog rose, holly and field maple. These will be planted along a 40 metre section of the barbed wire fence forming the northern boundary of G & F when the weather allows. Before and after pictures to follow. It should provide an excellent habitat for insects and small birds.
I am sure, like me, you are looking forward to spring. Let’s hope it is as glorious as last year. I’ll be reporting again in May to update you on all the nesting activity.
More photo's have been added to the wildlife gallery (click the Wildlife button) if you would like to take a look here.
Click Here to read more about wildlife in the garden.
Click Here to read previous wildlife updates from the garden.
New Hedging Corridor at Grace and Flavour
The northern edge of the walled garden is our wildlife zone. The pond passes under the frost arch leading to the main wild area, a strip running outside the length of the northern wall. This is planted with bee and butterfly friendly wildflower perennials, nettle patches and buddlejas. It also includes several log piles for invertebrates.
Two years ago all of the rough scrub of brambles and shrubs, adjacent to the wall was cleared to facilitate repairs to the wall. Although rather scruffy, this sort of dense scrub is an important habitat for all sorts of wildlife. It was also noted that the northern boundary of our site consists of a rather stark barbed wire fence of very little wildlife value. Co-incidentally an offer was received from West Horsley Parish Council via Councillor Sally Newman to fund hedge and tree planting at Grace and Flavour.
We decided that a mixed hedge of native tress and shrubs along the 40 metre length of this fence would provide a more pleasing border with plenty of opportunities for perching and nesting birds, a good source of food for them, for insects and other wildlife. It would also creates a corridor for creatures to move to and from adjacent areas of the garden. This proposal met with the approval of our neighbouring land owners, West Horsley Parish Council and the National Trust as owners of the G&F Site. We are very grateful to WHPC for their financial support which has allowed this project to be realised.
Here is how the border looked in early February 2021 after Robin Satow’s excellent preparation.
The bare rooted saplings were heeled into a spare vegetable bed until the weather was suitable for planting later in the same month.
Here is the hedge after planting. It may look rather insubstantial now but from tiny saplings a useful hedge can grow.
The species mix includes hawthorn, privet, crab apple, hazel, wild pear, plum cherry, buckthorn, dog rose and field maple. At the east end, adjacent to the large oak tree, we have planted several more shade tolerant holly trees. Their berries are a delicacy for thrushes including winter visiting fieldfares and redwings.
At the north west corner we have planted a small coppice of hazels.
We look forward to seeing our efforts grow into a healthy hedge and to enjoying the wildlife it accommodates.
My thanks are due to Robin who did the lion’s share of the digging and planting.
Grace & Flavour is a community garden in West Horsley in Surrey.
When the steering committee first found this three-acre, derelict walled garden in the grounds of a nursing home belonging to the National Trust, in 2009 You couldn't actually see the walls because it had 30 years worth of fly-tipping, brambles and nettles at head height.
But since then a team of willing volunteers have joined together, and sustained by lots of tea and cake, we work the land, growing and sharing veg, and restoring this walled garden in West Horsley, Surrey to its former glory.
The purpose of Grace and Flavour is to grow food for the people who live and/or work in the surrounding areas. Crops grown are distributed to those working on the project, those wishing to buy it (through local retailers), and 10% is set aside for free distribution to those in our community who do not have access to fresh, locally grown produce.
We are a not-for-profit enterprise - all proceeds from the sale of our food are used to cover costs and to build up the business. In addition to being of great value to our local community, Grace and Flavour also addresses ecology concerns about the distance that our food has to travel from farm to plate. Currently, the way that fruit and vegetables are produced and distributed not only increases the amount of road traffic and contributes to climate change; it also creates a disconnect between producer and consumer that results in poor quality food and high prices, with not enough attention being paid to legitimate customer concerns about food safety, animal welfare, and damage to the environment. We aim to produce food that is tasty, wholesome, and grown in a way that is in harmony with nature and respectful of animal welfare. Since we are a non-profit making organization, our food will also be reasonably priced.
To keep up with news of G&F, just add your name and email to the box on this page.
Click on the link below to watch this video made by the National trust to celebrate the 1000th Allotment on NT land and filmed at Grace and Flavour including interviews with some of the members.
You Tube GF 1000th Allotment
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