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We received our first care package from the head gardener at The Lost Gardens of Heligan with surplus broad beans, so the kids spent a happy month planting beans, winter salad trays, forage peas, garlic and onion, and shelling lupin seeds, picking through marigold quivers, and runner bean cases.
The Duke of Edinburgh teenagers were allowed to plant tulips in the cutting bed, and if the lines are not straight in spring we will know who to blame. The spring flower borders got planted with pots of narcissi and donated hyacinths, and although it is hard to imagine at present, there is something to look forward to there.
A couple of storms encouraged our shed roof to join in the fun, and a few panes of glass in the greenhouse also leaked out.
We continued to dig over Passchendaele, the mud-bath where the shade tunnel was, and where the herb maze will be. Digging out ground elder and bindweed, and digging in sandy loam which has to be barrowed in from the heap outside the gardens is fairly soul-destroying, so we have mainly made the Duke of Edinburgh teenagers do it, as a form of horticultural dementor effect, to counteract the enjoyment of planting out tulip bulbs. It is hard to imagine it will ever be a cultivated area of any worth, let alone beauty.
Breathing Places/Big Lottery Fund shade tunnel removal
Having won a grant from these guys to remove the hideous shade tunnel, we consulted a company of local builders to get cracking as soon as we had rescued the plants we wanted to keep from within its depths.
The award paid for most of the work (diggers, skips, etc), and the builders Datum Design donated free manpower, after they came to measure up for the estimate during a school session and were impressed at the work the kids were doing. They are more used to doing high-end residential extensions (check them out at www.datumdesignandbuild.com if you are looking for reliable and efficient builders) and we are very grateful for their help. They also removed a nasty concrete slab outside the entrance to the Education Centre and, with the help of the Goosefoot Volunteers, we have scraped away more roots and rubble to reveal a pretty little cobbled courtyard.
We are now left with two new beds (a big fat one, and a normal-sized one) where the shade tunnel once was, although at the moment they more closely resemble Passchendaele (... then a shell burst slick upon the duckboards; so I fell into the bottomless mud, Siegfried Sassoon) with a double-width path through the middle permitting disabled and buggy access to the Stableyard Education Centre. We have been given a pile of surplus top-dressing loam from CiP, so over the next few weeks we will be mixing that into the mud in the hope of being able to lay out a herb maze very shortly. The old tunnel is going to a community farm for the homeless run by St Mungo's and we wish it well in its new home.
The Green Gym group have finished clearing their first bed, beneath the trees at the far end, enabling us to bring yet another bed into cultivation, and to set up a work station for potting and washing vegetables at one end.
Buckingham Palace has decided we are worthy of receiving royal horse manure, so the first delivery of noble dung will be received with due pomp and deference next week.
Head Gardener and Hounslow changes
The search continued for a head gardener to take on the tricky task of running the whole park. Meanwhile, Adrian Cook, who had been Hounslow council's man on the ground, decided enough was enough. He initially had the courage and vision to give us permission to start the whole Kitchen Garden project, and we wish him well in the future.
Green Gym: Brambles Bandish Bingo Wings!
We launched a Wednesday morning Green Gym session, where a group of tough local women decided to lose calories and tighten their abs by working on a particularly recalcitrant patch of ground. After two trial sessions they were looking noticeably less flabby and more stunning with every forkful. Dubbed the Grim Gym in the first week, they soon became known unofficially as the Green Goddesses ...
Shade Tunnel Clearance
Work continued on the soon-to-be-removed shade tunnel, which continued to give up its horticultural treasures to those persistent enough to delve in amongst the bindweed and ground elder. The rescued plants – kniphofia, crocosmias, geraniums, heleniums, etc were moved to a nursery bed, pending re-planting, and to enjoy a bit of t.l.c. after years of neglect. Volunteers have been emerging from the depths tired and filthy, but triumphantly waving stumpy roots in their grimy hands.
In mid-September we were very excited to welcome the BBC TV Gardeners' World film crew into the Kitchen Garden. They filmed one of our regular school sessions and the kids and the garden did really well. Not so sure about the interviews... but hopefully they can cut out the stammering bits. We'll let you know when that is due to be shown, but it will probably be next spring now, as the series winds up for the season.
Our last open day coincided with Open House and formed part of the Open Chiswick weekend, so attracted a lot of passing trade, who came to admire the squashes and pumpkins and the late summer colour. We sold off extra veg and bunches of flowers from the cutting garden, and a string trio played in the corner.
August has been a gentle month in the Kitchen Garden. We held drop-in weeding/maintenance sessions every Thursday morning, and publicised the weeding, rather than the picking and eating, so numbers remained stable. The watering rota was challenging, especially in the real dog days of late July and early August when we had to arrange twice a day, but a newly-trained Irrigation Manager sorted out an iron-clad rota, and nothing was allowed to die.
The rats in the greenhouse also grew big, fed on a diet of Giant Tree Tomatoes, flavoured with a smattering of garden glove fingers. The tomatoes outside grew so heavy we had to appoint a dedicated Tomato Structural Engineer, whose job every Thursday was to re-strengthen the supports. Our Chief Designer continued to fret about ensuring productivity and beauty continued to flourish in tandem. Our Lemon Lady continued to scrape away at the Californian Red Scale and the citrus crop flourished.
Meanwhile the "management" left for warmer climes and drastic dental interventions. On their return, all had been managed perfectly. Time could be spent perusing catalogues of children's gardening gloves and equipment, and spending some of our hard-earned and hard-granted money topping up our gardening equipment, ready for the renewed onslaught of the school sessions in September.
Surplus vegetables, mainly chard, with some courgettes, lettuce and even tomatoes, were sold to Goodness Restaurant in the High Street, and the chef became accustomed to the sight of fresh local produce arriving without choice or warning, and having to re-jig his menus accordingly.
We held a meeting with English Heritage and Hounslow Council to discuss the future of the Kitchen Garden. It was generally agreed it should have one, design plans were exchanged. There was some consensus over the southern walled garden, although the Kitchen Garden Association objected to one quarter of the space becoming a lawn for marquee and events. But there was a 'free and frank' discussion over proposals for the northern walled garden, which still involves a car park, although it is now referred to as a 'grassy orchard with occasional car parking' which is admittedly a great improvement on the initial proposals. We suggested that a nature reserve would be a more appropriate use of the space. A promise was made to meet again in September to discuss the progress of the design plans in more detail. Meanwhile the long-awaited document from Hounslow Council on the terms of our presence in the Kitchen Garden, remained just that.
We continue in undying optimism under the strongest of verbal assurances that we are doing the right thing and much appreciated, although it would be reassuring to see that confirmed somewhere in writing ... Autumn will presumably bring some clarification, along with further HLF developments.
As we said, August has been a gentle month.
The local press are very supportive to us (thank you Brentford, Chiswick and Isleworth Times, The Hounslow Informer, The Chiswick, www.chiswickw4.com, Hounslow Magazine) but it is rather gratifying to be acknowledged further afield (says TDK smugly ...). There was a feature about us in the Sunday Times 16 July, Where Kids Can Get Fresh.
"It was a completely neglected secret garden ... Today, the area is bursting with fruit and veg planted by local children ... and is laid out to look as attractive as it is productive."
The article was in honour of our opening under the ...
National Garden Scheme Open Day, Sunday 16 July
We offered a splendid selection of cakes and our garden looked pretty damn good, if we say so ourselves. It was very hot, and everyone rushed to sit in the shaded areas we had planned. A photographer from the Independent spent over four hours there, and we waited with bated breath all week for the results (sales of the paper must have risen substantially) but alas, when the article appeared we received a few lines, but no accompanying pictures. Ah well.
Anyhow, most importantly, we raised £585 for Macmillan Nurses and showed off the garden to lots more people.
School sessions: "Better than Legoland"
We topped off our first full year of school sessions with the above comment from one of the kids. We have of course adopted it as our strapline, since it seemed to us to epitomise the fun side of what we are trying to achieve with the school sessions.
We opened bookings for next year's school sessions and within ten days a third of our sessions were booked up. So if you are a teacher thinking of coming with your class, or a parent who wants her kids to come, you need to get in touch asap. We sometimes have cancellations and there are occasional vacancies, or occasional opportunities to add an extra session when there is lots of work on, so it's always worth trying. Bookings via Gloria. More information on our website.
Again we sold plants and showed off our garden. We also were donated two big lumps of dough by the new restaurant/bar/deli on the High Road, Goodness* and kids could add herbs picked in the garden and make a herb bread in a flower-pot to take home. We - and the kids - were happy with that, so we recommend everyone check out www.goodnessrestaurant.co.uk.
We also had lots of fun art projects, candle-rolling, demonstration bee-hive, interactive bug scraping of rare Californian scale insect, sponsor a butterfly, plant your own salad, guess the mint from our 12 different types and many other stalls.
Our herb bed looked fab, our hemlock forest was just about flowering, our dry bed was blooming and our cutting bed was stunning. However, our garlic was rusty and our spinach bolted but we had already picked enough for an army of Popeyes and Frenchmen, so never mind.
We were also helping to celebrate the building of the new education centre in the Stable Yard, and admired its facilities, which we hope to be able to use in the future.
We planted the cordon pears donated to us by Dukes Meadows who had a surplus. We planted out a little corn "field", we prepared the courgette/marrow/pumpkin areas, we've laid out a little sitting area.
And as always we have been weeding, weeding, weeding, wrastling brambles, shoveling gravel. Oh, and did we mention weeding?
May Open Day
Open Day 7th May: Given the current drought situation it was ironic that it rained the day before and poured the day after - but on the Sunday, thank goodness, the sun shone, and thank you to everyone who visited. Small punters bought 'a pinta' water and poured it down a funnel, to enable us to buy some water butts to conserve water. Even passing dogs were asked to contribute before drinking from the buckets put out to fill the funnel. We easily hit our target and four new water butts were ordered.
Tom Oates, one of our Duke of Edinburgh path-builders from Chiswick Community School won the gift voucher from Snapdragon (thank you Snapdragon, top toyshop), a small reward for hours of lugging heavy slabs around. Keep working, Tom, there are a few more needed.
Nearly all our seeds and plants found a sponsor, though there are still some unloved orphans - cabbages, potatoes, for instance, still in search of a wealthy sponsor willing to offer them a flashy name-tag to put on their label.
Plant sales also went well with herbs proving a particular hit. If we have a class of thirty kids during the week and each one sows 5 tomato seeds - well, you do the math. The mortality rate when the kids plant the tomatoes out is quite high, especially from plants being stood on in the general enthusiasm, but nevertheless we have surplus.
We are thrilled to have been awarded our first ever grants - from BAA/Groundwork, and a grant from Hounslow Homes. Both contributions will help us with some of the more costly bits of equipment (such as netting for the fruit and brassicas) and enable us to continue working with some of the more challenging young people. We are grateful to both organisations and know the money will be put to good use.
Heritage Lottery Fund consultations
The public consultations continued. It will be interesting to see if they listened or just heard, but at least there have been several sessions at which those who could be bothered to go, went.
FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY
Our First Birthday Cake
The Kitchen Garden project celebrated its first birthday on Sunday in bright sunshine. Over 1,000 people turned out to 'Plant a Pea', 'Make a Mobile', 'Create a Crow', eat cake and admire the new herb garden. In the first year of its existence the Kitchen Garden Association, a completely voluntary organisation, with the help of some 700 local schoolchildren, has begun reviving the 17th century walled gardens. While children participated in a variety of activities, grown ups could admire the herb garden and check up on progress clearing and planting up the historic area. In the adjacent conservatory, historic early 19th century camellias were in flower, and members of the Camellia Society explained their history.
The birthday cake, a magnificent creation covered in tiny leeks, tomatoes, patty pans, peppers, pumpkins and lettuces, was created by Carole Weale and celebrated the rich harvest of the first year, and hopefully of the years to come from the Chiswick House Kitchen Garden.
We have had schoolchildren in the Kitchen Gardens every week. They have dug a new border along the main avenue, clearing couch grass, plastic and other nasty stuff. They have planted up a border of bulbs, mainly narcissi provided by BAA. We have fought off pigeons, squirrels, leatherjackets and vine weevils to prepare the beds for cultivation and productivity. In the greenhouse seeds, such as lettuce, leeks, onions, marigolds, and sweet peas, have been sown in readiness for warmer weather. Outside garlic, broad beans and onions have been planted. We are shifting gravel and digging up brambles as an ongoing way-of-life. Sometimes we dream about it ...
We are very proud to welcome a 9ft dragon into our greenhouse. He/she (we are not very experienced at sexing dragons) was created by a group from the Cathja Project, a wonderful craft barge moored in Isleworth. It is the first artwork to come to the Kitchen Garden - we hope the first of many.
Duke of Edinburgh work sessions
We had a good response to our request for more volunteers to work with the school sessions midweek - but we always want more. We are particularly looking for people who could spare a regular couple of hours after school (approx 4-6pm, one day a week) to run sessions for the Duke of Edinburgh teenagers. Please contact Karen if you want to know more.
Heritage Lottery Bid
As you may have read, the Heritage Lottery Fund gave approval in principle to a grant of £7.9 million for the first phase of the restoration of the grounds of Chiswick House. This project will "transform the Grade I listed gardens, comprising 26 hectares of woodland, gardens, lawns and sports facilities."
In terms of the Kitchen Gardens, the southern-most quarter - where we are currently working - is reserved for horticultural and educational purposes. Half of the southern walled garden is proposed as an open space reserved for marquees and other possible events. The northern walled garden is proposed as a car park which is described as an essential part of the proposals for corporate entertainment to provide off-street parking for guests. There has been much discussion about whether this is a "deserted allotment". According to recent historical research this area, admittedly overgrown at the moment owing to years of neglect, forms part of the historic 1683 walled gardens. Those interested can read more details in the latest edition of Garden History Journal. It is indisputably an integral part of the historic walled gardens.
The Chiswick House Kitchen Garden Association's view is that the whole walled garden provides a unique opportunity to create a genuine community resource and wider attraction which is in keeping with its historical use as a productive garden. We strongly oppose the use of the space for car parking and for a second marquee site.
We welcome the increased level of consultation that is now planned. We very much hope that the result of that consultation is that alternatives to several of the most contentious aspects of the scheme, especially car parking in the northern walled garden, will be reconsidered.
We encourage individuals and groups to participate fully in the discussion
THE HERB GARDEN
We finished the basic construction of the herb garden over the winter, basing our layout on a design of 1699 by John Evelyn, diarist and gardener, and friend of Sir Stephen Fox, the creator of this Kitchen Garden (1683). A lot of bad language, not all of it authentic to the period, went into the hammering of the wooden boards that mark out the pattern, and a lot of aching muscles went into pouring the gravel into the new paths within the herb section. We are now looking forward to planting up the segments.
THE LAST MONTH
We had the first of our visits from the Pupil Referral Unit this week. After a successful tour around the grounds with Adrian Cook, on-site manager and historian, the boys started work barrowing leaf mould. Several more visits are scheduled in over the next few weeks.
The January open sessions were cold, but a couple of handfuls (ie. around ten!) hardy perennials soon warmed themselves up with some hard work. The garden should be in good shape ready for the spring planting season.
THE HERITAGE LOTTERY BID
The Heritage Lottery Bid decision is expected at the end of January. Last week there was a very well-attended Chiswick Area Committee, where the Council presented some of the proposed changes, and the audience of around 175 had a chance to ask questions. The atmosphere was somewhat optimistically described as "sceptical" with many participants querying different aspects. The Kitchen Garden Association is meeting with Hounslow Council at the end of the month to discuss the future of the project. We are all on tenterhooks.
We continue to lay out the John Evelyn herb bed, and to dig over the bed from which Turner Broadcasting shifted tonnes of gravel last month.
Heritage Lottery Bid
The Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, English Heritage and London Borough of Hounslow applied in October d2005 to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a large grant to support the regeneration of Chiswick House and Grounds.
Although we have been supportive of the idea of a bid in principle, we have several reservations. Within the current bid we can find no reference to the historical importance of the Kitchen Garden, which dates from 1683. As we understand it, under the current proposals half of the Kitchen Garden becomes a car park and half of the remainder becomes a green space where marquees can be sited for further entertainment. So it appears that only 25% of the Kitchen Garden is reserved for horticulture, and that is expected to pay its way by intensive plant sales etc.
It is unclear to us where the educational and horticultural activity that we are engaged in - which has already brought some 25% of the existing Kitchen Garden into productive use, and has already involved nearly 600 gardening sessions by local schoolchildren - will actually take place. We have written to the Trust for clarification but have received no response to date. We eagerly await their reassurance.
Details of the proposals were made public on 8th December, the final date for submissions to the Heritage Lottery Fund is 6th January, leaving under a month - over Christmas - for any additional representations to be sent to the HLF.
Details of the project, which includes other proposals for the House and Grounds that anyone interested should read carefully, can be found at English Heritage's web site.
Foundation of the Chiswick House Kitchen Garden Association
We are pleased to announce the foundation of the Chiswick House Kitchen Garden Association. So far we had been working under the aegis of the Chiswick Horticultural Society. However, the success of the project (which has involved visits by nearly 600 school children in 18 sessions in the course of nine months), has grown to the extent that it now requires special focus and administration, and we have decided that the best way of maintaining the impetus and providing for a sustainable future was to form a separate organization. There is a significant overlap of members with the CHS, which has provided moral and material support to the project since its inception.
Dr Graham Hughes, chairman of the CHS commented: "We're delighted with the success of the project and have been very proud to have helped with this valuable and important initiative. While we are sad that the formal relationship has come to an end we are pleased that it has achieved such significant support in the community and is able to stand on its own."
We have benefited greatly from the support of CHS and we are very grateful to it for all it has done to bring the project this far. We are looking forward to a continuing close and friendly relationship between the two organizations.
The Cutting Garden
We have planted up our spring cutting garden. After the squirrels have re-designed it and eaten a substantial proportion of the bulbs, we still hope it will be a spectacular addition to the Kitchen Garden. Look out for details of our spring Open Days.
The Herb Garden
We have taken a design of 1699 by John Evelyn, diarist and gardener, and friend of Sir Stephen Fox, the creator of this Kitchen Garden (1683). After modifying it to reflect the needs of a living Kitchen Garden substantially worked by children, with the high plant mortality rates associated with this kind of gardener, we will be planting it up with a marvellous array of herbs, including several different kinds of lavender, four different thymes, and enough mint varieties to last from after eight until the following morning.
The School Month
We had a successful month with about 150 kids from St Mary's R.C. School braving the winter blues by coming to work in the Kitchen Garden. Each week a different year group came and spent half the session working in the garden, half the session visiting the House before returning to the Kitchen Garden where we finished off with a soup made from the produce grown, served with fresh bread provided by the Bread Shop in the High Road. After battling brambles, shifting gravel and turning over beds for the spring planting no-one turned up their noses at the food, even though it was fresh and healthy.
The Heritage Lottery Bid
A revised Lottery Bid was submitted by the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust on 14th October d2005. More information can be found at English Heritage's web site where we are encouraged to give feedback on the proposals.
Turner Broadcasting Systems
The year's heaviest frost coincided with the first ever "corporate dig" in Chiswick House Kitchen Garden. A group of ten from the Sponsorship and Promotions Department of Turner Broadcasting Systems arrived at the seventeenth century garden. Their mission (should they choose to accept it): to shift tonnes of gravel to create a new bed for schoolchildren to plant vegetables in the spring. They chose to accept it.
During the next few hours coats were shed as the team stripped to T-shirts and worked so hard that they didn't notice the freezing temperatures. The gravel was shovelled and barrowed off the bed to form a new path that will make access easier for buggies and wheelchairs at the next Open Day in spring. 'It was back-breaking', said Hannah Green, 'But very rewarding' added Katie. The event formed part of Turner's programme of corporate social responsibility. 'It made us feel like a real team, and it was great fun,' commented Vanessa. 'The gravel did seem to get heavier and heavier.' After the event the group adjourned for lunch feeling they had fulfilled the mission, cleared the bed, had fun, and worked well as a team. Department chief Jennifer Burgos said, 'It was really good having a clear target, and achieving it, and doing something useful. I'm going to ache tomorrow though...'
Any local companies wanting to participate should email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss their requirements.
OPEN SESSION PROGRESS
We have spent the last open work sessions clearing away the summer crops, eating the autumn/winter vegetables and preparing for next spring. Nineteen hardy volunteers turned up in the pouring rain to build the shed, clear the shade tunnel, fight the brambles and create a beautiful garden for next year. We are still planting hundreds of bulbs for the cutting garden (four gorgeous types of tulips, two kinds of alliums, etc). Late spring should look wonderful in the Kitchen Garden ...
We have had a class every Thursday throughout November, each year group from St Mary's School, from the seven-year-olds upwards. They have helped with all these jobs, and at the end of each session we have gathered in our newly-weeded big greenhouse to eat a warming soup, created by star soup-maker Carole Weale, using the produce from the Kitchen Garden. Parsnips, leeks, turnips and carrots have been gobbled down by hungry - and frequently wet - children, accompanied by some lovely bread from the Bread Shop in the High Road (thank you Bread Shop!)
We now also have a store-room cum toilet, artistically decorated by the Duke of Edinburgh teenagers, and we have even been donated two fridges (and a kettle). Who would have thought fridges, like lettuce, would come in gluts.
We got a big fright when someone told us they had found a planning application for a car park in the planning folders at Chiswick Library. However, we were assured that this was not a planning application, but a filing error, so we were able to breathe again, although we remain worried about the future of the northern Kitchen Garden, beyond the archway. Private Eye and the local papers continue to discuss the matter, but we are trying to concentrate on planting flowers and vegetables, and working with local schoolchildren and all volunteers who wish to be involved in creating a place of beauty and productivity.
We were given some free bulbs from the Groundwork Bulb Project, sponsored by BAA Community Trust (thank you BAA), to plant in the Kitchen Garden. Unfortunately the area we had selected to plant up proved to be home to a nest of wasps who became extremely irate at the suggestion of their territory being beautified by spring crocus and narcissi. So ... when pupils from William Hogarth school came to plant the bulbs (thank you BAA) we planted them into pots, and will transfer them out at a later date.
Luckily, we had been given the key to the big greenhouse earlier that week. Some of the children were sent down under the staging to do some much-needed weeding, much as chimney sweep boys were used in earlier times, though in the opposite direction. When they emerged, they were allowed to plant up the bulbs (thank you BAA), which also included some Fritillaria imperialis salvaged from last year's bedding in the Italian Garden.
The historic Kitchen Garden included flowers for cutting, so we plan to grow flowers alongside the vegetables, both for cutting and to aid pollination. And because we like flowers.
At the next open sessions we will be continuing to clear new beds (shifting gravel and brambles, I'm afraid) as well as ongoing maintenance to the existing beds, weeding (sigh) and clearing up the remnants of the pumpkin beds and other summer crops. We also need to get next season's flower bulbs in, and organise the new greenhouse. Onions and garlic were planted at the last open session and we will be planting some more.
Duke of Edinburgh Awarders have been de-cobwebbing and painting a store room/toilet that we have been given, so we can hopefully use it without terrifying small children, and without taller visitors having to spit out strands of spider's web.
Crops at the moment include turnips, parsnips, nasturtiums, lettuce, rocket, leeks, chard. There is a display of pumpkins and squashes for sale at the café, including trombone-shaped Tromba d'Albenga, and the big prize-winner from the September Open Day.
Grove Park School's seven-year olds came to work in the Chiswick House Kitchen Garden last week, kicking off the new autumn season of schools' visits. After working hard digging up potatoes, lifting carrots, sowing seeds and picking various vegetables, they all sat down to a feast. A strange but delicious picnic of cucumbers, carrots, rocket leaves and nasturtiums was served on dishes of pumpkin leaves. Pupils sat round a rough wooden pallette on flowerpot stools to eat the fruit of their labours. There was initial hesitation at eating the nasturtium flowers, but after the first pupil had been brave enough to try, the children were soon rushing over to pick more. Each pupil went home with an enormous potato to cook for supper that night.
The new Year 3 from Grove Park School, aged seven, came to work in the Kitchen Garden this week. They cleared the tomatoes that had got blight, they cleared the sweetcorn that had been eaten by magpies, they dug up potatoes and carrots, and picked beans and cucumbers. They planted up sweet peas and nigella for next year. And then we had a great picnic. Thirty kids sat on plant pots around a wooden palette, where a feast of rocket, radishes, carrots, cucumbers and nasturtiums was served on plates of pumpkin leaves. It looked spectacular, and it was certainly a new taste sensation for most of the kids. There was a certain hesitation about who would eat the first nasturtium flower, but once the barrier had been broken, the flowers were gobbled up, and several kids went to collect handfuls more. Each child went home with an enormous red potato for dinner. On the weekend there was an open drop-in session, and a hearty team battled with the brambles and nettles that flank the trees by the hockey-pitch entrance. Good progress was made, arms were scratched, and I suspect muscles will ache for a few days, but another session like that should tame the bed. Meanwhile more delicate workers planted onions and garlic, harvested patty pans, pumpkins, turnips, a barrelful of cucumbers and the last of the potatoes. A couple of Duke of Edinburgh girls weeded the polytunnel in preparation for overwintering seedlings.
We were open that weekend, and estimate around 4,000 visitors came through. They (or you) bought bread, honey, seeds, aromatherapy cream, olives etc and guessed the weight of the pumpkin, and checked out what's growing.
The pumpkin weighed 46lbs, 22kilos, and one adult (Lindsay) and three kids (Florence 4, Sam 11 and Veronica 7) guessed right. After trying to work out how to cut the prize bunny into three, luckily the same generous donor who had given the original rabbit rushed forward with more so the big bunny was saved, and the children remain untraumatised.
Lots of you sponsored seeds for heritage vegetables, herbs and flowers for next season, and we would like to thank you. We will send you more information on this shortly. The proceeds of the Open Days are going towards bulbs and seeds, as well as some more equipment, such as a couple of pairs of decent secateurs and loppers, so we won't need to chew through the brambles with our teeth any more.
Everything has been growing away during the summer and the Kitchen Garden is looking very lush and productive. Sunflowers, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, beans, nasturtiums to make your mouth water. (And weeds to make your eyes water.) While everyone went on holiday a bevy of waterers kept things ticking over.
Now we have to harvest the food, prepare for the new term when the schoolchildren will be back doing much of the work, plant our winter crops and get ready for the Open Days on September 24th and 25th when the Kitchen Garden will be open as part of the Community Festival in the whole grounds. More of that later.
We had a good work session last week and made a start on the new bed. This is probably going to be the first herb bed, since we have a greenhouse full of unhappy lavender and thyme seedlings that are dying to get out into the open. Workers left with their arms full of beans, onions, garlic, cabbage, lettuce.
During the week a group of very young children (aged 5-7) dug up onions, planted out salad seedlings, picked cucumbers and cabbage. In spite of nettle stings from the visit, reports came back a few days later that they had insisted on eating nothing but their own produce all weekend.
The Goosefoot Volunteers, who come every Monday morning come rain or shine, cleared a space around the second mulberry tree, permitting it to see the sky, something it has not done for a few years. They also fought their way into one of the polytunnels, where under the bindweed they found interesting ornamental plants, and a very rare Camellia, Captain Rawes. The Camellia may be returned to Chatsworth, where the other two of its kind have expired.
Plans are also well under way for the Open Days in September (24/25) when we are opening in conjunction with a major Community Festival in the rest of the grounds. There will be lots to see and taste in the Kitchen Garden. There will also be a dog show on the cricket field, and a farm on the hockey pitch. Write it in your diaries now.
We had our last school visit of the term in on Thursday. The kids fought over the carrots and went off happily munching, carrying a big bucket of potatoes and a bag of peas to divide amongst themselves. Before being allowed home they planted out seedlings of mixed squashes, sweet corn and purple sprouting broccoli.
The Tuesday Teenagers potted up lemon grass and thyme and lavender seedlings, in readiness for a herb bed that we plan at some point. The seedlings are outracing the soil available under cultivation, so.
Based on a tip-off from an old gardener we searched through the wilderness and discovered a second mulberry tree, completely suffocated by ivy and other saplings. We stripped off the ivy to reveal a rather poor thing, unlike its partner planted symmetrically on the opposite quarter. The newly revealed tree has perhaps been struck by lightning and is lying partially on its side, with new shoots coming from the side of the trunk. Probably still worth saving because mulberries take so long to reach maturity, and also as part of the story of these gardens. It is still surrounded by tall arboreal neighbours and a space will need to be created around it to let it reach the light and have any chance of meaningful survival. A metre from this tree we found an enormous animal's burrow, surely too large to be a fox's hole.
We have planted out two varieties of cucumber, lots of different squashes (Tromba d'Albenga, Cream of the Crop, etc) , pumpkins, marrows, courgettes. We have planted up a herb bed with rosemary, thyme, camomile and nasturtiums. And we have weeded and weeded and weeded. And we have dug up bramble roots, and hemlock seedlings, and nettle runners...
Today's worker children ate carrots and peas, and took lettuces and spring onions home.
We had our first adult evening dig. Spencer, who used to be a gardener there when it was a nursery came, and two other volunteers from Central London. Spencer started work on the path between our first two beds, and the other two weeded, planted and dug. Hopefully they will not ache too much and be too put off. It was particularly nice to have an ex-gardener who cared enough to come and work for free.
After feeding salad and bread to Grove Park and Cavendish, we still had lots left. We have been selling trayloads in the cafe, which is a mixed blessing. I have to go there to drop it off, then go and pick it up later in the day, and the amount of money in the collecting tin does not always tally. However as a PR tool it is useful. This weekend as we walked in with the tray two women ran up and said the salads had been so tasty last week they bought 3 or 4 each, so before the tray was in place it was already half empty, which was great. Also I sent out an email to the mailshot list offering to deliver in W4 if people left money under the doormat, so we sold another 20 that way. Several have requested more food deliveries.
15 May 2005 OPEN DAY
Cavendish School came on Tuesday and did sterling stuff. The clearance of the third plot is going well. Tuesday after school diggers were a select bunch as usual, but worked well and continued to clear the third patch. On Thursday there was a group of home educated children who were of mixed ages and abilities, which presented its own challenges, especially to Clare. The second plot is now completely planted up, and we have edged the bed by the wall at the back with nasturtiums and marigolds, ready for the bed to be filled up with tomatoes. We also netted the peas, which should have been done earlier because of pigeon damage.
We had a small turnout for the Tuesday evening dig. Chiswick Community School, which keeps promising 20+ children again failed to show, which is irritating. A couple of new Duke of Edinburgh kids turned up, but the two regular diggers, Georgia and Alex said they will be taking a break until after exams in early June. So. we will continue to run the Tuesday evening dig this week, but will keep it under review.
Grove Park school came for their second visit on Friday and were amazed at the development. They planted out the beans they had sown a few weeks ago, and we continued to make good progress with the third slice, tiptoeing around the hemlock.
Cavendish School came and planted up half of the second slice, mainly with lettuces. David built a bean structure and some sweet pea wigwams. Cavendish also made a start on the third slice, cutting down half the brambles and starting to dig out the nettle roots. Several of the kids also brought compost from the heap and fertilised the second slice and the wall bed, so all that is ready for planting.
We discovered that the weeds they had been blithely working on were hemlock, so pulled the kids off it and are hoping the adult volunteers will deal with the patch, which is mostly on the path from the central path to the compost heaps.
The drop-in dig was a complete failure - the Chiswick Community School kids didn't come, although this may have been because of late notice from their teacher. We are giving them (yet) another chance this Tuesday; the kids from other schools rang or emailed in with apologies - most of them had had tests of some kind or other. Hopefully this Tuesday will be more successful. If not, we may change to Thursday or review the whole drop-in thing.
We've pretty well finished digging out the second slice. It still needs fertilising and raking over. We've expanded into the second small greenhouse, which is half smashed, so please note no kids are allowed in there. We're using it as a sort of hardening off area. Betty is doing sterling stuff with the watering, even though faced with a horrible watering can whose rose falls off, and a distant water source. We are working to alleviate these hardships. We also had good press coverage in the Brentford, Chiswick and Isleworth Times, with pictures of the previous Friday's dig.
Easter week, Geoff and John planted up hundreds of tomato seedlings with the independent diggers. On Friday 8th April we had a good turnout from kids and their mums on holiday, despite uncertain weather. Around 15 of us continued to fight the horrible membrane and gravel; two little girls hoed all the weeds between the rows; a couple of boys sowed radishes and red onions, and planted the rest of the potatoes. A group of kids broke up sticks to provide support for the peas. And one delightful little chap filled his pockets with centipedes, millipedes and worms, and had to be searched on exiting.