I pull in at 10 AM on the dot. Have managed to work out a good back-street cycle route from London Fields up to Allens Gardens – takes just 15 minutes door to door. Ann-Marie (regular Tuesday volunteer) and Ru are already hard at work when I arrive.
Ru drops what he’s doing and we go through the list of jobs for the day – all written in a note book kept in the shed. Natalie rings from HQ to find out how much salad we can harvest this week for the box scheme. Ru promises 18 kgs. Not quite sure how he makes these estimates! I’ll learn…
So, first up is planting – always a priority job on a market garden with weekly harvesting. In this case, it involves preparing a new bed – one that’s only ever had a green manure planting (= legumous plants have been grown here and then dug in). This means the soil is ‘typical London, ’ says Ru – clumps of clay dispersed amongst rocky bits, broken up builders rubble. But I manage to rake it out, add some rock dust and seaweed powder to fortify it and then a couple of bags of leaf mulch to get the quality up a bit. Then in go the lettuces, juicy green seedling plugs. I plant up two in each hole, 4 to a row.
This takes all morning. With just one break, in which Ru explains the watering system to me – run by a solar-powered computer system that doesn’t work too well because of the water pressure. Also a cup of fresh nettle tea brought to me by Ann-Marie, which I forget and so gets drunk cold. She’s been down the way, planting spinach. The sun breaks through the clouds on a day that had started off with the threat of rain.
At one we lunch. Ru picks some leaves to add to the lunch we’ve each brought in. More nettle tea flavoured with some sprigs of fresh mint.
The afternoon’s jobs involve digging green manure into a bed that runs almost the length of the entire plot then covering it over with sacking / plastic to allow the leaves to rot into the soil. It’s a grueling job.
Bruce (other apprentice) arrives to get harvesting – starting with the spinach bed. I leave the tough digging work to Farah (who arrived just after lunch) to go pick red-stalked sorrel – most will go in the salad bags but we’re also trialing selling it in separate bags at the stall where the box scheme customers come to collect their weekly veg. Then onto the mint patch to fill a box with sweetly fragrant leaves. Precious arrives to take over and I go back to give Farah a hand. She sighs with relief at the help.
At 3, Ru decides to head off to Springfield with Bruce and leaves me to finish off the jobs at Allens Gardens with the volunteers. I’m sure Farah would have been happy to leave the digging in to another day. But she heroically helped to finish it off and Precious and I scraped up enough sacking / plastic / rusty corrugated iron to cover the length of the bed. Takes longer than I envisage and I only get to Springfield after 5. More on what we get up to there in my next blog…
Volunteers: 5 | Potential volunteers: 2 | Visiting friends: 1 | Interested public: 1 family | Dogs: 2 | Fox: 1
(Confession: this is last week’s blog – this week’s will go up in the next next week or so – just getting up to speed!)