Archive for the ‘Polytunnel’ Category

Farewell my London…

November 10, 2011

I’ve known for a while that come the end of the growing season I’d be handing over my gardening belt and heading back to Zimbabwe. Yet despite the time I’ve had to get used to the idea, it’s no easier to say good-bye, both to the sites I’ve been working these last five years and the rather amazing group of people I’ve worked with.

When I started in 2007, there was the grower, two of us apprentices, and a fairly flexible programme for volunteers. Now as I leave my post as grower, the volunteer programme is still going strong but as well as the grower there’s also an assistant, five Patchwork Farmers and four newly graduated apprentices. In addition to growing a serious amount of food, we’ve really managed to grow a fine team of growers!

With our Clissold site becoming more and more productive (we turned the butterfly tunnel into a polytunnel last year) and the Patchwork Farmers running four microsites as part of the Patchwork Farm, it’s become quite an operation. One which saw us harvesting and then packing over 80kg of mixed salad leaves at the height of the growing season: getting a bag of salad out to every member of the box scheme plus onto the plates of many more people through local restaurants – and we kept this up for 6 weeks running.  It’s been hard work to say the least, with the rather large dose of logistics that comes with growing at multiple sites. But the level of cheer and dedication from my fellow growers plus the honest appreciation for the delicious organic leaves we are growing right here in London has been more than enough to buoy me along. It’s been so great to work with an organisation that is pushing up the amount of food grown and eaten locally, making small but important steps towards an alternative food system.

I wish Paul well as he takes up the reins: may your secateurs be sharp, the compost rich, the robin friendly, the slug scarce and let the salad growing continue on.

Here’s me at our Springfield site, about to make one of my final voyages with the trailer, well loaded with salad after the harvest. Thanks to Amy Scaife for the picture – one of only a few of me on the sites in all my time at Growing Communities.


Early pickings…

January 25, 2011

Over 50 lucky people could, by tomorrow evening, be eating a delicious fresh salad from Hackney. Yes! 2011 has really begun in our land of salad harvesting. Today we picked and packed what seems like a goodly amount of leaves for this time of year. Much of it came from the polytunnel at our Clissold Park site, where the miners’ lettuce has sped forth from its winter slumbers and has amazed Pip and I with its abundance.

In fairness, we could have been picking all through the winter months in the tunnel, but it doesn’t make too much sense to harvest such small amounts. Now we are staggering the amount we harvest of the miners’ lettuce to ensure that there is a consistent supply over the coming weeks…much as its succulent leaves are super tasty, no one wants a whole bag of the stuff (or do they?).

In the bag this week, you’ll also find may king and lattughino lettuce, pancalieri endive and salad rocket, the latter of which has done amazingly well outside at our Springfield site.

See how the salad rocket grows! Fleece flung back for harvesting…

Rainbow chard is giving us slim though colourful pickings and we flavoured it up a little with the freshness of leaf celery.

The leaves are slightly bitter this time of year, but man, to have salad again is such a treat!

The sun came out just for the occasion, celebrating the start of our harvests…

Taking shape…

April 22, 2010

Had a wonderful day down at our Clissold site today. It was the first time this year that we’ve had a proper volunteer session there. Up until now, it’s kind of been out of bounds to volunteers as it was a bit of a building site really. But now that the new gate has been installed and the fencing around the boundary is almost in place, the time has come for work to begin in earnest to get the site up and running again.

It’s not that we’ve not been busy at the site up until now. As I blogged way back in February, the move to the other side of the butterfly tunnel resulted in our taking ownership of the tunnel to turn it over to a more agricultural endeavor. In these last couple of months we have managed to cover it in plastic in preparation for some serious undercover growing. This was achieved with a brilliant little work team to get the hoops covered. A task made more complicated by the un-sympathetic weather that day. You need to have a really clear warm day to get a polytunnel covered. The plastic does better when the weather’s warm so you can stretch it really tight and you need the hoops to be dry so you can stick the anti-hotspot tape to them. This is essential if you want your plastic to last when it gets hot – those metal poles absorb all the sun’s rays and the plastic touching them can melt on a hot summer’s day. So it was touch and go that drizzly day in March. But did it we did, and we’ve now got a great tunnel in which to grow more salad and hopefully extend the season in which we can grow it!

Now the digging of the beds has begun and the site is starting to look good again. Thursdays are now another opportunity to volunteer and the turn out today was truly heartening. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get some crops in the ground by June.