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It’s been a very busy summer at the Heart Garden this year! So we have not had the chance to keep you updated as much as we’d like. But now have a huge post all about summer in the Heart Garden – our Heart Garden diary, written by Heart Garden gardener Rebecca Scott, full of beautiful photos and tips for aspiring gardeners.

16th June –
The seasons are changing! – We have left the bulbs in our containers for next year and planted up some cheerful pink and white geraniums (pelargoniums) in their place.
There seems to be a lot of windy and rainy weather forecast for this summer. If that’s the case bees and other pollinating insects won’t be flying as much and yields could go down. But did you know, you can help the plants along by hand pollinating using a paintbrush! And don’t forget to open up the doors of your greenhouse to let the insects come in and feed on the nectar (and pollinate your tomatoes and chillies at the same time).
We also had a good crop of summer fruiting raspberries which like a bit of shade.

24th June –
Its harvest time – new potatoes (Ratte, Charlotte and Anya), beetroot, spring onions, salad leaves and indoor and outdoor cucumber!
At this time of year weeding is a priority – the weeds will compete with your veggies for water and nutrients in the soil and can harbour pests and diseases – “one year weed, seven years seeds” as the saying goes. Don’t compost them if they have already produced seeds, make a weed heap – let them bake in the sun first or put them in a bucket with water, cover and use as a liquid feed!

1st July –
After the first harvest there is space to plant some more veg. Spuds make way for beans and our borlotti and purple queen are attractive and versatile. If you’re thinking of growing beans but only have a little space try vertical gardening using a wigwam of canes!
This is a good time for planting summer squash and winter pumpkin – we are growing patty pan squash, courgettes, and a mix of pumpkins including turks turban.
We harvested some rhubarb and hot radishes. Did you know you can eat the leaves of radish too or wait until they set seed and stir fry the pods!

8th July –
We have harvested our lovely morello cherries! Usually our cherries get left on the tree as nobody thinks they’re sweet enough – but they will make a great pie …..or a cherry brandy!;)
We dug up the last of the spuds and harvested herbs to hang up and dry. By now they are at there most potent, in fact traditionally they should be harvested on the Summer Solstice, June 21st.
We also harvested the last of the garlic, tied it in plaits and to hung it up to dry. If you’re thinking of growing garlic in your own veg patch don’t use garlic from the supermarket- it may harbour virus but also could have come from China and won’t be suited to growing in our climate.)

15th July –
We harvested an early crop of apples today! – fruit yields are about a month early this year due to the unseasonably hot Easter!
It’s time to plant up winter veg. We’ll be planting some leeks – to plant your own trim the roots and tips and using a dibber make a hole and drop the leek in, water it and allow the soil to naturally fill up the hole.
We also potted up our chili and pepper plants into larger containers – these will stay in the greenhouse – they will need to be well watered and fed with a high potash fertiliser (seaweed is good).

22nd July –
We had a bumper crop to harvest this week – bright lights chard (so colourful!), apples, courgettes (round, yellow and green), spring onions, more beetroot(!) and marigold flowers to eat in salad. We have some other edible flowers in the garden, nasturtiums, which have a really spicy kick – you can eat the petals, the leaves and the seeds can be pickled like capers.

12th August –
It’s been dry and windy so the plants in the veg patch need a lot of water! Some veg get especially thirsty, such as pumpkin, squash and fruit, which is why its so important to prepare the soil with lots of compost to retain the moisture – especially as the Heart gardeners only meet once a week!
It’s time now to plant out more winter veg – curly kale (green and blue).
It’s also time to make cuttings of pelargoniums to add to the stock for next year. We took a few cuttings to put in water and will watch the roots grow.
Now is the time to cut back the lavender to keep it compact. We used the collected scented heads to dry and make up lavender bags to put in our clothes drawers. (Sorry bees! – they do love the blue lavender flowers!)
We’ve also got our first crop of tomatoes from the garden (a little behind the snug greenhouse crop) – the cherry tomatoes have done well but the larger marmande and heritage ‘black’ are slower to ripen. We started cutting off the lower leaves to let the sun get to them and pinched out the tips.

2nd September –
Sebastian (my 11 year old son and a keen gardener!) brought in a penstemon plant he had grown from a cutting for Cynthia and she swapped him some collected seeds. This is great currency as gardening can be expensive but if you club together and exchange you can get a greater variety of plants and veg in your garden – we always sow too many seeds and it’s such a shame to chuck them away.
Its propagating time! So we took cuttings from our productive strawberry runners and pegged them down into small pots to make new plants (you can do this in the bed while they are still attached to the parent plant.) A walk in the park can bring all bounty of seeds (such as conkers or acorns) and you can grow your own mini woodland for free – or try bonsai!

9th September –
There have been lots of insects in the garden this summer. We had a good look at some of the pests and diseases that are affecting our brassicas – a little green caterpillar that is munching all the leaves, and the tiny white moth that produces clouds! Oh no! You can keep them away with fleece or enviromesh – meanwhile squash them, and the eggs!

16th September –
Bumper harvest time again! We picked lots of beans – young borlotti and purple queen and more mature ones to be used in soups and stews. We picked some ripe red tomatoes but noticed the wet weather has brought in blight – so I took some green tomatoes home to make chutney. The rest of the plants had to be pulled up and binned or burned – DO NOT COMPOST! We had lots of weeding and watering to do and feeding the pumpkins and brassicas with our lovely home made nitrogen rich worm juice(!)

7th October –
Despite the lovely hot Indian summer weather it is autumn, the plants know it and the veg patch is getting ready for a rest. Whilst the pumpkins are ripening in the sun we cleared the beds ready to mulch and cut down the physalis (Chinese lanterns) to decorate the studio.
We also cut down our lovely golden hop which has climbed all the way up the fig tree and hung it indoors to dry so we can make soothing hop pillows (not beer!).
The figs from our brown turkey tree are ripening and we picked a few to try.
We also made some living salads for the windowsills at home – if you would like to do the same, choose a mixed leaf variety and sow it into shallow trays (we used recycled food trays.) Keep it well watered, in good light and in a few weeks time you can pick fresh salad leaves for the price of a packet of seeds!

14th October –
We keep dead-heading the geraniums and pansies in the planters out the front of the studio to extend the season. The flowers are still showy and will last until first frost, then our daffodils and tulips will spring up from last year.
We planted up our polanter – our experiment in vertical gardening- and attached it into the wall by the studio entrance.
The weather is sunny but chilly as it should be for autumn but we can still admire our hard work sowing seeds that is paying off now with our lovely display of blue morning glory (ipomea) snaking up the wigwam by the sheds.

I hope you enjoyed our Heart Garden Summer diary!

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On Friday 8th April the Heart Gardeners opened their doors to visitors as part of the Silver festival. A number of people dropped in to look at our gardening project and the ceramics that we are currently making. A party of 8 from Love Walk Residential Home for the Disabled in Camberwell stayed for the whole session and both joined in with the gardening and the ceramics.

It was a lovely sunny day sow we were all able to have lunch outside and enjoyed a bowl of homemade pea and mint soup.

Our visitors just did not want to go home afterwards and we hope that we will see them again some time soon.

The Heart Garden opening day was also featured in Silver Festival’s catalogue, here for more details.

For more information, go to http://www.southwark.gov.uk/silver.

Last month, in a rare booking, we were asked by Groundwork to provide lunch for a visit from people from the Big Lottery fund. The Big Lottery fund visited a number of lottery funded projects in and around Burgess Park (our Heart Garden program being one of them) and also discussed and surveyed the park and its future renovation plans.

With emphasis on natural and homegrown food, Art in the Park delved into our creative minds and garden to come up with a simple and satisfying menu for the lunch. As well as fresh, grown winter greens (miners lettuce, watercress, etc), salad, sandwiches, variety of cheeses and spreads and sliced fruits, we also made lavender cupcakes!  These light and fragant cupcakes went down a treat.

At Art in the Park, we use our own homegrown lavender as we know it is pesticide free. These cakes remind us of summer in the depths of mid-winter. Recipe is courtesy of Nigella Lawson.

Lavender Cupcakes Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 125 grams of butter, softened
  • 125 grams of  sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125 grams  of self-raising flour
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 T of the lavender milk
  1. Half an hour before baking: put about 4 tablespoons of  milk in a small saucepan with 6-8 sprigs of fresh lavender, or 1-2 teaspoons of the dried buds. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain into a cup and let sit for another 10 min.
  2. To make the cakes: combine all ingredients except for the milk in a food processor. Pulse while adding the milk to make a very soft batter. Spoon the batter into 12 cupcake cases in a muffin tin. Bake for 15-20 min or until golden on top. Remove to cool on a wire rack.
  3. When the cupcakes are cool, make the icing: mix icing sugar with a little of the lavender milk and ice the cakes. Finish with a lavender sprig .

The lunch was a big success with Peter Wanless, CEO of Big Lottery tweeting:

“@artintheparktwt – thank you for a delicious lunch and warm welcome. Keep up the great work!”

When it’s icy, snowing and the ground is frozen, there’s not much gardening to do!

Dust off snow that’s heavy on branches which may snap under its weight but leave the blanket over plants to insulate them.

Keep the birds coming into the garden by feeding them high-energy snacks.We made bird food from lard, bird-seed, figs and apples and poured it into toilet roll holders to hang in the trees. Birds like blackbirds, blue tits and robins are the organic gardeners’ friend – they eat all the pests like aphids and caterpillars that munch our plants!

Heart Gardener Jo ventured to clear the last of the cosmos which was hit by the frost.

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Another update from the Heart Gardeners!

Friday 19th Nov

We netted the  brassicas (sprouting broccoli and kale) with bird proof netting because the pigeons get very hungry at this time of year.

We spread a thin layer of manure over the soil and we will leave that for the worms to decompose.

We try not to dig in our raised beds as they are full of compost, manure and organic matter, it is better not to dig. If we were gardening on clay straight into the ground we could dig.

We planted a wisteria Iko Yama Fuji which we will scramble up the front entrance of the studio  and trail over our copper canopy.

We also planted tulips and violas in the same box. We have been planting indoors also. Hyacinths and daffodils for Xmas box. We have left them outside at the moment. We watered them and will water occasionally if there is no rain.

We also planted more daffodil bulbs in all the containers.

We planted up some strawberry runners  from the parent plants outside and made a metal hairpin shape to secure them so that they root down and don’t rise up above the surface of the soil.

Friday 12th Nov

We harvested turnips and we cleared out 2 large concrete planters , planted some mixed Cornish daffodils (good nectar source for bees) and topped up with some home made compost.

We cut the hops down to dry to use the greenery for Xmas wreaths. They smell lovely.

 

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Every Friday we have our regular Heart Garden sessions. Originally set up by Art in the Park artists in partnership with Southwark General Practices and health professionals,patients with CHD and long term illnesses can be referred to the project which has an emphasis on friendly, social activities and holistic health. Artist Jane Higginbottom and artist/ gardener Rebecca Scott co-ordinate a range of activities for the Heart Gardeners, the main involving gardening.

We will be documenting the Heart Garden’s weekly sessions which will include expert gardening tips.

Friday 5th Nov

Two weeks ago, they planted crocus and tete a tete into indoor pots so that they could flower for the upcoming christmas. Volunteer Brian and Rebecca underplanted mixed tulips in the bike racks (in front of studio) and overplanted them with winter pansies and polyanthus.

Flower bedFlower bed

They also planted three fruit trees; two plums (‘opal’ and ‘president’) which are self fertile and an apple (‘cox orange pippin’) into large pots. It was not neccesary to have pollinating partners for them as next door’s nursery 1st Place already has some fruit trees. The fruit trees we have bought are all already grafted onto dwarf rootstock, so they will grow well in the pots.

How to plant a fruit tree

1. Plant with the scion (top bit/ fruit variety) 3 inches above soil level so the rootstock (graft – determines size of tree) doesn’t shoot.

2. Soak roots first in a bucket of water (bare rooted plant).

3. Spread roots out by mixing loamy soil with multi purpose compost (can add fish/ blood/ bone or some other organic fertiliser), water well in.

4. Stake with a stout piece of wood (this can be used as a label). The stake prevent root rock when it is windy.