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21st October

It is a beautiful dry,  sunny and cold autumn day – perfect for gardening. Time to catch up with some seasonal tasks!

We admired our cayenne chillies and peppers in the greenhouse – keep picking, feeding and watering these so that they ripen before first frost.

Love your soil! – it’s where all good gardening starts. With our raised bed system we have to be constantly replenishing the nutrients in the soil as we are more or less intensively farming – so as well as using the bed rotation system (that’s growing different crops in succession – not the same one in same spot year after year) – we have to add lots of organic matter and now is the best time. First of all we picked the last of our lovely pumpkins which have now ripened and should be good for storing (if we don’t eat them straight away!). Sometimes we save the seed but pumpkins are ‘promiscuous’ with their cross pollinating and we won’t always get what we expect – still if you’d like a surprise give it a go as seed is very expensive. But if you know it was an F1 variety don’t bother – it will revert back to its wild state and be bitter.

We also harvested a huge crop of Jerusalem Artichokes (otherwise known as ‘fartichokes’ for obvious reasons!). Not to everyones’ taste but good in soups and mash.

We covered the empty beds with a good mulch of home-grown compost and some horse manure and then covered them up with some horticulture membrane – this will stop weeds growing and keep the local cats and foxes off. If you’re growing brassicas now is the time to do a ph soil test  – add lime if its too acidic and don’t add manure at the same time. Most veg likes slightly acidic soil.

It’s not only the plants that are getting ready for winter – Bryan found all sorts of invertebrates getting ready to hibernate under wooden boards – snails are now laying eggs so expose them for the birds to feed on .We found a leopard print slug (rumoured to be carnivorous and eat the common slugs), large wood-lice and lots of worms – all decomposers and signs of a healthy eco-system. Autumn is the season of death and decay!!

But we can look forward to new shoots next spring by planting our garlic, onions and broad beans  which we will do next week.

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!

Image by lynn.gardner via Flickr

Strawberries for Eton Mess

The garden is in its glory and full of fresh produce. This year we have a really early crop of strawberries and raspberries and had a fantastic Eton Mess at our last Heart Garden lunch.

Some of the Heart Gardeners want to know how make the meringue so we will be running a demo in the near future.

We put up loads of netting to protect all the soft fruit from the birds. The weeds are growing fast too so we have been doing loads of weeding and loads of watering in the morning and early evening.

The foxes continue to cause havoc in the vegetable beds just outside the studio and we find the most wierd selection of large bones in the yard? Where do they find them?

We are hoping that the foxes will move on soon, perhaps they can find a new home one of the soon to be closed parts of Burgess Park…

More info of the Burgess Park closures on www.friendsofburgesspark.org.uk

Some Pruning tools that can be used to maintai...

Some pruning tools that can be used to maintain a garden

Friday 21st January

It was a sunny day so we spent the day in the allotment and put the art project  to one side (see previous post). We concentrated on pruning the grapevine, rose and apple tree to promote flowers and fruits. It’s causable to do this when dormant, before the buds begin to break as the grapevine will weep if pruned after mid February.

We also cut back the honeysuckle which shoes this bed along the north face wall – all pruning should be handled before nesting time so as not to disturb the birds.

We were still harvesting figs a week ago and they were ripe but not sweet and juicy as they had been earlier. They did however make a reasonable fig jam . Quantities are for 2 jars of jam.

  • 450 g figs
  • 225 g  jam sugar
  1. Cut off any bruised part of the skin and then pulp the figs with a potato masher.
  2. I added the juice of 1 small clementine at this point as the figs were not that juicy before putting in the sugar.
  3. Melt sugar, bring to the boil and simmer for about 6-7 minutes. Test for setting by dropping a blob of jam on a saucer that has been chilled in the freezer. If it crinkles it’s set.
  4. Bottle up in jars that have been sterilised at a slow heat  in the oven.

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.