Weekly Reports for May 2020

28 May 2020

As the weather seems finally to have settled fair, we race to plant out the trays of seedlings ready for the big move outdoors: New Zealand Spinach, quinoa, beetroot, leeks and any number of varieties of brassicas. Broad beans are romping away. Peas and beans scramble up the netting. Potatoes are big enough to be earthed up in their trenches. Sweet corn – rainbow variety  – are sprouting strongly in their tubs. Sunflowers are reaching for the sky. The potager is filling up with vegetables, herbs and edible flowers and will be a splendid feature brightening up the old depot hardstanding area. We are all proud of what’s being achieved, and feel privileged to be part of it.

Alyson’s note on out WhatsApp group deserves a wider audience: ‘Just wanted to say how much i enjoyed being in the Garden today. It’s tricky when you would love to sit together on a hot day and have a good natter but we manage pottering at a distance with smiles and waves. Thanks to all for making it so easy to share this communal space in an atmosphere that reminds me of busy socially distancing bees.’

We want to share our success, whenever and however we may do that with confidence for everyone’s safety and peace of mind. We have adapted to extreme disruption of normal life with a range of approaches embracing (but not physically!) members in isolation at home, volunteers going on site individually or in pairs and volunteers prepared to attend in a larger group. The schedule is tightly managed so that we can all relax. We plan to maintain this routine. We are though considering ways into some opening of the closed garden gate.

 21 May 2020

In early summer sunshine, after last week’s frosts, everything in the garden is looking lovely. Pete Brown’s video compilation gives a glimpse of what behind a garden gate currently closed. We hope the video clip will feature as an example of locked down activity in a future Gardeners’ World. We’ll post it on our Facebook page too. Either way, it will be coming soon to a small screen near you.

We now have a team of eleven volunteer workers covering four days a week on site with occasional extra visits for essential adjustments to keep up with the changing weather: extra watering, protective fleece against the frost, shade netting against sun scorch. We keep track of team members with a Whats App group so that things get done and everyone’s comfortable with shielding and distancing arrangements.

Our new name as a charity – Serpentine Community Garden Society CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation) is a  bit of a mouthful but we’d agreed the inclusion of Society so that, should we lose the site, we could continue as a dispersed garden society. For the most unexpected of reasons, that decision was prescient.  We rejoice in a dispersed team of seven working alongside us, together but at a distance, in various levels of isolation, shielding and cocooning.

John and Gil supply plans, seeds and seedlings. They continue to cultivate heritage varieties, nurtured over many years, at home. Keith and Anne slip trays of seedlings under the gate to help keep the salad supply refreshed. Margaret supplies bulbs and brings on flowers, monitoring the floral display by exchange of photos. Langley, our resident artist now resident full-time at home, supplies hand crafted signage for easy plant identification. Helen is on hand for advice about compost and keeping the wormeries in good order. We are keeping in close touch and looking forward to a time when we can safely get together again.

13 May 2020

In freshening wind on Sunday afternoon we tucked tender brassica seedlings under fleece against the frost forecast for four mornings ahead. All have survived. As the fleece comes off, the shade netting is ready for draping over the big conservatory to shield plants against sun scorch. This is climate change on the micro level.

Our team of ten volunteer workers, covering four days a week on site now, continue to perform and celebrate small miracles. The potatoes, which we thought we might have baked in the polytunnel before setting out, are finally sprouting in their trenches.  We have a frog and signs of new life in the pond. Salad supplies are holding up with a weekly yield filling twenty bags for inclusion with food parcels to families in need. Early gooseberries are swelling. The herb collection is growing, ready for sharing next year when seedlings and cuttings are well established. Steve P mended a leak in the automatic watering system using his bicycle puncture repair kit.

Inspired by the invitation by Gardeners’ World to send videoclips of lockdown gardens, Pete spent a happy hour recording volunteers at work.  Results are mixed judging from the raw footage with Janette, drawing on her background in journalism, the stand-out star. Pete will cut out the false starts, splice clips together and edit the piece down. With a fair wind we may be on a small screen near you one coming Sunday evening.

7 May 2020

On Sunday Janette washed and bagged up hand-picked salad leaves – rocket, mizuna, bloody warrior lettuce, mustard, parsley, chives, coriander and more –  for collection by Covid 19 street by street volunteers. On Monday – May the Fourth be with you – our salad was added to food parcels dropped to twenty households in need. The feedback has been splendid.  We’ll be doing that again, every Sunday, as we manage the salad explosion in the polytunnel and as Anne and Keith Wood step up home production of seedlings for transplant and stock refreshment.

We are taking stock of our community garden seedlings. It’s a mixed bag. Sure Thing courgette seeds didn’t live up to their name, at least in the first sowing. We’re having another go, and remembering that we need to add a few weeks to packet instructions, reflecting Buxton’s special climate. The Early Purple Sprouting broccoli is now going to be late as we’re on the second sowing there too.

Cucamelon have been slow to germinate but are starting to show green shoots. In contrast we have a forest of tiny leeks, quinoa and New Zealand Tree Spinach to be teased out into pots for more growing room. Borage and nasturtiums have self-seeded prolifically. Next year we should be able to keep up with the high demand in Buxton for nasturtium seeds.

In summer sun on Wednesday, the apple trees were in blossom and the fruit bushes bushing up nicely. We watered and  weeded, resisting the temptation to plant out Cobra beans grown in preparation for a Garden Organic (previously Henry Doubleday Association) experiment in use of green manures. A cold snap is forecast for the weekend with frost on Sunday night. We have a fresh pack of fleece ready for all contingencies.

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