27 August 2020
We’ve hit the time of year when harvesting for produce merges with harvesting for seed. This will be another test of our organisational skills as varieties - beans, peas, sweet peas, borage, lettuce, nasturtiums, garlic - are boxed or bagged up and labelled in a variety of ways as the task is picked up by people over the working week. We learn as we go - and we are grateful that John and Gil, Keith and Anne are visiting regularly to give us a steer. As Jenny Uglow, author of A Little History of British Gardening, says: ‘We may think we are nurturing our garden, but of course, it’s our garden that is really nurturing us.’
Alongside crop cultivation, we’re paying special attention to soil improvement this year, looking to be self sufficient in composting, working on using all available space for suitable plants and mixing industrial quantities of growing medium for filling more tubs and ton bags. We also rejoice in our own earth-mover - Mikey, who has rejoined the volunteer force, fitting us in between fitness classes at the Leisure Centre.
Garden life continues peacefully within Serpentine Walks and across members’ dispersed gardens. A letter from the Heritage Seed Library to Seed Guardians provided a little excitement: the tomato Veepro Paste orphan seeds shared with us for cultivation were part of a rogue batch producing fruits inconsistent with the descriptor for the variety. We’re changing the labels - a shame as it’s such a memorable name - to ‘Unknown Variety’. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet? We hope that the tomatoes are delicious whatever.
View a great slideshow and talk about our past, present in times of Covid, and possible futures at:https://www.transitionbuxton.co.uk/mini-seminars/
13 August 2020
We lifted the potato crop this week: twenty bags of beautifully thin-skinned spuds from eighteen seed potatoes. We’ve kept back two bags for Janette who went on holiday just as the trenches she’d lovingly tended yielded their produce. The rest of the harvest has been picked up by volunteers and passers-by in Serpentine Walks in return for donations.
We’re grateful to the Working Mens Club for a special donation: a gallon of Worthington and Guinness drawn off before the regular line wash and rinse. We resisted a taste test and our slugs have been well treated. Fresh supplies every ten days or so will keep them that way - and away from our tender plants.
As a new charity and as a community venture focused on growing plants and people we are being alerted to more opportunities for support as funding bodies focus on green shoot recovery from the impact of Covid-19. There are great opportunities - but also a danger that we try for everything, get it and get over-stretched. Not a bad problem but we have to get the balance right. We invite volunteers to consider helping with our own support services - social media, website, networking and learning from other groups, project planning, finance … Please let us know if you’d like to join the team.
29 July 2020
We’re starting to harvest in earnest: broad beans, french beans, fava beans, runner beans, garlic, peas, courgettes, cauliflower, radish, beetroot. And we start to plan for seed collection and saving. The cycle of gardening is unrelenting. We can’t plan for a seed swap event next January: there may be no Seedy Saturday for 2021. Instead we hope that Pavilion Gardens, reopening this coming Saturday, will agree again to display seed packets in their foyer with the donations box on the shop counter.
Last July we logged 397.5 volunteer hours on site. This year’s total is half that, in part as we’ve missed out on big open events (the Garden Trail, the Arts trail, the full Fringe celebration) but we’ve made every minute count. It’s a great pleasure to show visitors all that has been done. Bookings are coming in for the four tour sessions in August - Sundays 9, 16, 23, 30 at 1.30 pm. The invitation is limited initially to our contact list of supporters. We’ll consider a wider invitation, to facebook friends, for sessions in September if all goes well.
22 July 2020
Our Secret Garden event on the final day of Fringe 2020 was all we hoped. The sun shone and our six scheduled groups all arrived in good time and good order. Fringe volunteers were first on the scene. Our reviewer, Dan Osborne, noted (in a waterproof notepad bought just in case) “the need for social distancing meant that my visit was strictly by invitation, the 'secret garden' seeming all the more alluring as a result.”
Later we welcomed members of Transition Buxton, the Phillips family and friends, two groups from Covid-19 street by street volunteers and the High Peaks CVS staff team: a great mix of old friends and new. Despite the fact that many people have stopped carrying cash around and we don't take cards, we gathered £96.61 in donations and sold a copy of War and Peas. Alyson gathered crops in buffer times to keep the supply of beans, cauliflower and salad leaves for take-away fresh. Lots of plants were taken: borage a run-away success as people saw it in glorious bloom everywhere.
We also garnered: an offer of beer slops (strictly for the slugs) from the Working Men’s Club when they reopen in August; offers to join a working party to shift an old municipal planter from the banking; an invitation for inclusion in a future projects; a list of new friends wanting to be on the list for updates; and a couple of much-appreciated packs of plant labels.
As promised, we propose a next step for visits. Bookings are now open for four sessions: 1.30pm on Sundays 9, 16, 23 and 30 August. Guided tours are scheduled for times when there are no, or few, volunteers working in the Garden. Group size is limited to 6. You may form your own group or join other visitors. We’ll try to fit in private visits if that works best for individuals, couples and families. Please register your interest and preferred date by emailing to this address (email@example.com). It’s a shared account, so please head your email Sunday Booking. Steve, with Alyson, is co-coordinator for Sundays. He’ll get back to you to confirm arrangements. If all goes well, we’ll extend the format for a further series of sessions on Wednesdays in September.
St Swithin’s day and the weather’s changeable. As will be the next 40 days if the old rhyme is right. Nothing new there for Buxton. We’ve had a good week through rain and occasional shine. This was our final week of preparing bags of freshly harvested salad leaves for the street by street delivery of food parcels. We’re proud and pleased to have been able to contribute to this heartening initiative. We aim keep working together to support and strengthen our community into the future.
Next weekend we’ll be focused on the Fringe Secret Garden event - fully booked for all sessions. From the end of the month we will return to selling our produce as cafes open for eat-in (and eat outdoor) trade. From August we will work on taking bookings for guided tours and visits at times when there are no, or few, working volunteers on site. Details to follow after we have reviewed the Fringe event and our Covid-19 risk assessments.
The old tractor garage now stands in social isolation, strictly enforced by Arris fencing and forbidding notices. Happily, in contrast, members of the core team of volunteers are venturing out to re-join us in carefully timetabled sessions. John and Gil’s first visit in nearly four months coincided with the reappearance of Peacock butterfly caterpillars in the nettles: a happy coincidence. Visit their blog on the website to read more and see the pictures.
9 July 2020
It transpires that last week’s herculean task of shifting a ton and a half of muck from the gate to the composting bays was just a warm-up. Contractors from Derbyshire County Council visited to estimate the cost of demolition and clearance of the old tractor garage. Late on Friday evening we were given notice that its condition had deteriorated. We must clear anything we wanted from it and from several metres around it as it was to be locked and surrounded by a perimeter fence early the next week.
With no working days notice, our volunteer workers sprang into action. Four people went down individually on Saturday variously to prepare alternative storage space, to rescue panes of glass - dutch lights - carefully preserved for running repairs to the large greenhouse as required and to sort and label small items for transfer. On Sunday, the muscle assembled with an informal rota magically managed by WhatsApp. The only casualty was the weekly contribution to food parcels. The Covid 19 mutual aid group were splendid: never mind about the salad, could they come down and help? It was good to know they had our back but we managed, the team working seamlessly together. The depot site is now looking very smart. We hope that contractors and the council are as speedy in progressing demolition and clearance as they have been in putting the structure into lockdown isolation.
And we carry on gardening. Weekly feeds with diluted ‘worm juice’ from the wormery are reaping rewards. Slug traps baited with six cans of beer donated by Bargain Booze have proved attractive. We tried shandy, garlic water, dilute tomato sauce, lemonade. Only real ale hits the spot. We unearthed a young toad in the topsoil heap and transferred him/ her/ it to the potager. We’re harvesting young broad beans. We are in good shape to show off at the Fringe secret garden event. The Buxton Garden Trail Virtual Tour is now online. Amongst many beautiful images there is an early tantalising shot inside one of our polytunnels. Towards the end of the show the shots linger longer on our herb area and raised beds. http://buxtongardentrail.co.uk/virtual-tour.html
We are also featuring in a further Fringe event. A photographer came down on Wednesday to capture images to accompany a ‘Song a Day’. We don’t yet know which day, but this is a link to Ian Bowns’s series of short video clips: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHJ4ZIl6b0-CpEZ8HWXI1rQ
2 July 2020
In this last week before lockdown is relaxed we’re keeping calm and carrying on. New routines for spreading volunteer activity across the week serve us well with individuals and couples performing acts of kindness: Anne and Keith building a new fruit cage covering a large raised bed; a tall but spindly ash tree self-sown in an awkward spot taken down by Steve T (after consultation with HPBC’s Arboriculture Officer); a weekly deep clean by Margot and a shift of gear in building up herb stocks By Anne and Carole ready for next year. In combination with larger crews for two days a week, it works well, not least yesterday when we took delivery of a jumbo bag of soil improver. Barrowing 1.5 tons of gently steaming muck mix from gate to compost bay took six of us a couple of hours. They say that many hands make light work. They lie.
We feature in two Fringe events - online and socially distant - this year. The virtual Garden Trail runs from 7 July 2020. See the listing in the Fringe programme or https://www.facebook.com/BuxtonGardenTrail/?modal=admin_todo_tour for a preview. Our own Secret Garden event on 19 July is fully booked for six groups of six: Fringe volunteers; Transition Buxton: the Phillips family and friends; street by street food delivery drivers (two groups) and High Peak CVS. Some have set up waiting lists in case limits on outdoor gatherings are eased. We plan to offer booked visit times - at times when there are no, or few, working volunteers around - from August onwards and will learn from experience of the Fringe event.
The Charities Trust have conducted due diligence and confirmed our £10,000 grant from Cadent (regional gas infrastructure provider). We receive half the cash in January 2021 in preparation for a Saturday programme from April 2021 for 11-14 year olds. Places will be offered first to 11-14 year olds in families receiving food parcels. ‘Give Peas a Chance’ combines green gym activities, growing, cooking and eating vegetables. There is such a thing as a free hot lunch.
The project also provides for secure, dry, storage for tools. (The stone stores are cleared and locked in compliance with our new, but still draft, lease. The old tractor garage was erected years ago as a temporary structure and is at the end of its working life.) We hope that new storage space may ease the passage of the lease. Discussions on detail stalled back in February over the status of the old garage. HPBC Officers maintain that it should be empty and locked, like the stone stores. Our negotiators suggest that we should literally clear the ground and demolish it. The Council can’t commit funds to this. (Budgets were tight anyway and receipts from business rates and parking charges have declined by £750,000 this year.) So we will need to crowd fund. Please be prepared.
We’re surviving and thriving. As always, we welcome new and returning volunteers. As never before we need to introduce new-comers gradually. Please let us know if you would like to make a regular commitment to onsite working in future. We are also looking for a Garden Manager. See the vacancies page on the website for details. And finally, we are keen to expand our team of trustees. We set out as a Charity with four trustees and have co-opted two Trustee Designates. Our governing document allows for a team of up to eleven. Let us know if you’d like to learn more.
24 June 2020
All seedlings from the big greenhouse are now safely bedded out with pots and bags pressed into service for overflowing produce. Nature abhors a vacuum though so the bare benching is already filing up with a display of scented (apple, orange, mint, pine and more) pelargoniums ringed with small pots for propagating more. One variety came from the Lomas store on Spring Gardens. It had no name so we’ve labelled it as Lomas Lemon: a Buxton special.
The vegetable beds are closely packed with healthy plants. We will have a fine harvest this year. We look forward to sharing produce one way or another as risk assessments allow. We look forward too to sharing seed again at the annual Seedy Saturday in January. This year there may be some surprise packets - a few lucky dips. We have worked from detailed charts and growing tips provided at the outset from John and Gil. Sometimes, we have fallen short of their practised perfection though - mixing fresh sowings of peas with other varieties to fill in the gaps caused by pest attack. Some labels have gone astray. Looking forward to autumn sowing and seed swaps is heartening though. This is a project that will survive and thrive.
Breaking News. Yesterday we heard that we have been successful with a project bid: £10,000 to support Saturday courses starting from 10 April 2021 for 11-14 year olds. Cadent, the project funders, told us that in a competitive field, its title was an irresistible draw: ‘Give Peas a Chance’.
The response from volunteers on site and on our Whats App organising group tells its own story:
- ‘plenty of work’;
- ‘good to be able to do some planning for next year’;
- ‘that’s exciting’;
- ‘look forward to getting the project going’.
More details to follow next week.
18 June 2020
If you haven’t already seen it, do take a look at the video Pete Brown produced for the Gardeners’ World lockdown garden spot. It provides a glimpse into what’s happening in the community garden. There’s a link to the Youtube clip on the home page of our website: serpentinecommunitygarden.org
Our Secret Garden event, included in this year’s online and socially distanced Fringe programme for information, is fully booked by invited groups. The level of interest is heartening and we are working on offering other opportunities to book visits later in the summer.
Last year we invited hedgehog visitors. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s group of Nature Tots built an enticing shelter which we diligently kept supplied with hedgehog food through the autumn. We had no takers. This week, digging out clumps of arching carex grass, we uncovered a large, and sleepy, hedgehog. S/He woke briefly and decamped to new shelter for more rest. We look forward to this particular visitor and winter resident to do a thorough tour of the site, taking in plentiful supples of slugs, especial delicacy given their recent diet of young courgettes.
Over the last two weeks, two long standing volunteers have also ventured out of strict lockdown. Their special interests, floral display and composting, have beautified flower beds and livened up out WhatsApp chat immeasurably. How’s this for a learning point: “Brought some of my urine (apologies) to dilute and add as an activator. Important that I’m not on any medication.” We are living and learning.
4 June 2020
Sunday in sunshine seems a season away. The plants welcomed this week’s sustained drenching. Volunteers erected an additional outdoor shelter and carried on. Benches in the large greenhouse are thinning out as we transplant from trays and paper tube pots into outdoor beds and ton bags. The floor area is filing up though with trays of rough soil improver set out to dry ready for sieving. Demand for compost is pressing: we’re keeping up but coming towards the end of supplies. As a community enterprise we can collect loose loads of heat-treated green waste for free from SUEZ at Waterswallows. The recycling centre is open again for disposal but not yet for collections. It’s one element of lockdown relaxation that we hope is coming soon.
The wildlife pond is at last living up to its name. We only saw one frog but we have two home-hatched tadpoles. They’re joined by a jarful left at the gate (by arrangement). The water is clear and clean: a handful of oxygenating weed brought in by a volunteer has done its magic. We have high hopes for natural slug control next year.
The garden gate economy is a rare pleasure as we continue to keep our distances. This week brought us a new wheelbarrow, a hoe, plastic sheeting and a new pack of garden netting, fresh supplies of latex gloves and sanitiser from the street by street support group, a jar of tadpoles and half a dozen pretty glazed pots. A photo of the display is on our facebook page.
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.
29 April 2020
We had a week of two halves. On Sunday in blazing sun we drained the water butts to drench beds ready for planting peas and beans outside and salad in the tunnel. On Tuesday as the weather turned we picked up a splendid range of tomatoes - Salt Spring Sunrise, Sunray Gold, Golden Sunrise, Veepro Paste, Cheethams, Broad Ripple, Alicante and Aunt Madge - plus chillis and aubergines from John and Gil’s home nursery. Anne Wood left a tray of Bloody Warrior lettuce plantlets at the gate to refresh the salad leaves planting. Come Wednesday the temperature plummeted and the heavens opened. All veg and volunteers thoroughly soaked.
Fruit bushes donated last year by B&Q as basket cases that would otherwise die are regenerating - four gooseberries, two of the four blueberries, a tub of blackberries. Amazing what a little care and consideration can do. Nine raspberry canes have perished though, you can’t win them all. We’re bringing Gil’s elderberry experiment on instead - a tangle of young trees grown from a spray of berries now potted up separately to add to the stock for BCA to replant in Buxton’s woodlands.
We’ve moved on from our mice problems. Slugs are the current menace. We prepare for pigeon attack next. It’s all go.
22 April 2020
For the last two years we have supplied the Cafe at the Green Pavilion in Buxton from April through to October with a weekly tray of salad leaves: organic produce with near zero food miles. This year’s lettuce, mustard leaves, rocket, mizuna, american land cress (very spicy), chives, coriander and parsley are filling the bed in polytunnel 1. We are shifting supply to the Buxton Covid 19 street by street support group.
We’ve always known we can’t feed Buxton. We can though add a little to the food parcels street by street volunteers distribute daily to households in need. The bulk of items come from supermarket donations. Our contribution will liven up the lettuce. Every little helps.
We’re also offering a plant of the week to people in households in need who are interested in growing their own veg and flowers. Again, the mutual aid group (https://buxtonstreetbystreet.co.uk/ ) will organise deliveries alongside the food drops. First out will be a range of tomatoes. As the poster said at our NoJoke Fringe 2019 event: ‘I love you from my head tomatoes.’
15 April 2020
Garden life is settling into a beguilingly placid routine. Our biggest concerns are squirrel attacks (successfully repelled) on tree seedlings destined for planting in Buxton Civic Association’s managed woods around Buxton and acrobatic mice chewing on pea and bean seeds. We thought we were winning that skirmish but the mice have opened a new flank with a raid on sunflower seeds. They left us just the husks. All pots now replanted, and balanced on a raised platform in the new greenhouse.
That second greenhouse went up in a day with concerted action by the Taylor family: ‘taylor-made’ for us. It’s filling up fast with flowers and fruit - including a fine specimen labelled ‘Gil’s Elderberry Experiment.’ We look forward to hearing the research parameters - and to eventually tasting the fruit cordial.
8 April 2020
Our dedicated, but dispersed as we observe physical distancing, team of fifteen clocked up forty four hours on site this last week. In addition countless hours have been devoted in households isolating but continuing to produce the goods for planting out in our communal garden when their time comes.
A local arborist and his ground crew also spent a couple of hours on site pollarding a willow and pruning a trunk from another that threatened to foul our neighbours’ phone line. That work has yielded a happy bonus of increased light to a shady patch of land: room for more plants. Meanwhile the green roof on the compost loo is looking after itself, and looking lovely.
1 April 2020
We’re moving on from taking things a day at a time to a weekly plan, and making good progress. A small but perfectly formed team of volunteers are now on site for five days a week in a variety of configurations: groups of up to six for people comfortable with that; pairs for people who prefer to steer very clear of others just now; a couple who are keeping a guard up between themselves and everyone else; an individual who wants to be alone on site. Amongst that patchwork of cover, gaps may be used to fit in other activity - an arborist visiting to pollard the willow, a family group outing to erect a small greenhouse.
Other members of our Garden Society have set up their homes and gardens as satellite centres whilst they cocoon. On their last day out in Buxton, John and Gil brought a detailed ‘to do’ list and sealed containers of seeds for each month through to June. We’ve completed March and have made on early start on the April box. Gil is in touch to curb our enthusiasm over planting out more tender specimens. We will synchronise planting out broad beans, potato sowing and a green manure experiment led by Garden Organic (previously the Henry Doubleday Research Association). Margaret posts photos of the flowers she is cultivating at home, and in return gets shots of the spring bulb display she planted along our entrance border: entrancing.
The office of the Police Commissioner for Derbyshire has confirmed that Serpentine Community Garden is an essential work place, exempt from the necessary constraints on movement. On site, we observe rigorous hygiene protocols and physical distancing, calling to each other from either end of a polytunnel or across the rows of raised beds. We’ve been asked to provide video footage of activity as an exemplar of good practice for the Derbyshire website. Videoing each other in 30 second clips provided brief rest breaks in between maintenance and growing tasks: feeding the wormeries; tapping them for ‘worm juice’ liquid fertiliser; watering all the plants under cover; rolling our own plant pots; sowing brassicas and planting out onion sets; refreshing the slug traps with bottled shandy; cropping salad; sieving leaves and soil improver. There is much potting on to be done.
25 March 2020
A team of established volunteers and recent recruits committed to sustaining the community garden has come together. We feared that the stringent regime required for keeping people apart would challenge our project. From the experience of the last few days, it seems that we will survive and thrive. Using a mix of Whats App messaging, emails and phone calls, we’re more connected than before. We’re close socially online whilst observing strict guidelines on physical distance and disinfection to protect ourselves and others. The work rate on site is phenomenal. This may even be a model to continue when better times come. Our chief growers have set up their home and garden as a satellite centre. (See their blog - next door on the menu bar.) Others in self isolation are growing on plants at home ready for transfer when better times come.
18 March 2020
We focused on making arrangements to sustain growing in the imminent lockdown. Our last day of normal opening was remarkably productive in the challenging circumstances. We cropped salad, watered plants under glass and swept pathways and steps. The garden is in good heart.
* * * Corona Virus - Covid 19 * * *
JOHN BOARDMAN'S WORKING NOTES
11 March 2020
Excitement as the components of a generously donated greenhouse arrived.Space was cleared, the base has been positioned and fixed and we will shortly be starting the assembly stage. A lot of tidying and cleaning, of tools, pots and the site has been going on and weed suppressing "membrane" has been lifted and moved to storage. The comfrey is appearing, beans and
leeks have been sown and the large pile of wood chip has been spread across the pathways and the polytunnel floors. A pair of robins have started exploring the holes in the wall of one of the old buildings. Various signs are gradually being updated to reflect our amended name - Serpentine Community Garden. No more disappointed children hoping to find a Farm with sheep and cows!
4 March 2020
The ash tree overlooking the greenhouse was showing early signs of dieback so it was agreed it should come down while it was still safe to tackle it. This happened this week, so we have a stack of logs looking for ideas and we also received a large pile of wood chip. Our industrious team has now spread the majority over paths and in the tunnels and everywhere is looking much refreshed. A variety of fruit bushes has been planted in the newest raised bed and we have started giving away free packets of seeds to visitors and
passers-by as well, of course, to our volunteers. All being well, serious sowing will start next week (don't tell the mice!). Heritage Seed Library asked us to adopt a couple of additional varieties to grow to replenish their seed stocks (they are known as ‘orphans’). We received our two varieties this week - Dwarf French Bean "Soldier" and Tomato "Veepro Paste" which sounds very hardy. As well as picking salad, we have our first purple broccoli ready - very cheering.
26 February 2020
Sunday's hardy volunteers braved the storm, installed some more mouse deterrents, and were impressed by the depth of the river before calling it a day. Wednesday's first workshop on ‘The Principles of Organic Gardening’ went well and the "true/false" and "traffic light" exercises generated some useful debate and discussion but also revealed a good understanding of the basic principles. Already some things are emerging that we could do differently and understand better and we are looking forward to next month's session with its emphasis on Building and Maintaining Soil Fertility. The robin hasn't been around recently but was back again today exploring the polytunnel.
PS Well done to John for running the workshop. He promised it would happen 'whatever the weather', so the weather served up some snow just to add a challenge
13 February 2020
After assessing the strong winds on Sunday, we decided not to open. A large beech tree was toppled just a little further upstream in the Serpentine Gardens, so it was a wise decision. However, on Wednesday, the tree provided us with some very attractive, and large "rounds" of timber which we will enjoy putting to use on the site. Virtually all the raised beds have now been topped up with various sorts of compost and topsoil and the last of the pile of autumn leaves has been used as mulch or put into storage to molder quietly for a few months. The first picking of salad was made and enjoyed to everyone's satisfaction. A first monthly bulletin was posted up so that everyone is up to the same speed on progress and issues. And a very handsome cock pheasant now seems to regard the site as home and struts possessively around the polytunnel.
26 January 2020
This time last year we were working in four inches of snow so we have been making the most of better conditions, though on the other hand the mild weather meant we "caught" our first caterpillar of the year. We were also excited to sow our first seeds of the year - seven different varieties of sweet peas in fibre pots so they can be planted straight out when ready. The new raised bed is now filled and has meant a lot of re-organising of where planters are positioned. Several ton bags have been upgraded with a deeper fill for fruit trees and bushes. Odd corners have been cleared ready for sowing "wild" seeds. Our "corpse flower" produced seed for the first time last year - we now have a tray full of seedlings. Not sure what to do next so we will wait. The last two weeks have both recorded over 50 volunteer hours, all productively used. Very impressive.
19 January 2020
Since the last report, we have had a steady stream of valuable deliveries, large and small. Thanks to volunteers, we have received 14 sacks of horse manure, bags of coffee grounds, bags of sawdust and assorted planting modules. Funded by grant money, we have had six cubic metres of high-quality enhanced topsoil delivered and the team have already substantially filled the new raised bed and developed plans for topping up existing beds and filling empty planters and additional ton bags. Getting ready for spring included mulching several beds with soil improver and preparing fibre, plastic-free pots for our first sowings of the year - sweet peas - next week. The kitchen area has been refreshed with the removal of the old and damp carpet. One of those days where, wherever you turned, there was great work being done by enthusiastic people. The access road walk showed the mahonia in bloom and the dead pigeon on the driveway confirmed "our" sparrow hawk has visited. We are part of the natural community too.
12 January 2020
Although our volunteers had a festive break, we hosted two working parties from the Community Payback Team each side of Christmas. The teams worked hard, efficiently and willingly and delivered great results. As a result of their work, we have an additional 19 foot raised bed, two metal arches erected and painted, an abandoned field gate starting a new life as a safety barrier for children, posts creating a base for a further ten metres of dry boundary hedge and several areas that are considerably tidier than they were. We very much appreciate their contribution to our community endeavour.
Back to normal this week and tidying and sorting has been the main focus together with pruning - apple trees, kiwi and blackberries. The site is looking good and loved and we welcomed some new volunteers and started to put detail round our plans for 2020. This time last year, our records show we were working with lying snow across the site. This year we watched, on both days, skeins of about 100 pink footed geese heading west. In both years, we recorded over 70 volunteer hours for the week. Wednesdays only until 16th February, but always worth a visit. Hope 2020 is good for everyone.
12 December 2019
The big event was Sunday’s Winter Gathering on a cold dry day. The three varieties of pumpkin soup were particularly welcome and were so popular the last arrivals had to be satisfied with a combined version of the leftovers. Setting up and tidying up kept the dozen volunteers busy, the biggest challenge being where to find the last of the robins on the Hunt the Robin trail! Wednesday was miserably cold and although seeds were packeted and useful plans were made, the theoretically warmer space of the polytunnel was not convincing. For once, we even closed a little earlier than usual.
2 & 5 December 2019
Harvesting seed is now complete so we have been able to start packeting seeds for the February Seedy Saturday and also, importantly, sending off the seeds we have gathered for the Heritage Seed Library. This year we were able to send fresh seed of nine varieties of French beans, peas and lettuce to support the stock at the HSL and provide a resource of scarce and genetically valuable seeds to be distributed more widely and hence have a better chance of survival. We still have some to share at our Seedy Saturday on 15th February. We have also been busy preparing. We have been getting ready the tools and materials needed to support the two project days supported by the Community Payback teams, and also putting everything in place for the Winter Gathering on Sunday 8th. And it has at last been fit enough to start moving out fruit trees from rather small tubs (designed to be moveable at two weeks’ notice) to very much bigger ton bags where we hope they will thrive. Just hope we didn’t leave any rogue Jerusalem artichokes in the ton bags! Great work from volunteers in very cold conditions.
24 & 27 November 2019
We have been “winterising” the site, clearing out the beds of spent plants, mulching, tidying and cleaning under and over benches and shelves. It is looking steadily tidier, but also clearly “dormant”. But we continue to look forward and get excited by our plans. There is a first draft plan for next year’s sowing and growing – over 150 varieties and where they should go - and plans for projects to be completed over the next two months. We are exploring in more detail how we can contribute to the Buxton Civic Association tree seed germination and growing on project. And we are planning a “potager” – a larger octagonal planter that will provide a snapshot of everything we grow, every plant with a purpose and in a colourful arrangement aimed to delight and inspire. A dream to turn in to a real design over the winter. And for rainy days, we now have a stack of seeds ready to be put into packets ahead of next February’s Seedy Saturday.
10 & 13 November 2019
“I came a few weeks ago and you let me harvest some comfrey leaves to make a poultice for my ankle. I just wanted to say it worked really well – you can see I’m not limping anymore.” Developing a ‘physic garden’ has moved up our agenda. The team has continued to do great work shifting leaves to storage areas, sieving leaves and soil improver and mixing potting and sowing composts ready for the spring. A bit of a break on Wednesday as John delivered the talk he and Gil have been giving to various organisations over the year. They talked about the history of the site and their aim that it should deliver “Wow”, “Never Knew” and “Takeaway”. The Mesolithic flints, the Inniskilling Regiment clay pipe bowl, and the stone hand axes made of serpentine rock delivered all of these and we will take away unforgettable memories. And we continued our response to the challenge of mitigating ash dieback by sowing further local tree seeds. Yesterday, today and tomorrow are all present at Serpentine.
10 & 13 November 2019
From John Boardman…..
When we opened up on Sunday, the water butts were covered in a layer of ice. Yet as we checked out the site we found the fava (field) beans were pushing their way up through the frozen ground. We grow tough beans in Buxton – the sight made us feel good. To that excitement was added the arrival of two metal arches, given by a Serpentine friend. Now the challenge is agreeing where best to put them! We also visited Stockport Community Growers at Woodbank Park and came home with some horseradish roots and a globe artichoke. Wherever we turn, we find generous and supportive people. To ensure we can make the most of these gifts, the team continues to plan the next big clearance and build projects to occupy us over the winter. Anyone interested in planning a pottager?
From Margot Ferris….
On Wednesday the birds sang and swooped and both they and volunteers were cheered by the dry weather. We made the most of the good day by working outside. We moved old leaves and new, moved wetter material indoors to help dry out and we sieved soil improver and leaves, filling tubs and buckets galore. Compost bins were filled. We also welcomed a walking group from Golding Grange in Matlock, led by National Park Rangers, who enjoyed a tour and a place to have a tea break. They are other walking groups are welcome back any time.
3 & 6 November 2019 Frost has meant the leaves have steadily fallen across the Pavilion Gardens and our friends from HPBC have therefore been able to deliver two loads to fill our bays and start the process of converting to leaf mould. They look a particularly good mix and are much appreciated. Shifting stuff to free up the right space for them has kept volunteers busy, and warm, and also a lot of tidying up has happened. Each cleared space starts us thinking of what will be filling it next year. The base of the newly completed octagonal planter has been levelled – no small feat given it holds four tons of growing media! We have taken some care to gather ash leaves and store them in a separate “noxious” area to reduce the risk of spreading the die back disease. It may have limited effect, but every little helps. Undaunted by slow and late ripening tomatoes, we have harvested a great crop for green tomato chutney. Nothing is wasted at Serpentine.
27 & 30 October 2019 Our tallest volunteer, plus stepladder and long handled brush has cleaned the polytunnels’ covering and transformed the amount of light reaching the inside. A great job. Our monthly workshop explored volunteers’ ideas for sowing and growing in 2020. It was a very productive session. We now have to convert the ideas into a coherent plan. We are trialling sowing acorns, conkers etc. to see if we can germinate them and establish saplings for planting out in the community and woodlands. The group also agreed to take on one of Garden Organic’s experimental projects in 2020, underplanting French beans with a green manure. Plenty to do and to learn!
20 & 23 October 2019 Sunday was our AGM – informative, thoughtful, well dressed people and productive as we look ahead to the next twelve months. Wednesday was a contrast. Still very productive, but less well dressed and accompanied by a rather persistent aroma. Our friends at Able Tree Service collected and delivered a load of “soil improver” from Waterswallows. On arrival, it was still warm and noticeable from some distance away. Most has now been shifted to a storage bay and will keep us supplied with the ingredients for mixing potting compost and mulching the raised beds. As if that wasn’t enough, we also started spreading well rotted horse manure on another raised bed. Frost seems ever closer and frost will lead to falling leaves so we are ensuring we have space to receive and mature them. We really appreciate the support given by our friends in the community as we build the fertility of the growing areas on the site.
13 & 16 October 2019 A busy week since last Wednesday. Thursday saw a group from Tarmac having a team building day on site during which they did an enormous amount of work including building a new handrail and resurfacing the approach path, completely refurbishing and filling one of the large abandoned octagonal planters, and fitting several bird boxes in place. And it all looks as if it “belongs”. Friday was the last of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust Nature Tot sessions, a bit of a party for Tots who were completely undeterred by the awful weather. We have loved welcoming them over the ten sessions – and they left us with a box of useful goodies not least tea, coffee and biscuits! The Sunday was Apple Day – many people, many apples turned in to juice, and great “spoon” puppets facilitated by Stone and Water. Then on Wednesday it was back to more normal activity. Light came to the polytunnels as a result of an annual clean of the outside with brushes and water. Just a bit of finishing off to do over the tops – any very tall volunteers available?
6 & 10 October 2019 We have had our first frosts which have knocked over some of the outdoor plants. The changeable weather has been a feature of the year. Even with the benefit of the polytunnel, we have now finished cropping salads for the year. Looking back at our records, this is very early. Last cropping in 2017 was 7 November, and in 2016 an amazing 12 December! It may have been another very warm year, but it seems to have been the wrong sort of warmth at the wrong time for our plants. But we have new things growing. Overwintering lettuce have been pricked out and wallflowers and Chilean Glory Vine are showing strong seedlings. We have generously been given apples, fruit bushes and compost bins and a further greenhouse is in course. We feel very blessed. The team have worked hard to ensure we are all set up for the Tarmac team day project and that everything is in place for Apple Day.