Phil updates us on what’s been happening down in the garden…
It has been a few weeks since my introduction to tilth and soil preparation. I have had plenty of practice in my own allotment when my first batch of rhubarb and leeks were promoted from humble crop to vibrant ingredients for roasts, soups and deserts. After a terminally cold winter the soil needed a serious working over, re-nourishing, re-hydrating and good dousing of sun-induced sweat from my brow. With my raised beds eager to welcome the incumbent class of vegetable goodies, Branch Out’s next session at St Mary’s Secret Garden on sowing seeds was a timely return to the tutelage of Liam.
The Branch Out team had recently completed our first assessment and we were ready for the next stage. We gathered around a raised bed and Liam told us to pull up a chair. The lesson was off to a laid back start. Perched on our seats, we peered into the bed, whereupon Liam instructed to work our magic to prepare the soil. It was a far more civilised affair being a sedentary gardener. We had our miniature forks and rakes, and fortunately the tilth only required the odd prod and poke, a pluck of some nuisance weeds and stones, and a little persuasion to level the final soil.
Our demonstration began with stakes connected by string bridging the width of the bed, demarcating our drill. Liam used a trowel to open out a V-shaped trench about an inch deep along the string, before filling it with a drenching of water. The water rapidly seeped through, leaving a moist mould; perfect preparation for the seeds to be sown. These were duly and carefully dropped in. The first technique was a continuous line of closely spaced individual seeds. The alternative was stationing, a peppering of 4 or 5 seeds at a single point with larger intermediary spaces. The drill was covered and given a generous watering, thus completing a simple but crucial process that gives the plants the best chance at flourishing. We were ready to try it for ourselves and we managed to fill an entire bed with Rothild, Yellowstone and Nantes 2 carrot types. Hopefully when we return next, a squadron of emerging carrot tops will be at attention on our arrival.
The Branch Out team has also been very busy working on other projects. We have been helping Cre8 Arc, a centre of opportunities in sport, media, a variety of arts in Hackney, with the construction of their new eco-walkway. We have also spent a fantastic day with the team at Streetscape based in Myatt’s Field, Lambeth. They do a lot of work in design, landscaping and garden maintenance, and are actively involved in providing training for young people in acquiring these types of skills. We attended their taster day and were graced with scorching sunshine as we helped with their mass composting, fixing a fence, clearing the secluded shaded walkway and cleaning the pond. The whole team, including the directors of the Branch Out Programme, Tamsin and Cecily, got stuck in and had an amazing day.