Barking Grow Club

Our Garden during Covid

16 March – 31 October 2020

from the Company Drinks Garden in Barking Park

Our garden in Barking Park has not been open for drop-ins since March, but we started 121 Grow Club sessions earlier in the summer and are also welcoming household bubbles to enjoy the garden, the plants and harvesting.

Throughout lockdown Shaun and Alice have missed the Grow Club – and so has the garden! With only two sets of hands, and at times a lot of heat, the garden is certainly looking overgrown in parts with some areas struggling more than others. It has however been a great lesson in seeing which of our plants and herbs are more tolerant of drought and also which need less care than others, both important factors when working in a shared space and considering the changing climate.

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11 SEPTEMBER 2020
UPDATE

Although it didn’t feel like it in the garden today, we are transitioning towards Autumn with the equinox just over a week away. And so in Grow Club we spent some time thinking about Autumn and Winter tasks, looking around the garden to see what worked this year and what we might do differently next year. As Winter is a good time to move plants into new positions whilst they are dormant we looked particularly at our fruiting shrubs and came up with some ideas.

We did a final chop of our comfrey plant and dropped the leaves onto our compost pile, we carried on lifting self-seeders and potting them on whilst weeding, watering and mulching the beds. We now have a nice collection of young Valerian, Parsley, Feverfew and Verbena Bonariensis plants which we may be able to make into the start of a community plant nursery next year… watch this space!

01 SEPTEMBER 2020
UPDATE

Now that the Grow Club members are slowly starting to return we have been working to clear the weeds, whilst saving the interesting self-seeders and potting them up to grow on in our cold frame. One of our most intriguing is a rainbow chard plant that has sneaked itself next to one of our blackcurrant bushes, we don’t know how it got there! This year we have been making our own natural fertiliser from nettles grown in the garden which we dilute and water the plants with – particularly those in containers who need it more. Now is also a good time to take semi-ripe cuttings from your herbs and shrubs, which we have been doing to create more of our lovely lavender and lemon verbena. And of course, we continue to harvest, enjoying the lemon sherbet scent of the second large harvest of the year of our lemon verbena plant.
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GROWN AT HOME
Remote Grow Club Activities throughout the summer


Tomatoes at home: Individual Grow Club volunteers have been returning to the Company Drinks Garden, and last week they were helping to pot up tomato plants for other group members who are still isolating.

We have started a slow return to Grow Club: it looks different now with timed volunteer slots, masks and physical distancing and no use of public transport; but we were very happy to say it felt like it used to, and we loved having volunteers back in the garden.

As we mentioned a few weeks ago, Blooms on the Green kindly donated some of their gorgeous flowers, and also baby tomato plants. A few of these were delivered straight to the doors of our regular volunteers, to be planted directly in their gardens. This week, with the help of the Grow Club volunteers, we were able to pot up 15 tomato plants into nice large pots, where they will have plenty of room to grow and fruit. Shaun and Alice then delivered these to our regular, isolating volunteers to grow on their balconies.

For more information on Blooms on the Green and to find out how you can get your hands on some seasonal, spray-free, fairly traded, fragrant and fabulous flowers, visit the website or contact them via email.

Blooms on the Green is run by Shelagh Martin [formerly run by and now supported by generous start-up support from Growing Communities. Many thanks to Shelagh for inviting us to share the flowers and tomato plants with our groups.

We have also loved seeing your photos of what you have been growing at home. Salome’s mint plant [left], which started life as a cutting taken in a propagation workshop at a Family Gardening session, is looking very productive…We sense a cup of mint tea coming along! And Joyceline’s peas are looking fantastic on her balcony [right].

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3rd AUGUST
PASSING IT ON

 


Saved seeds of Calendula, Cosmos, Common mallow, Corn Marigold (not field marigold!)

At this time of year there are lots of mature and nicely dry seeds on our plants and herbs so it is the perfect time to harvest and store them well ready for planting next year. For the last few seasons we have been doing this practice more and more; in an effort towards self sufficiency; as well as supporting the growth of plants that are becoming more resilient in our particular environment; as we save their seeds season on season. By doing this we will also be in a position where we can share the seeds we save with other projects.

We have a lot more to learn, but we can thank SeedsShare founder, the late Esiah Levy, and his work around seed saving, and crucially, Seed Sharing. He spoke to us in 2018, and kick-started our awareness and knowledge of how and why we should do this.

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AUGUST
WHAT’S GROWING IN BARKING PARK?


Grow Club member Steve, keeping his distance, and keeping the raised beds happy.

Last week we were able to plant out some of the gorgeous flowers that were donated to us by Blooms on the Green. We prepared the bed by lining it with old rubble sacks and filling it with a mix of top soil and compost. We then planted the lovely snapdragons, scabious, calendula, and more and gave them a good drink. We topped it off with a mulch of partially composted wood chip to hopefully help keep the moisture in. As we are only at the garden once a week, and a lot of what we grow is in containers, watering is a challenge for us. At least we have 2200L capacity of rainwater harvesting, so it is not all from the mains.

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13 July
Family Wild + Well Summer Clubs


Fotos: 1. Plant care in the raised beds / 2. Filling up a watering can from our rain water tank to give our potted plants a drink / 3. Tasting blackcurrants / 4. Harvested Lemon Verbena on the dehydrator

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This last week we also welcomed back some of our Family Wild + Well Gardeners, who we last saw just before lockdown in March. Together we harvested mallow flowers, chamomile flowers, and made our first lemon verbena harvest of the year – all of which will go into our Grow Club herbal tea blends. It was great to be able to share the garden with the groups again, and for them to see the flowers that have grown from the seeds they planted….

….Like this smashing sunflower whose yellow really pops next to the purple of the Veronica – for which we have Core Landscapes community garden and plant nursery to thank. See info below about how to sign up to our Wild+Well Summer Club mailing list.

 

JULY
GETTING BACK TO GROWING AGAIN
TOGETHER AND AT A DISTANCE

 


Grow Club member Anthony helps pot Grow at Home Tomato plants with Shaun
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1ST JUNE
CONNECTING TO NATURE

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Alpine strawberries are showing their colour on the Barking Park Bowls Green

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The lavender is looking (and smelling) amazing

We wanted to show you how things are growing over here at the Company Drinks Garden. Everything is very much in bloom, if a little overgrown! Needless to say, we miss the Grow Club members and all our volunteers!

We are thrilled to see that the lavender bushes (above) that we moved this winter are alive and well, with lots of spikes of gorgeous purple flowers. They will be coming to a herbal tea near you….

The Valerian is in its second year, and has shot up and out and is absolutely stealing the show! On Friday it was humming with bees and here you can see a bumble bee (of some kind) and a hover fly. This is promising as the larvae of hover fly are a fantastic player in a balanced eco system and keeping some of our pests under control.

The currants are filling out and gaining colour and our strawberries (header pic) have been producing their first harvest. The raspberries are also showing their potential already, and the sweet peas now have flowers and are making their way up the obelisk.

And finally, one of things we enjoy most about a garden which goes with and not against nature, is that we end up with some interesting self seeded plants, like what looks to be Woundwort, Stachys sylvatica. A beautiful plant, with some interesting medicinal properties and lots of nectar for pollinators.

Sadly due to the heat, some of our young cuttings and seedlings have been struggling or died, but we will be working to replace or repair where possible.

 

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18TH MAY
A MOMENT OF CALM

 

Thanks to the hard work of the Grow Club Team and some decent rain and sunshine, the garden is looking very alive and colourful right now. We’ve got our first showing of cosmos flowers dotted around the garden, some in the beds and some on the former bowling green. Our meadow is also looking very green with many different varieties of plants coming through.

The chamomile flowers are now ready to harvest and will continue to produce flowers over the coming weeks (see video below). The borage and calendula flowers are also blooming, and have been picked to dry and add to tea blends. We also have monster hops, mallow, and valerian all growing amazingly well, as is the mint in both our peppermint and chocolate mint beds. There’ll be plenty to do once we’re able to spend time in the garden together again.

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May 2020
CHAMOMILE HARVEST

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This week we did our first herb harvest of the year! We picked some chamomile, borage, and calendula as well as a bit of chocolate mint. Last year our chocolate mint bed got a little wild and overgrown, so Grow Club members spent a few sessions carefully removing all the plants, (and trying to remove all the roots!) and then selecting good sections to replant in rows. Some members took them home and have them growing on their windowsills or in their gardens.

We were relieved to see some nice new growth in early Spring this year, and then in the last few weeks the plants have absolutely shot forward. Hopefully if we stay on top of it, we will continue to get lots of lush growth for our teas.

If you are uncertain how to harvest chamomile then why not watch this short video. And if you would like any tips on harvesting other herbs, please let us know and we will try to help.

  • For this and other Herb Growing videos, check our Vimeo page

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12 TH MAY
LIQUID FEED 

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We don’t just make tea for us humans! A Comfrey and/or Nettle tea (otherwise known as a liquid feed) is a great way to naturally provide extra nutrients for hungry plants – particularly useful when growing in containers as we do at Barking Grow Club. We’ve made a short video showing how you can do the same at home.

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May 2020
GARDEN CHECK IN

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As we tip from Spring towards Summer, the garden is in FULL SWING. We really miss our volunteers, but as you can see from our Garden Tour Video, there will be plenty to do once we are able to meet in the garden again. We will post another video in a few weeks so that you can see how its growin’. We are excited to say we are now growing black peppermint, which has a fantastic flavour when dried for tea, and we are thrilled that both our meadow areas are coming along nicely.

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  • Click here to see our Garden Tour Video

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APRIL
GARDEN CHECK IN

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Whilst the public programme is on hold, Shaun and Alice have been been tending to the garden, (following all gov distancing guidelines.) making sure that it’s alive and kicking for when we can finally regroup there together.

 

We love this time of year, when shoots and buds are breaking through and things are putting on green growth faster than you can say ‘going picking’. This week we noticed the first flowers on our self seeded Borage plant – a fun bit of colour in our “NovelTea” blend plus, the flowers are plentiful once it gets going and the bees love it. Thanks to @MPGALondon and their Bulbs for London scheme we have been enjoying daffodils, crocus’ and hyacinth’s all Spring and now it’s the turn of these alliums which are just about to flower.

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Similarly, the willow hedge which we planted from willows donated by @CoreLandscapesLondon have made it through their first winter and have some lovely growth. There’s nothing like that particular lushness which you see on the first leaves of deciduous plants each year.

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We have really missed having our regular member’s enthusiasm and skills in the garden, but we hope that the photos will bring a little of the outside in. If there is any area in which you would particularly like to see “how’s it growin’”, then just ask and we will endeavour to take some photos next time we are there.

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April
Introducing Window Wednesdays

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We kicked things off this week with the first of the series of Window Wednesdays.

Did you know that when you are finished with your shop bought veg, you can regrow them? Neither did we! But once we found out, we had to try this out. We have started with Celery, Pak Choi, Lettuce and Spring Onion but would love to hear what else works (or, doesn’t work!)
So far, we have enjoyed having something to tend to at home, and knowing that we might get fresh food at the end of it is a bonus.
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If roots and shoots aren’t your thing, then what about drawing the view from your window? Or creating an arrangement on your window sill, using leaves, flowers or twigs picked from your garden or on your daily exercise?

 

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APRIL 2020
THE SUNFLOWERS HAVE ARRIVED

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out our video update from the sunflowers posted at our last Wild+Well Family Gardening Club in February, link below.

At our first Family Wild + Well session this year, the group sowed sunflower seeds. Thank you to you all who took part! These seeds were a donation from one of the Thursday Group volunteers, who had saved them from sunflowers in their own garden.

Now they are strong enough, they have found a home at the Company Drinks garden, and this week you can see a short video of Alice planting them out into a bed prepared by the Barking Grow Club.

We love the invisible trail that connects spaces through sharing seeds and cuttings! Watch this space for photos of the sunflowers as they grow and tips for growing your own at home…

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  • Check out our video on the Wild+Well Sunflowers

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  • See our Garden Blog for all the latest stories and links

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  • If you want to share with us your own Home Growing or Growing Tips, or if you are one of the regular Grow Club members, and want to find out how a particular plant or area is getting on, email Alice.
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  • See our Garden Blog for more detailed updates, all the latest stories, photos of the plants and useful links..

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7th APRIL
FAMILIES’ EASTER SPECIAL

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We invite you and the members of your family to see how quickly you can find the 16 Easter Eggs and 1 Easter Bunny hidden in this photo of our Grow Club Garden……

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BUG HOTEL CHECK IN

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Last year, with the help of some brilliant volunteers we created Bug-ingham Palace…. our Barking Bug Habitat in the garden at Company Drinks. We constructed it in layers of pallets, and filled each layer with; pine cones, twigs, bamboo, and plant stems bundled together, pieces of broken garden pots, and small rotting logs. We then made a simple green roof, in which we planted drought tolerant crassulas, and wildflowers.

The purpose of the habitat is to encourage insects and invertebrates into the garden, so that we create a balanced ecosystem. It provides them habitat and somewhere to lay their eggs. Some key players who we hope to see an increased number of in the garden this year are solitary bees, ground beetles, lady birds and hoverflies.

  • We recommend this great post from Red Ted Art on building your own Bug Hotel, you can even build mini-hotels and hang them from a balcony!
  • If you want to share with us your own Bug Habitat progress, tag us on social media  @goingpicking or send photos and ideas to Alice
  • See our Garden Blog for all the latest stories, photos and links

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WEEK 2: FRIDAY 3rd APRIL

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COMPOSTING 

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The compost is the heart of the garden. This week we’re sharing a short video as an insight into the final stage of that magical process, where Shaun demonstrates sieving the compost to get the fine, crumbly, lovely organic matter, with which we then plant out new herbs and shrubs and top dress our container beds.

If you look closely you can see it is teeming with worms, and we hope that there are millions of beings too small for the eyes to see, too. We grow organically and don’t use any pesticides or herbicides as we follow the principle of feeding the soil life, not the plants, to end up with the best herbs for our teas.
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  • Check out our online video for an Introduction to the Company Compost
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  • If you want to share with us your own composting progress, tag us on social media  @goingpicking or send photos and ideas to Alice

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30th MARCH
GARDEN CHECK IN

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The Barking Grow Club volunteer sessions might be on pause, but the garden certainly hasn’t stopped growing! This week we’ve been giving our seedlings, which we began sowing in February, a little more room.

The Cosmos, Nasturtium, Sunflowers (and more) are not part of our herbal tea range but provide forage for pollinators as well as bringing more colour to the garden.

Over the coming weeks we will have more videos showing simple gardening techniques that you can try at home – garden, balcony or windowsill.

  • Check our Vimeo for a tutorial: Potting on overgrown seedlings.
  • If you would like to share with us your own Potting progress, tag us on social media @goingpicking, or send photos and ideas to alice@companydrinks.info.

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