Sandgate Community Garden: Update 17 January 2021

It has been more like weather for frogs and ducks rather than community gardeners this week, but some of us made it to the garden at some point suitably dressed for the occasion in all over wet weather gear and some determination to get a few jobs done.  Last year the wet weather left pools of water on the surface of the soil, and we came away with muddy boots, but this year there is none of that so we can already see that the compost and wood chip paths are helping the structure of the soil.

The Oca got cleared, more beds mulched with compost, wood chips bagged up, sedge grass and brambles removed then composted, and the perimeter hedge trimmed.  On pulling up a parsnip, one of our gardeners was surprised to find that the entire body of the root had been invaded, hollowed out and made into a red ant nest teeming with ants, larvae and eggs.  He managed to grab a few photographs before the inhabitants scurried off with the nest contents to pastures new.  That was an unexpected encounter for both parties.

There are always things to be found in the garden to surprise and interest.  Below is a picture of one of our Romanesco broccoli heads which are now nearly ready to be picked.  It is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, dietary fibre and carotenoids.  More interesting is the fact that it has the most fabulous pattern, and is apparently a natural fractal vegetable representing the Fibonacci or golden logarithmic spiral.  The head is made up of smaller heads which exactly mimic the shape of the larger head, and repeats itself ad infinitum until too small to be seen; it is quite mesmerising, and tastes pretty good too.

Although plant growth at this time of year is slow or even dormant in some cases, the plants we have will be making some good root establishment below the soil, and preparing themselves for the warmer, longer days which will eventually come.  The broad beans can be seen pushing up against the fleece, but need the protection from the icy blasts of the wind.   They also need protecting from the pigeons that have already taken liberties with a few of the purple sprouting leaves sticking out of the netting.  You can tell it is bird beak damage as opposed to slugs or snails as the birds will tear at the softer parts of the leaf around the main stem and ‘veins’ , leaving a skeletal structure – slugs and snails generally just eat the lot!

We share what we have grown as it is harvested and although there is not enough to store over the winter months, some of us have stored a squash or two from our own gardens which if kept cool and dry should keep well into the spring.  Below one of our gardeners has shared a photo of her ‘Prince’ squash picked some three months ago, cut open to show the lovely deep orange flesh which then ended up in a delicious soup.  There is nothing finer on a cold and wet wintery day.

What’s Next?

  • Just check that the parsnips are all harvested
  • If parsnips all gone then mulch with compost
  • Remove all old and tatty leaves from leafy veg
  • Check on all the net and fleece coverings
  • Start to turn compost bin 2 into bin 3
  • Start to turn compost bin 1 into bin 2.