Sandgate Community Garden: Update 19th May 2024

Sandgate Community Garden Team Diary Entry for 19th May: The whole park is looking very lush and green with most plants larger than usual.

This past week has been full of sunshine and showers.  One day it is wall to wall sunshine and the next day it just rains and rains.  Consequently the whole park is looking very lush and green, most plants are just larger than usual, including our foxgloves which are currently full of flower.  Unfortunately the bindweed, mares tails and nettles have also had their growth accelerated, and having spent time lost at the base of other plants, have now started to emerge, tower over everything and make their presence felt.  It looks like next week will have to be spent concentrating on doing battle with the weeds and keeping them in check

After a recent delivery of fresh wood chips, a group from Napier barracks were booked to come out and help haul barrow loads of the stuff up the hill to the garden and lay them down on the paths.  The job was done in no time at all.

We have been commenting on how many lady birds there are on site, and last week about the first appearance of blackfly on the elder section of the hedge.  It seems from the photo below that the ladybirds are having a great time chasing after the blackfly but also each other in order to make yet more ladybirds.   Last week there was no blackfly on the broad bean leaf tips but by the end of this week we could see there were plenty of ants which means the blackfly have arrived.  The ants will collect the ‘honeydew’ which the aphids excrete, and will later defend the blackfly from the hungry ladybird larvae.  Sex and violence is going on at a truly epic scale right under our noses when you stop and take a close look.  We spoilt all the fun by pinching out the tips of the broad bean plants in order to discourage such behaviour.  Great steamed and eaten, that is the leaf tips not the ladybirds!

The tomato plants have all gone into the ground as have some companion plants in the shape of French marigolds.  We have taken a chance and have planted some giant sunflowers, always a risk as there are plenty of slugs and snails hoping to make a good meal of them and in the past they have been killed by the first strong winds that come along.  However we like to be optimistic and hope for the best!  We sowed three varieties of kale, some beetroot and more spinach.  The dwarf beans have just emerged in their trays and so it will not be long before we will need to plant them.  The greenhouses at Pent farm were bursting with so many seedlings last week but already we have made good progress in getting plants into the ground so that the greenhouses can be planted up with tomatoes, aubergines and peppers for the summer months in the next week or so.

We were very lucky to be invited to Shelvin Farm just outside Canterbury, to meet the farmer, Rupert.  Rupert is a real compost nerd and collects all kinds of waste from his farm to make tons and tons of the stuff which is sold and is also used on the farm as part of an experiment to study how runoff is reduced when compost is used to cover the fields, capturing the rain and holding it there for the benefit of the crops.  It was a fascinating visit, and it will be interesting to hear how the experiment goes.  We took away a couple of bags of his compost which has been tested and shown to be full of life and the sort of bacteria needed which plants love to get their roots into.

What’s next?

  • We really need to get to grips with the weeds this week
  • Get a few more marigolds planted
  • Keep the hedge in check
  • Get out some of the squashes

This weeks update from the Sandgate Community Garden Diary.