Sandgate Community Garden

Sandgate Community Garden: Update 14 August 2022

Sandgate Community Garden Team Diary Entry for 14th August: Great weather for growing figs, and amaranth amongst the asparagus.

The decision to start planting again last week was a good one at the time but we had to work pretty hard to keep the seedlings alive, watering every other day for the week until they started to get a few roots into the ground and stand upright for more time than they flopped over.  However, with the return of the higher temperatures at the weekend, planting was put off again until next week with the promise of it being cooler, and even dare we say, rain, although we know those promises often mean nothing when it comes to Sandgate.

We sowed both flat and curled parsley, mizuna mustard, and pak choi.  The dill, coriander, Florence fennel and Chinese cabbages got planted on into larger modules.  The tomato plants were checked again for side shoots and the tops pinched out.  There will not be enough time left in the season for any new flowers and then tomatoes to mature, so might as well limit the stress on the plants, and also cut off more of the lower leaves to expose the fruits and allow the air and sunshine to get around them.  Some of our outdoor tomato plants are growing some massive beefsteak tomatoes; the weight of the fruits has snapped or bent some of the canes supporting them so we have had to add extra stakes to help hold them upright.  We are removing tomatoes as soon as they are starting to turn colour and ripening them at home, also to help out the tomato plant, which is fine as long as you can realise what colour the tomato should be when it is ripe.  This year has been a master class in the study of all the different tomato colours, shapes and sizes to ascertain mostly by observation and squeeze test where it is in the ripening process, and that there is little point in waiting for a yellow tomato to turn red if it was never meant to in the first place.  Quite often the yellow or orange tomatoes get left on the vine when they are ripe.

It has to be said that not everything is suffering in this drought.  We have been watching closely the development of the figs on the fig tree which has performed very well this year with plenty of fruits.  Unfortunately we are not the only ones keeping an eye on them as the birds soon found the ripe fruits followed by the ants, but we have to remember that their need is always greater than our own.  We also have some randomly grown amaranth which just appears around the plot, taking up splendid residence with the asparagus,

Happily, the hop plants in the Sandgate Community Garden are established enough to be surviving, although we are not expecting a great harvest.  The results so far in the Hythe Hop scheme are very mixed with some plants having expired whilst others are thriving, most it seems will probably not do as well as previous years.  We have started to water them now as the cones, or fruits have started to appear and need to be able to swell and mature.  The word is that the first harvest date could be 11th September but we are waiting for confirmation on this.  All plants will need to be stripped of their hops on the harvest first or second dates so that they are presented to the breweries in as fresh a state as possible.

We are now starting to turn our thoughts to our great fundraising event of the year, the Sandgate Sea Festival where we will be with our stall on Sunday 28th August, ready to persuade you to buy a plant from us or simply part with some cash to help us keep planting and looking after various parts of Sandgate.  We have been nurturing as many plants as we can for the occasion which you can imagine, under the circumstances, has not been too easy, and invite you to get in contact if you have any plants you might care to donate to the cause – all will be gratefully received and can be collected and looked after until the event.  Make sure to put the date in your diary and to come along and chat to us at the stall, we are looking forward to seeing you there.

What’s next?

  • Keep watering the brassicas in particular
  • Sow more winter mustards
  • Keep an eye on the winter radish plants and the cabbage white butterfly situation
  • Sort out more plants for the plant sale

This weeks update from the Sandgate Community Garden Diary.

Posted by Tim Prater in Sandgate Community Garden

Sandgate Community Garden: Update 8 August 2022

Sandgate Community Garden Team Diary Entry for 8th August: sometimes, you just can’t hold back any more.

Crikey!  It is August already!  We are into the summer holiday period with some of our volunteers going away, and new volunteers turning up whilst they are holidaying in Sandgate.  We are getting reports of how much greener parts of the country are looking compared with scorched earth Sandgate, and accounts of rain falling when there is none here.  On the last day of July up to about 10pm, the rainfall for all of July was just 2.1mm in Sandgate.  However it then started to rain, and by midnight the gauge had jumped to 4.9mm.  Well, not enough to solve all the problems caused by the drought, but enough to freshen things up a little.  It was interesting to read on social media that we are not to have a hosepipe ban inflicted upon us contrary to what we keep seeing on the news.  It seems that Affinity Water does not rely on reservoirs but on groundwater aquifers and supply should not be a problem this year, subject to there being enough rain later. Parts of Kent not covered by Affinity Water will be under a hosepipe ban.  However many people wisely continue to be most careful with using water, and have taken to collecting bath and even shower water to use in the garden as plants do not mind soapy water.

The strawberry farm has released their spent grow bags for the season, and left them to be taken free of charge to be used as a soil improver.  Happy to oblige we made a few journeys and collected as much as possible.  Where new areas have been mulched, the lack of rain has meant that where the cardboard layer is under the compost, some of it has remained dry and not therefore been able to start decomposing, and then in places starts to become exposed.  This has happened in a few places at Fremantle Park, so with the help of some volunteers from Napier Barracks, some of the foraged/recycled fruit farm compost was used to cover the gaps and generally add a deeper layer around the trees.  Some of the strawberry grow bags smell quite strongly of strawberries, attracting many wasps and making it hazardous to collect more compost, however we shall persevere!

There comes a point where we just have to plant some things in the ground and not hold them back any longer, in the hope that there may surely be some rain as we get nearer to September.  The executive decision was taken to plant the beetroot, and other things will have to follow as they outgrow the larger pots.  The sweet peas struggled this year and we have decided to stop watering them and let finish flowering and go to seed as the flower stems are so short they are difficult to pick and make into bunches; so we shall just have to enjoy them for this final week before they get pulled up.

The lettuce seedlings got pricked out into single modules to grow on, dill and coriander got sown but the parsley forgotten.  The chard moved on into larger modules.  The alleyway in Meadowbrook had a cut back and tidy.  It has produced many artichokes this year, and continues to bring a smile to travellers as they pass through.

This year we have been feeling quite smug that we had not allowed the tomato plants to run away from us, producing side shoots and flopping over – oh no!  This year we have been in control studiously pinching out the unwanted growth and making sure the plants are properly staked.  However a new phenomenon has been noticed which I certainly had not seen before, where some tomato plants not only send out side shoots between the joint where a leaf meets the main stem but also from the leaves themselves as shown in a photo below.  My goodness, as if the task was not already tough enough! 

What’s next?

  • Sow trays of flat and curled parsley
  • Keep up the watering, but only the plants that need it
  • Repot purple sprouting and Chinese cabbages
  • Probably a good idea to pinch out all tomato tops now if not done already
  • Check on the plants for the plant sale at the Sea Festival end of this month

This weeks update from the Sandgate Community Garden Diary.

Posted by Tim Prater in Sandgate Community Garden

Sandgate Community Garden: Update 24 July 2022

Sandgate Community Garden Team Diary Entry for 24th July: the absence of water.

So it is that the drought continues here in sunny Sandgate with perhaps a millimetre or two of rain just to tantalise, whilst the north and west of the country are treated to torrential downpours.  The grass is more yellow, and any growth is stunted and slow.  Having finished the carrots and had a good go at the beetroot, the badgers have turned their attention to the courgettes and probably been eating those as we have seen very few and what is left has teeth marks all over them. 

We have left a couple of bowls of water around the garden for any visiting wildlife, as the pond is fast evaporating.  On Saturday one of our gardeners noticed there was something lurking in the mud and last remaining water of the deepest section.  All we could ascertain is that the creature was quite large and had legs and as our knowledge of the Ukrainian language is worse than our gardeners grasp of English, we had to be satisfied with the information we had been given and just imagine what it could have been. 

During the same morning, the kind elderly gentleman who gave us a lemon tree came along armed with a container filled with water and ‘special feed’ for the tree.  We have now discovered his name is Abdul, and we hope he will visit again even though we did not manage to find out what the ‘secret’ ingredient was in the container.

The garden honey has literally been selling like ‘hot cakes’, and Ray the beekeeper kindly gave us two jars, so all our names were put into a lottery to win them.  Just by coincidence the winners were a volunteer at Fremantle and a volunteer at Enbrook Park.  There will be some of the garden’s honey on our stall at the Sandgate Sea Festival on 28th August, so put the date in your diary and come and visit us there.  We are busy sowing seeds and potting up plants in preparation for the Sea festival, which is a great fund raising event for us, so our fingers are crossed that we can manage to keep the plants alive until then, and that the sun still shines on the day.

This week our list of jobs did get completed.  The fennel, lettuce and Chinese cabbage seeds got sown, and we spent a great deal of time watering which is unsurprising.  Basil, chives and mint got repotted into larger pots to grow them on for the sale.  In the meantime the tomatoes are looking pretty good with many of them now reaching six feet, however the object being to grow tomatoes not stems and leaves, we are hoping they will get to produce something bearing in mind that we will soon be approaching the time to be on the lookout for blight.  In preparation we have removed all the leaves below the first truss which should help when we are watering.  We have now stopped watering the rhubarb as it will have to fend for itself.  The time to stop picking rhubarb is the end of June so that the roots can put on plenty of growth ready to produce more stems next year. 

On Monday, which was a very warm day, we had an afternoon booked for some volunteers to come out from Napier Barracks to help us with some tasks in the Golden Valley.  The weeds all around the planters at the shops, and in the pavement crevices were removed, the beds were thoroughly watered, and a thick mulch of compost was put down.  We decided to do this now as we should have added more plants to this area, following on from the spring and early summer flowers, but it being so dry and hot we decided against that idea for now until the weather changes, as new plants would struggle to survive.  At the same time, most of us were struggling to survive too in the hot sun, however we were well looked after by the shop staff, being offered drinks.  The landlord of the Golden Arrow, Richard, gave us pint glasses of iced water which was most welcome.  Even a passing local took pity and bought us all a soft drink in the grocery store. 

Afterwards we moved on to weed at Fremantle Park, clearing the orchard area and park edges where the brambles encroach on the planted areas.  It is hard to believe that the planting there is looking good considering, with the plants still alive.  We probably have to thank Harmers, the tree watering contractors for that, and the fact that Fremantle Park is usually much wetter underfoot than Enbrook Park.  One of the trees in the orchard is a Pomegranate and it currently has several flowers which with any luck could produce a pomegranate or two this year.  It did grow one last year whilst it was living in a pot, but now that it is planted in the ground it might go berserk and make even more!   The flowers are very attractive, long waxy trumpet shaped and bright red.  The small family plots and the herb planters are really struggling, with most folk deciding not to plant anything just yet and to wait for the rain.  In the meantime we all have plants, plants, plants all over the place in pots just sitting and waiting.

What’s next?

  • Water, water and more water to keep the smaller plants alive in particular
  • May have to repot the chard as it cannot be planted yet
  • Prick out the lettuce seedlings
  • Watch out for blight and remove plant affected

This weeks update from the Sandgate Community Garden Diary.

Posted by Tim Prater in Sandgate Community Garden

Sandgate Community Garden: Update 17 July 2022

Sandgate Community Garden Team Diary Entry for 17th July: Badgers, weeding, water and guerilla gardening.

Oh dear!  It is grumbling all round in the gardening communities, where the water butts have dried up and now resorting to having to use the washing up water and bath water or shower water!  Luckily the plants do not mind soft soap; in fact we have started to use a spray of soapy water on some of the dwarf beans that have been affected by blackfly.  Never like to use it if there are ladybirds around in numbers as they will usually tackle the job, but sometimes we need other help, and the soft soap spray will do the job. 

The only other spray we have had to get out is the bacillus thuringiensis, natural bacteria that targets caterpillars.  We only use this on the brassica plants such as kale, cabbages, swede, broccoli and cauliflowers as the cabbage white butterflies are now around in large numbers trying to lay their eggs.  As soon as any netting is removed to take a look at the plants, they make their move, dive in, and then have to be driven away before the netting can be replaced.  The cold frames always have to be checked as they manage to find their way into them but fail to find their way out again.

Talking about nets and plant protection, we have had several visits recently from what we believe is probably the badger population.  We put netting over the carrots mainly to deter carrot fly, however the badgers decided they would care to make short work of our carrots, tore through the netting and ate the whole lot, creating several holes in the ground and generally making a mess.  Last year it was our beetroot patch that suffered the same fate but this year we grew less beetroot and managed to get most of it up a couple of weeks ago, so it seems next to beetroot they also like carrots; guessing that these root vegetables are sweet and contain more calories that green vegetables, which is just as well or perhaps the entire garden would be stripped in no time!

Not surprisingly this week has mostly been about keeping things alive.  No new plantings will be attempted until the weather breaks, and therefore to keep the seedlings alive that should have been planted by now, we have had to resort to repotting them into larger pots and stock piling them where a close eye can be kept.  As soon as the weather does change it will be all hands on deck getting them in the ground, but until then some beds will have to remain empty.  We are just about managing to keep what we did plant a couple of weeks ago alive, but they are struggling and not growing perhaps as well as they should be.  However, the cauliflower and broccoli seedlings did get pricked out into separate pots, all the compost heaps got turned and we are in full flow of sweet pea picking.  We have to make sure all the flowers get picked every time we visit the garden or else they will quickly go to seed and stop producing any more.

The planter outside the Ship in the High Street got a makeover as did the two seafront planters, with a dressing of new compost and plenty of water, hopefully they should be alright.  The new orchard at Sandgate Park was looking a little crowded by weeds which will be competing with the trees and herbs for water, so they got removed.  Next week we will turn our attention to Fremantle Park and the orchard there. 

Last but by no means least, the guerrilla planted verge in Golden Valley is looking quite spectacular thanks to Rita’s watering.  The picture below does it little justice, and a local commented that her children like to walk past that way as they go to school and look at the flowers, I would think that is reward enough for us. 

What’s next?

  • Weed at Golden Valley and Fremantle Park
  • Mulch Golden valley planters
  • Maybe sow some lettuce, bulb fennel, and Chinese cabbage
  • Keep up the watering

This weeks update from the Sandgate Community Garden Diary.

Posted by Tim Prater in Sandgate Community Garden

Sandgate Community Garden: Update 10 July 2022

Sandgate Community Garden Team Diary Entry for 10th July: Insufficient water, ants, bees and the incredible Cardoon.

It certainly has been a warm month and how very glad we are to receive a bowser full of water every week or we would surely be in trouble trying to keep the new plantings alive.  The trouble is, the courgettes are trying to swell as are the tomatoes and the beans, but with no rain such crops would suffer if we did not water.  We are now planting crops that mature in autumn through winter and into spring, such as kale, swede and purple sprouting broccoli, and of course, should they fail, then there will be nothing for later.  It makes you appreciate how fortunate we are not to have to rely on the success of what we grow, not so for many parts of the world.  We are not so sure about the outcome of many of our other sites in Sandgate which do have to rely on rain and the occasional can of water we try to bring which never is enough.  All we can do is hope things survive which is their instinct to do, and that this weather breaks soon.  In the meantime the grass has turned to yellow and the only good thing about that is it requires no cutting.

On Saturday morning, Jay, one of our new volunteers, got into the pond as the water has all but evaporated, to cut back some of the pond weed which had seriously grown since last year to create a huge spongy mat.  A few buckets of water were spared to put in the pond which we are sure the wildlife will appreciate.

Earlier in the week we were concerned to see a very young green woodpecker, looking vulnerable and not wary enough of dogs and people; we kept an eye on it until eventually it managed to fly up into the trees.  Green woodpeckers love to eat ants and there are certainly plenty of them around as we watched hundreds climbing up our fencing and marching along the top rail for some reason better known to them.  It was quite fascinating to watch and realise there is plenty of blackfly in the garden now and the ants must be on their way to ‘milk’ them for the honeydew they produce and to protect them from any predators. 

Ray, our site beekeeper, has been working hard this week to extract more honey from the garden bee hives.  Many of our gardeners and friends of the garden have put in their orders for the honey currently in the process of being put into jars.  Today (10th July) is National ‘Don’t step on a bee day’, so to help mark the event, Saga has asked Ray to put some jars of his honey in the canteen at Enbrook for staff to purchase.  One of the messages about this important day is to support local bee keepers – 85% of the honey we consume is imported, and as we have been reporting, the quality of such imported honey is not always that good and cannot be compared to the local stuff.

Perhaps the largest flower in our garden is currently that of the cardoon.  One of our plants must be around 10 feet tall as it absolutely towers over everything.  The flower is quite spectacular and loved by insects but before it breaks into colour, the flowers can be picked and eaten just like globe artichokes.  The scales of the outer part of the flower are not as full as the artichoke, but the fleshy middle section of the flower is very tasty with more flavour than the globe artichoke.  We were originally sold our cardoons as being artichokes from a well-known DIY garden centre and since then have decided to grow artichokes from seed as they are easy to grow, you know what to expect, there are different varieties, and they look architectural as a plant within a garden.  They feature in the Lower Leas Park this year again, and certainly make a show although not sure as yet if they are actually cardoons!

What’s next?

  • Continue the turning of the compost heaps
  • Keep a close eye on the watering situation
  • Prick out the cauliflower and broccoli seedlings later in the week
  • Sow the autumn lettuces

This weeks update from the Sandgate Community Garden Diary.

Posted by Tim Prater in Sandgate Community Garden

Sandgate Community Garden: Update 3 July 2022

Sandgate Community Garden Team Diary Entry for 3rd July: 100% real unadulterated local honey.

Where is the summer going?  Time seems to be passing at a rapid pace and we are working on planting and preparing for the autumn, winter and next spring harvests.  The kale has been planted, the spring purple sprouting and Romanesco pricked out and the winter purple sprouting in the pipeline to be sown.  The mange tout has finished, the frame removed and the bed prepared for something else.

We harvested some first carrots this week, and are eagerly waiting for the courgettes to be productive and for the beans to arrive.  Some of the tomatoes have the tiniest of fruits starting to emerge so we will have to be patient and hope that we will not be hit by blight this year before we get to see any tomatoes. 

Unfortunately the first cabbage white has been spotted actually in with the brassicas as they sat in the cold frame.  So we have just this Saturday started to spray the natural bacteria known as bacillus thuringiensis to thwart the cabbage white caterpillar from making mincemeat of the brassicas even, it seems, when they are netted. 

We have started to use our own compost made in our own compost bins.  It looks pretty good for homemade stuff although it would be a challenge to get it through a sieve!  Whilst working in the compost area we were delighted to spot a slow worm lurking under one of the covers.  What a treat it is to see such amazing creatures in our locality – we were also sent a video of a hummingbird hawk-moth taken in one of our Sandgate gardeners back garden, the reward for having many flowering plants and being vigilant to spot it.

Talking of flowers and insects, Ray, our beekeeper at Enbrook Park is proud to announce that the hives there have done well this year and he has extracted quite a bit of honey.  We cannot wait to give it a try, it looks really dark in the jar pictured below, and we know the bees have been foraging all over the area collecting from a diverse range of flowers from trees, shrubs and annuals.  Unlike the honey mentioned in my newsletter a few weeks ago from well-known supermarkets that fail to mention the jars contain a high percentage of sugar syrup, this is proper 100% real unadulterated local honey which cannot be compared. You will be delighted to know that Ray is prepared to sell some of it, if you are interested, at £6 a jar with a 20p discount on the next order if you return the jar.  A bargain when you consider all the work Ray puts into his hives as well as all the gear he has to buy to do the job properly.  I am collecting orders, so text me on 078 401 38308 or email and treat yourself to something special this summer.

Rainfall for the month of June was 19.8mm, for which we are grateful, and gave a little respite from hand watering.  We are delighted still with our past purchase of an electric water pump to help with the chore, and on reflection are concluding that it may actually be saving us water as the constant water flow prevents having to keep filling up and remembering where you last were and possibly watering again or just from using up what is left in the can.  Who knows, but so far so good.

We are excited to announce that we will be at the Sandgate Sea Festival at the end of August where we hope to be raising funds for all our projects.  We will be selling plants which we are currently busy collecting and nurturing for the occasion.  This is a big fundraising event for us so please write it in the diary now to be there and support us.

What’s next?

  • Sow more sprouting broccoli and rainbow chard
  • Continue to turn the compost bins
  • Check on the gooseberries not picked
  • Looks like a warm week so keep watering the pots

This weeks update from the Sandgate Community Garden Diary.

Posted by Tim Prater in Sandgate Community Garden

Sandgate Community Garden: Update 26 June 2022

Sandgate Community Garden Team Diary Entry for 26th June: The skills of managing tomatoes.

It has been a challenge this week to keep up with the tomatoes and the growth they are putting on.  Every week our list of jobs includes checking all the tomato plants for side shoots, and every week those side shoots sneak up on us and start taking over.  Keeping tomato plants as a cordon or single stemmed plant is quite a skill, you really do need to know your stuff when it comes to identifying a side shoot and nipping it out before it saps too much energy from the plant and goes off at a tangent.  Of course, in the wild a tomato plant would naturally be a bush, but in the short time we have in our summer to grow a decent crop of tomatoes outside, then it pays to be vigilant and train them.  It has to be said that last year (and the year before) we somewhat lost the plot when keeping our eyes on the growth and they went out of control in a busy time when so much is going on anyway.  However this year the determination is to plug away at it……… all we need now is some tomatoes!

Any promised rain this week is up to its usual trick of appearing on the weather apps and then completely passing us by, or even being so localised that we can have a short shower at one end of Sandgate, yet not at the other.  The yellow warning of thunderstorms and heavy showers faded to nothing and many a water butt at gardener’s homes remain empty.

However, we get on with what needs doing, and there is always plenty.  The kale seedlings all got pricked out into modules, the broccoli seeds sown, and the swedes planted, along with the second batch of lettuces.  One of the red potato patches were pulled up and more onions.  Sadly the mange tout is starting to dwindle but soon we hope the courgettes will start to come thick and fast.  The gooseberries are thinking about ripening but as you can see in a picture below, we had another volunteer turn up, in the shape of a squirrel, with a keen eye on what we were doing, and what he could glean. 

Over by the asparagus beds a mole is having a wonderful time making mole hills all over the place and we are rather hoping he will be making his way under the fence and out.  With the imminent arrival of many brassica plants (swede, kales and broccolis) we will have to think about their protection from the dreaded cabbage white butterfly.  Sadly, we have not seen many butterflies or insects, well not as many as we should.

The memories of ‘fly soup’ or being able to look across an open space and see hundreds of flying insects, is now in the distant past, along with having to clean the car windscreen due to all the casualties encountered on a journey.  It seems a wonder that any of the flowers are fertilised and the fruits form at all, but fortunately they still do and long may it continue.  Where last year there was just one pyramid orchid in a spot near the Enbrook garden, this year there are two, and the fact we are surrounded by a diverse range of flowers, grasses and trees will help support the much needed insect population.

Just as the insects need support, so do we at times, with various projects.  Saga has a fantastic scheme to encourage employees to spend a day volunteering for local charities and projects.  This week a dozen came out to support Touchbase Care at Pent Farm, along with some of our gardeners, to unload several truckloads of compost, varnish the inside of the summer house, weed, water, construct compost bins from recycled pallets and with great enthusiasm, roll massive tractor tyres down the lane to make raised beds.  They were a fabulous hardworking bunch, but suspect that after a day of hard physical graft in the great, hot and sunny outdoors, they were suffering for it the day after when back in the office! 

What’s next?

  • Prick out the broccoli seedlings, the smaller the better
  • Check on the gooseberries
  • The woodchip paths need another layer
  • Keep watering the new plantings

This weeks update from the Sandgate Community Garden Diary.

Posted by Tim Prater in Sandgate Community Garden

Sandgate Community Garden: Update 19 June 2022

Sandgate Community Garden Team Diary Entry for 19th June: Completing the Enbrook Valley planters, and Don’t Step on a Bee.

A busy week where the temperatures rose, the sun shone and we had to start watering again. 

The two planters outside the Golden Arrow in the Golden Valley have been under review for some time but we now think that a plan of action has been finalised and can at last be implemented.  The pub landlords had been thinking long and hard about what they wanted to have there in terms of planting, and there had been conversations around perhaps making the planters taller.  The issue was that because the planters were so close to the outside benches and tables they often got stood on or walked over by customers, and plants therefore failed to thrive and the beds looked sad and sorry compared to the others.  After much deliberation, the decision was to cover the beds in shingle and to put some half barrels on top with flowering plants – therefore the plants will no longer be stepped on.  The work is all but completed, and it is looking great.

The green outside the chip shop got a long overdue tidy up and some plants put in.  The Council has added the hanging baskets already and the space is therefore looking very colourful.

At the Enbrook garden, the last of the broad beans have been harvested and the beds prepared and ready to be replanted, one was quickly filled with new lettuce plants.  Spring onions were planted in the space where some of the potatoes were, and a few of the kale seedlings got pricked out into modules to grow on for another few weeks.  We also planted a new rhubarb root and two Yacon plants bought last week at Stream Walk community garden in Whitstable.  Yacon root is very similar to a water chestnut and needs to be harvested every late autumn and some saved for the following year.

Enbrook Garden was visited during the week by a film crew, where they interviewed and filmed the bee hives and keepers in preparation for highlighting the national ‘don’t step on a bee day’ on July 10th.

I (Leonie) had the honour of being invited to give a talk to the Hythe WI, on our community garden spaces as well as an introduction to ‘No dig’ gardening.  It was a delight to meet the ladies and to tell them all about the work of our volunteers and how far we have come in three short years highlighted with a pandemic!  For me it was interesting to be able to sequence and put together the creation of all the growing areas here in Sandgate, plus our connection with other groups.  Of course, the real treat was the tea and cake afterwards!

What’s next?

  • Finish pricking out the kales
  • Sow purple sprouting
  • Plant the swedes
  • Keep watering the small planters if the heat continues.

This weeks update from the Sandgate Community Garden Diary.

Posted by Tim Prater in Sandgate Community Garden

Sandgate Community Garden: Update 12 June 2022

Sandgate Community Garden Team Diary Entry for 12th June: Potatoes, Brockhill School, Stream Walk Community Garden and the Golden Arrow.

It seems the temperatures are beginning to rise, and the cucumbers are not looking quite so sickly, even the dwarf beans have started to perk up a bit and the courgettes are just starting to show the first fruits.  We seem to have managed to keep up with the removal of the side shoots on the tomatoes this year, and are doing the same with the hop plants too.  One of the beds of broad beans got stripped and uprooted to make way for a new planting of lettuces.  It made an entire trug full of bean pods, and we were able to let any visitors take some, and have plenty enough to take home too. 

Having inspected the first plot of early potatoes, we took an executive decision to pull them up as they looked large enough on having an initial rummage around in the soil, and anyway we do need the room.  Our gardeners working towards their Duke of Edinburgh Award had planted them back in March, and they were delighted to now be harvesting them, so we left them to it, listening to all the squeals of delight when they found more buried ‘treasure’.

Our young volunteers are at Brockhill School in Hythe, and we were invited to go and have a look at an amazing walled garden the school has on site.  It has been out of use for some time, and the fantastic greenhouses need lots of restoration, but what a fabulous resource to have.  The master plan is to get the garden up and running again for the children to start learning about horticulture.  Such an exciting project, and so looking forward to seeing the progress as it happens.  We hope to keep you informed on that.

We also had an invite to go and visit Stream Walk Community Garden in Whitstable.  We had visited the garden some time ago, but during the pandemic, the garden had a change of committee and new blood to carry the project on and indeed upwards to yet another level.  Much larger than any of our spaces, the garden is right in the community and so gets plenty of people using the space.  The gardeners made us feel so very welcome, and spent much of their time with us telling us about the project.  We always like to analyse such trips to consider our practices and if we can take anything learnt on board, and usually come to the conclusion we are different in several ways – however who knows what the future may bring.

One thing we do really appreciate is that we are also quite visible in our community, in lots of different areas, and fortunate enough to have local support to keep us up and running.  After the jubilee weekend, we were invited to go to the Golden Arrow to pick up the takings from the various events that went on such as the tombola and raffle.  Richard and Shona the landlords handed over a massive £570.  They wanted any money they made to go to the Sandgate Community Garden team as we are always out and about in the Golden Valley and Fremantle Park, and we are all working towards community in the Golden Valley.  We are most grateful and humbled.

This week in the Golden Valley at Fremantle Park, some of the lads from the Shorncliffe Barracks came out to help us plant the globe artichokes, some gooseberry and currant bushes, as well as more flowering annuals.  Next week they are going to be helping one of our other contacts, Rosemary at the Romney Marsh Community Garden with several chores she has lined up.  They are certainly keeping busy.

Finally: Advance Notice – next week’s newsletter will be a day later, because of a family wedding in East Sussex (that is if the groom has recovered from covid which appeared in the last couple of days!).

What’s next?

  • Prick out the kale, swede and basil seedlings.
  • Plant the next batch of lettuces and spring onions
  • Sow the purple sprouting
  • Order more seeds
  • Take up the next bed of broad beans

This weeks update from the Sandgate Community Garden Diary.

Posted by Tim Prater in Sandgate Community Garden

Sandgate Community Garden: Update 5 June 2022

Sandgate Community Garden Team Diary Entry for 5th June: Planty Jubes.

Happy Jubilee weekend!

We hope you are enjoying the celebrations this weekend, and that the weather is not spoiling things going on wherever you are.  In the garden we have been rejoicing over the appearance of some decent rain, which lightens the load as regards watering, and saves us much time, however now some of the more tender plants, especially the cucumbers are complaining about too much water and cooler temperatures – still, that is British weather for you.

The Parish Council have had the signs put up in Sandgate and Fremantle Park in the new orchards as part of the ‘Queens Green Canopy’ for the Platinum Jubilee, and very smart they look too.  We are still working on the orchards, adding herbs and bee friendly self-sown flowers in Sandgate Park, and more of the same plus fruit bushes and globe artichokes in Fremantle Park.  As we are working we have several people stopping to say hello, which is always welcome, and to comment on how well cared for the parks are looking, and how lovely it all is.  Sometimes when it is cold, damp and blowing a ‘hoolli’, you begin to wonder as a volunteer, exactly why it is you are there, but just one positive comment from a passer-by makes it all worthwhile.  We always try to pass on the thanks to the Parish Council too, as the improvements are not just about that ‘cherry on the top’ that we are doing.

A couple of us were helping out at the Golden Valley family fun afternoon hosted by the Golden Arrow on Friday.  It was a fabulous afternoon, and a great time was had by all with Face painting, tombola, children’s games, cake competition, barbecue, a talented singer to entertain, and Pimms tent.  Not sure who had the idea to hand out water pistols to all the children at one point, but we all really enjoyed the event.  The highlight for us was being asked to judge the cake baking competition, probably based on the fact that I in particular, really like cake, so it was a match made in heaven.  Many thanks go to Sandqate Parish Council for being kind enough to donate three prizes which were given out to the winners.

Lots of seeds got sown this week such as swede and beetroot, a few more spring onions, and more basil.  The pea shoots were taken up on Saturday as they were getting tired of having their shoots removed twice every week, making way for the leeks sown in April, and a few celeriac plants.  In spite of the weather, the tomatoes have managed to put on a little growth and needed tying in again to their stakes; then the carrot bed got a good sort out as it was thoroughly overcrowded and needed thinning, this involved crawling around on hands and knees or just sitting right in the patch itself to get done properly.

Our Saturday morning session brought many visitors again, including a new young family to Sandgate finding us for the first time, a lady from Canada from growing zone three, (where there is literally only three growing months in the entire year before it gets simply too cold), and our delightful Ukrainian ladies came again to sow more seeds and admire the beauty of the mares tails before finding out how much of a nightmare they are in the garden and to ruthlessly pull them up instead!  In contrast, the Ukrainian ladies were saying just how cold is the English summer compared to the Ukraine, where our temperatures feel more like their winter, therefore the jumpers and cardigans were out in force, whilst we were sporting shorts and T shirts!

What’s next?

  • Still got lots of annuals to plant in various areas.
  • Keep checking for mares tails coming through at Golden Valley planters.
  • We need some more beetroot and spring onion seeds
  • Keep checking new plantings for moisture levels and all pots watered.
  • Plant the globe artichokes

This weeks update from the Sandgate Community Garden Diary.

Posted by Tim Prater in Sandgate Community Garden