ELL: July to September 2011


Gemma and Dani in the Showcase BedGemma and Dani in the Showcase Bed
What a September it was! From a visit with permaculturist Roberto Perez, help from kids from The Challenge, to the Well-Oiled Festival, ELL has had a great start to autumn.

Sorting SeedsSorting SeedsOur green thumbs are now shifting into autumn and preparing for winter. We have been concentrating on things like seed collecting and storage, harvesting those plants that are at the end of fruitful production, lifting and dividing plants, potting plants and herbs, and planting seeds.
MaxMaxTackling Bindweed, BrambleTackling Bindweed, Bramble

In the spirit of teamwork, we were joined by kids from The Challenge and Frankie and Jane to do some building on site. Together they constructed benches for our greenhouse out of recycled wooden pallets. They learned a bit about woodworking and community involvement while we were able to organize our greenhouse with some great new furniture! The kids also helped us to finish our new tree bed, hauling in compost and planting trees. We now have Apple, Hawthorn, Goji trees, Lemon Balm, Strawberries, Calendula and Salad Burnet and the bed is filling up nicely.Frankie and Jane Bench buildingFrankie and Jane Bench buildingAlex and FrankieAlex and Frankie

New Tree bedNew Tree bed

Jane at ELL stallJane at ELL stallWe had a stall at the second annual Well Oiled Festival, where Jane was spreading the word about the nursery, sampling bits of our edible salads and plants, and attracting interest to the project. As a result we have seen some new faces at the nursery in the past few weeks who are welcomed with open arms.
Group lunchGroup lunch

Roberto Perez visits the nurseryRoberto Perez visits the nursery
Roberto Perez, a permaculturist from Cuba, visited the nursery in early September. Roberto was and is closely involved with Cuba's food growing revolution since the major collapse of their economy in the early 1990s. He was featured in the film The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil where he speaks about sustainability, rethinking consumption, and urban agriculture. You can read more about the film here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_Community:_How_Cuba_Survived_P....

We spent a day at the nursery discussing food-growing needs and techniques in London's various growing projects, sharing our successes and bouncing around ideas which could bring improvement. After taking a tour of the garden we had a feast of edibles from our plants and some homemade goodies brought by the group.

What a day!

Foraged salad feastForaged salad feast

Dried apples, pears and plum fruit leathersDried apples, pears and plum fruit leathers

Foraged edibles at our weekly lunch meetingForaged edibles at our weekly lunch meeting


Kiraz working on sale bedKiraz working on sale bedBetween summer holidays and inopportune rain, we have been busy at the nursery with maintenance of our flourishing beds. Thinning out overgrowth and targeting bindweed have been our main priorities, while we look ahead to harvest and autumn phases in the project. Our mother bed was teaming
Transporting plants to sell, Jo and JaneTransporting plants to sell, Jo and Jane and bursting at the seams with growth, which began to create competition between plants and general overcrowding. We really had to keep on top of this maintenance, especially with the Perennial Broccoli, Chard, Lemon Balm, and Calendula plants. We continue with our seed colleciton from our Calendula, Orich, Cress, Giant Red Mustard plants and more.

Target : BindweedTarget : Bindweed
Kiraz and Phil working on new tree bedKiraz and Phil working on new tree bedWe are in the process of plotting out a new bed along the fence, where we will be planting trees such as Hawthorn and Sea Buckthorn.

Many discussions have circled around the focus and goals of the project, and our overall capability based on fluctuating man-power. We are finding it challenging to participate in intriguing offshoots of the project, such as selling plants outside the nursery or at all at this stage, and are trying to reassess our goals to a more managable potential. We are also saying goodbye to our beloved Kiraz, who is happily venturing off to Spain to work on a growing project there. She will be greatly missed!

Kiraz and TomKiraz and Tom

We have changed our working days to Monday and Thursday, 10am to 3pm, and are in need of volunteers. People are free to show up anytime during these times to help out at their leisure. We also have a shared lunch around 1pm and encourage sharing of culinary experiments and group discussions.

Harvested Chicory and Perennial RocketHarvested Chicory and Perennial Rocket

Weekly ELL meeting with foraged saladWeekly ELL meeting with foraged salad

JULY 2011 (update by Jo because Deanna is away)
humungous alkanethumungous alkanetWe have been working our socks off trying to keep back the bindweed and brambles. Check out this freakishly large alkanet we found at the edge of the site shortly before it was converted to mulch. Good side is that all the other plants are doing well. We have been potting up seed grown plants, propagating the Caucasian spinach with runners, collecting seeds for those handy annuals: Giant Red Mustard and Calendula and watching (and occasionally nibbling) our other plants with great interest. We have started doing some bud grafts - plums so far. Our shared lunches are becoming more and more exotic. Yesterday Gemma brought in a jar of three cornered leek bulbs that had been pickled with hogweed seeds. Amazing.

bud grafting - plumsbud grafting - plumsSome plants aren't doing so well - the Sea Buckthorn. Chinese Dogwood and Siberian Pea tree in the showcase bed spring to mind. Our medlar has never budded and a couple of our interesting ones never made it: the Udo and the Bladder Campion. Also loads of our tree grafts didn't survive, probably because of the tough spring weather and the fact that our scions and rootstocks weren't dormant when we grafted. Finally, only some of our cuttings have taken - we think we weren't watering enough. HOWEVER, the Himalayan Rhubarb has finally started looking happy and the Persimmon came into bud (better late than never). All the other plants in the showcase bed are looking huge and amazing as do the ones in our seed bed and shady salad bed. It's like a huge edible jungle.

stunning chard at Stall4All, Crouch End Budgensstunning chard at Stall4All, Crouch End BudgensMahmud and Jane have been selling plants at the Stall 4 All at the Crouch End Budgens and I did a talk about the nursery at the Transition Conference in Liverpool. This was explaining the first steps we took to set up as a social enterprise. I also ran a very short bud grafting workshop at the Permaculture Conference which was great fun. Bud grafting @ Permaculture conference (pic Yev Kazannik)Bud grafting @ Permaculture conference (pic Yev Kazannik)It was also a chance to get people to try out eating peeled hollyhock leaf stems which are really quite substantial.

We need more volunteers to come on our work days because there is a huge amount of work to be done. We're thinking of changing our days from Wednesday and Thursday to Monday and Thursday. We always have a shared meal at 1pm so bring something to share.

We have been negotiating with Metropolitan Housing to pay our rent 'in kind' and expect to have this settled one way or another by September.