It has been an exciting past few weeks at the Avery Hill Campus as the community garden allotment has started to take shape. The garden now has eleven raised beds built, four of them filled with compost, a line of compost bins ready for our waste and a huge pile of compost donated from CJS Plants who occupy the (plant) nursery on the Mansion Site.
We have managed to achieve this in just four work days and the hard work of 25 staff and student volunteers! The garden is very much still in its early stages, and we still haven’t actually planted anything yet but the good news is we will be starting that on Wednesday.
We are going to be joined by Capital Growth who will be taking us through the basic skills required for looking after a community garden and showing us what to plant, how to plant it, when to plant it and where to plant it. We will be taught about companion planting and how certain species of plants work as well together in the vegetable patch as they do in the soup pot! Of course everyone is welcome to come along whether you are a student, staff member, friend, relative or just curious – we will be at the garden from 12noon – 6pm. Email: email@example.com to find out more.
The first work day saw ten of us uncover a shot put circle, reveal the base of a burned down shed and build the compost pens from pallets that had been recovered from around the campus. The shot put circle is a legacy from sports fields that used to be on the site, last year we removed the hammer throw to make room for our orchard! The end result can be seen below:
The following work day we then focussed towards getting some raised beds built, using second hand scaffold boards salvaged in East London and wooden posts we were able to start constructing the beds. The raised beds are being treated with a non toxic wood preserve which means the beds should survive through the wet weather without starting to rot and break up – the non toxic preserve is chosen specifically to make sure that any preserve leaching into the soil is harmless to any plants and vegetable being grown. The method for building is very simple – driving four coach screws through the boards and into the posts at each corner and while we have made the best effort to make sure the corners are at 90 degree angles apparently the vegetables won’t mind the eccentricities that we may have created!
The beds have been set straight on top of the ground and are starting to be filled with compost. The compost will block off the light to the grass below meaning it will die off and start to rot and become part of the compost too. As the beds get worked on and the vegetables grow the soil and nutrients below ground level will eventually become part of the soil the fruit and vegetable plants will be growing into. This means that while the beds may appear quite short and as though you wouldn’t be able to go particularly deep the vegetables and roots of the plants will in fact be going below the ground level.
We are now at a stage where the last few beds need to have the wood preserve painted on them and the rest of the compost beds need to be filled with the compost we have on site. The four of them that are already filled just need some seeds and seedlings planted into them and then for nature to work its magic!