Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Janurary in the Community Garden

Hi all,
A very welcome back to our blog at the start of 2012.The new public transport bus numbers which take you near or pass by the community garden on the South Circular road are as follows:27,56,77A,121,122,150,151,155.
As we start to get back into the new year gardening I enclose some information for you to read and get motivated in the comminng months.

Ten Tools Every Community Gardener & Garden Needs

Gardeners may not agree on the best mulch or the perfect fertilizer, but there's one thing that every gardener agrees on: when it comes time to purchase tools, buy the best. Quality garden tools are an investment that yields dividends over time. Here are the top 10 gardening tools every community garden should own.

1. Trowel A well-made trowel is your most important tool. From container gardening to large beds, a trowel will help you get your plants into the soil. Essential for everyone.

2. Hand Fork or Claw or Cultivator A hand fork helps cultivate soil, chop up clumps, and work amendments into the soil. A hand fork is necessary for cultivating in closely planted beds.

3. Hoe A long- handled hoe is a gardener's best friend. Keeping weeds at bay is the purpose of this useful tool. Hoe heads come in all different shapes and sizes and every gardener swears by a different one.

4. Secateurs (aka Hand pruners) invest in a pair of quality pruners, such as Felco, which is clearly a cut above. There are different types and sizes depending upon the type and size of the job. Secateurs are for cutting small diameters, up to the thickness of your little finger ;-). Anything larger and you need loppers.

5. Watering can A watering can creates a fine even stream of water that delivers with a gentleness that won't wash seedlings or sprouting seeds out of their soil.

6. Fork You can't dig and divide perennials without a heavy-duty fork (and some dividing methods even suggest you own two!).

7. Shovels & Spades

There are several different types and shapes of shovels and spades, each with their own purpose. There are

also different types of hand holds for either—a “D” shape, a “T” shape, or none at all. They are a requisite

tool for planting large perennials, shrubs, and trees, breaking ground, moving soil, leaves, just about

anything. The sharper the blade, the better.

8. Wheelbarrow Wheelbarrows come in all different sizes (and prices). They are indispensable for hauling soil, compost, plants, mulch, hoses, tools...everything you’ll need to garden.

9. Gloves unless you want to wear your favourite hobby under your nails, use gloves. Leather gloves hold up best. If you have roses, get a pair that resist thorn pricks..

10. Hose. This is the fastest way to transport lots of water. Consider using drip irrigation hoses or tape.

Mulches: weed prevention and control

Why use mulches?

Mulching is an excellent way of controlling weeds and clearing ground. It works because mulches stop light from reaching the weeds. Without light they cannot grow, because they can’t photosynthesise (the process by which plants make food).

Mulches are coverings placed on the surface of the soil. They can be made from a number of materials, from light-excluding membranes (covers) to loose shredded prunings. To make sure the mulch works, it is important to choose the right one.

How do you use mulches?

In planted areas

Dig garden compost or organic fertilisers into the soil before putting the mulch on the soil.Put the mulch on to a moist, warm, weed free soil. Membranes look more attractive and last longer if they are covered in a 5cm layer of loose mulch such as ornamental bark.When using a loose mulch and no membrane,a top up is needed to keep a 10cm thick layer (every year or two).

When clearing ground

Cut down long grass and weeds with a strimmer.Lay the membrane over the area to be cleared, and hold

down with pegs or stones. If weeds break through the membrane, patch it as necessary.It can be held down with planks, bricks or straw.

Pros: Free. It is useful for clearing ground and can be replaced when the weeds start to grow through. Vigorous growing vegetables can be planted through it. Biodegradable (rots down).

Cons: Degrades quickly.

Newspaper Newspapers are excellent as a short term mulch. They will last one growing season.Use a whole, opened out newspaper at least eight pages thick. Hold down with a degradable mulch such as grass mowings, hay or straw.

Pros: Free. A thick layer will keep down perennial (grow back every year) weeds.Use round the base of fruit bushes and raspberries (remember to remove in autumn and replace in spring). They also makes good tree mats and can be used as a mulch in the vegetable garden. Biodegradable.

Cons: Degrades quickly. Can make soil more acidic.

Loose mulch


Woodchips come in many different varieties of wood. They are cheaper but less attractive than ornamental bark.

Pros: Excellent for informal paths.

Biodegradable. Good use of waste material.

Cons: Although it will stop some weeds growing the soil must be clear of all weeds before the woodchips are put down.

Clearing weeds using this method can take between six months to two or three years. However,the area doesn’t have to be bare. You can grow some vigorous plants through the mulch.

Mulch membranes


Geotextiles are man-made membranes that are permeable (water and air can get through).They will last about 15 years, when covered with a loose mulch such as wood chips. Fasten the edges with wire pegs.

Pros: Excellent long-term weed control. You can plant through geotextile membranes.

Cons: Expensive. You can’t feed plants through it; worms can’t work in organic matter covering the membrane. A non-renewable resource (can’t be used again).

Black plastic film (400-600 gauge – thickness)

Black plastic will last for one to three years. To hold it down, bury the edges along all sides of the beds.

Pros: Useful for clearing weedy ground before planting. It can be covered with loose mulch.Vigorous vegetables, such as potatoes and courgettes, can be planted through the membrane.Warms up the soil.

Cons: As it is not air or water permeable it is not recommended for long term use. Will degrade (rot) quickly if exposed to the sun. A non-renewable resource.


Flattened cardboard makes an excellent mulch which will last for one growing season.

Ornamental bark

Ornamental bark is composted conifer bark. It is more expensive than woodchips but more attractive.

Pros: Excellent for decorative beds.It conditions the soil. Biodegradable. Good way of recycling waste material.

Cons: Although it will stop some perennial weeds growing soil must be clear of all weeds before it is put down.

Shredded prunings

Woody prunings and other woody material produced in the school grounds can be chipped or shredded to use as a mulch.

Heap them in a pile to compost for a few months before using on planted areas. Composting will darken the colour of the mulch,giving it a more natural appearance. Add nitrogen—in the form of grass mowings, nettle liquid or nitrogen-rich manures to speed up composting.

Pros: Can be used fresh for paths.

Biodegradable. Good use of waste materials.

Cons: Home made mulches, may degrade more quickly.


Straw and hay will make a good mulch for one season. For the most effective weed control put straw over a membrane such as newspaper. It is better to use semi-rotted straw/hay.

Pros: Hay contains potash and nitrogen.Straw also supplies some potash. This mulch is good for fruit bushes. Biodegradable. Good use of waste material.

Cons: Hay can contain some weed seeds.


Best used as a mulch in ‘wild’ areas or to cover tree mats. Do not use sawdust from treated wood.

Pros: Biodegradable. Good use of waste material.

Cons: Sawdust takes nitrogen from the soil

and so should not be dug in.

Tree mats

It is important to keep 1m² area at the base of a tree free of other plants and weeds for three to five years after planting. If the area isn’t clear,the tree has competition for water and nutrients.Tree mats are made of wool, geotextile or black plastic. It is also possible to make your own using newspaper (see newspaper section).Fasten the mats down by burying the edges or pegging down.

Pros: Wool mats and geotextiles are air and water permeable. Tree mats can also be used around large shrubs.

Cons: Wool mats can be destroyed by birds using them for nesting material. Black plastic is not air and water permeable. Synthetic (man made) membranes are a non-renewable resource.

Ten Tips on Gardening with Kids

1. Kid gardens must be kid-based. This means that kids help generate the ideas for what will be there, help with construction and planting, and are responsible for maintenance. Grown-up’s need to facilitate and show how, but not do everything. Focus on the process of involving them, and they will then take ownership.

2. Develop the garden to be appropriate for the site and regional conditions. Involve the kids in the site analysis process so they understand how important the light, soil, drainage and other environmental factors are to having a garden. Develop the garden so the features and plant choices are adapted to local conditions, so you are not “working against nature.”

3. Focus on functional garden design, not how it will look. Start the design process by determining what the children want to be doing and learning in the garden. Base the features on the practical functions they will serve, and don’t worry too much about aesthetics. Gardens that serve as hands-on learning laboratories for kids will be beautiful because they are well-used and well-loved spaces. Also remember that the children’s sense of what is pretty may not be yours; that’s ok because the garden is their space.

4. Be comfortable with dirt. All kids are washable, so as long as parents have been notified about the gardening activity in advance and haven’t sent them in fancy clothing, let them get dirty. If mud is a concern once the kids are going back inside the building, try plastic grocery sacks over their shoes, or set up and hand-washing and shoe-scraping station before they go back inside.

5. Bugs and crawly things are cool. Children aren’t inherently afraid of things that crawl and creep. They learn that these things are bad or scary or icky from adults. When you pass on an aversion to something because of how it looks, that’s called “Prejudice.” Worms, caterpillars, grubs, insects, spiders and all sorts of wondrous creatures are out in your garden as part of the ecosystem. Please see them as integral parts of the system, and the kids will be amazed and curious, not afraid. Check out Worms Eat My Garbage and other great teaching resources on garden bugs.

6. No chemicals. Given that you are gardening with children, this really should not need any explanation. Also in urban areas, it is advisable to have a basic soil assessment for lead and other urban contaminants to make sure your site is safe for children before the garden is developed.

7. Grow some things to eat. Children are much more willing to try and consume fresh fruits and vegetables that they have grown. In fact, they likely will try things they never have eaten before because they have tended the plants through harvest. Since 60% of kids today don’t eat enough fruits and veggies. Have a harvest celebration and encourage the kids to share their bounty with others, whether informally or through other community gardens.

8. Reinforce the lessons from the garden while indoors. Prepare the kids for their gardening experience by asking questions like, “What will we see today?” or “How much do you think things have grown since last week?” Engage kids in keeping journals and/or scrapbooks of their garden to monitor its progress through the season and over the years. If working with a school garden, integrate the garden across disciplines beyond science.

9. Keep it fun. Have enough equipment, whether trowels or watering cans, to allow small teams of 4-8 kids to work together on a task. Many children do better in small group situations, and it’s also easier to guide the kids when each team has a specific assignment. Try partnering older grades and younger children to provide younger kids with a helper, and help older children to be more responsible. Have a plan for how the kids’ time in the garden will be organized so they aren’t left idle for long, but also be open to the “teachable moments” that come along.

10. Gardening is powerful experiences for children.Children have fewer and fewer chances to interact with the natural world, and the connection to nature is important for their development. Children who develop regard and concern for the natural world come to be good stewards of the land and its resources. Being responsible for tending a garden also fosters their sense of “nurturing” and helps them learn to care for other living things. Kids don’t often hear much positive feedback from adults, and creating and tending a garden also empowers kids because they hear that they have “done a good job” from other adults.


Planets like Earth are very rare,let`s not blow it.

South Circular Road Community Food Garden Project

The South Circular Road Community Food Garden Project started in April 2007. We have a derelict site on loan from ST Salvage Company that we have converted into a community food garden. This is a continuation of the initial successful Dolphins Barn Community squatted food garden that was on the canal from 2005 -2007.