Gifts, Chat & a Heatwave

GARDENERS like to talk through plants, exchanging stories, roots and seeds. Martin Smith from One Tree Hill Allotments has been growing maize from Glazebrook Growers’ seeds, while we have comfrey and white deadnettle grown from roots he gave us last autumn. Here’s some of our plant conversation over summer 2018.

One Tree Hill Allotment site, summer 2018, photo: Martin Smith

Martin: I have been meaning to contact you, I have been mad busy on my plot and am getting some remarkable things happening, the corn you gave me gave 100% germination and I gave some to Annie. I am using it with my squashes and doing 3 sisters with about 7 or 8 plants, different squashes, Kabocha, Blue Hubbard, butternut and other whose name I don’t remember. Well, the squash plants are so big already, the corn and beans are only about 6 inches but the squashes are enormous it’s really eye opening. I am also doing Oca, which is an Andean tuber, it seems to be doing quite well, I got it from the seed swap at Spa Hill allotments.

martin squash summer 18
Martin tunes into his squash plant, already growing like crazy in early summer 2018

Zoë: I can say in return that the comfrey and white deadnettle that you gave us are flourishing both at Croxted Rd Kitchen Garden and on my allotment at Grange Lane. Who would have thought that those roots that looked so scraggly and unpromising in winter would put on such growth in their first season. I’m afraid that the honeysuckle cutting, although it took and was beginning to sprout, was taken out by slugs or snails. Maybe we can try again.

Martin: Yes, have some more cuttings in the autumn thats no problem there are always loads available. Some pics of me and one of my squashes, more to follow, this one is enormous, the corn and beans are behind it, I will take some where it is more obvious and I think I will also do it with courgettes next year, I have also got an enormous kabocha plant which already has 1 inch fruit.

Martin & squash 2
It’ll have you! Martin restrains his rampant squash plant. 

Martin’s heatwave update: Here is a pic of a squash and the corn, no cobs yet. Because of the position of the sun i will have to do more later in the day. They all have a bean as well; next year I am going to do it with courgettes.

As to the heat, on one treehill I go over every morning between 6:30 and 7am and water everything very thoroughly, I have been doing this since the hot weather started, in fact this morning was only the second time I haven’t actually had to water. Some of the climbing beans have been frizzled in the heat, but only a few. Everything else is enjoying it like I am.


Flower Hour & Garden Mentoring

Saturday 2nd June 11am to 1pm

tagetes 2017
Tagetes ‘Burning Embers’ in the Hotbed, summer 2017

NEWSFLASH! We’ve organised at short notice a work party to spruce up our Flower Hotbed in Croxted Road Pleasure Garden, and also an advice session with urban gardener Paul Richens.

Turn up at 11 to hear Paul talk us through the various insect-nourishing, fiery-coloured flowers we’ll be planting. From about 11.45 Paul will break off to talk to individual gardeners needing advice about organic food and flower growing. This is a great opportunity for beginners to get some one-to-one expert advice, but all levels are welcome. Just turn up.

We’ll be in the Kitchen and Pleasure Gardens just behind West Dulwich Station, off Glazebrook Close, SE21 8RP. Children welcome, but must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

We usually manage to rustle up coffee and a bit of cake or biscuits to keep everyone going.


Hot Bulbs Explode

REMEMBER the damp dark days of November? That’s when we planted the tulips that exploded into colour in the Pleasure Garden as soon as the cold eased off.

We’ve had many appreciative comments from passersby, and a kind message from a local resident saying, ‘I walk past your gardens on my way to the station each morning. I think they both look great and at the moment the pleasure garden is particularly pleasing with its array of flowers.’


Our new gnome, anonymously donated, has had more mixed reviews. No one has stolen him.

The flush of spring flowers is fading now, but these photos from Ali Tremlett, Charlotte Eastop and me show them at their peak.




Later we’ll be planting out a fresh batch of annuals – Tagetes ‘Burning Embers’, ‘Crimson Velvet’ snapdragons, echinacea – currently growing on our ‘nursery’ pallets in the Kitchen Garden. (Our pallet tables seem to confuse the slugs enough to keep seedlings safe. Ish.)

Zoë Petersen

Black gold, green fingers

WE’VE just had our first get together of the season, in between the Spring Equinox and the clocks jumping forward. Next up, on 21st April, is our ‘Black Gold and Green Fingers’ workshop on organic gardening basics – see the poster below for details. All are welcome. We are tucked away behind West Dulwich train station, just off Glazebrook Close, post code SE21 8RP.

Microsoft Word - Glazebrook Growers spring 2018.docx

Teabags: Plastic not Fantastic

The Growers were puzzled by the little ghost teabags we were retrieving from our compost, which refused to break down, and then discovered that this was plastic. We had thought the bags were 100% paper.

WE SENT queries to Tetley, Clipper, Taylors (Yorkshire Tea) and Twining, and got swift replies saying they put polypropylene in their bags to enable heat sealing, but are looking for alternatives. Sally Cunningham at Garden Organic then sent this useful summary of the situation. Essentially, if you don’t want microparticles of plastic in your soil, hold off on composting teabags – with the exceptions below. Read on…

Previously, Garden Organic’s thinking was that the amount of plastic in a tea-bag is negligible compared with other sources of plastic, and so could be safely composted, but in view of new research on the impact of plastic microparticles, and that teabags are the largest part of UK tea consumption (nearly 2kg a year each!), this advice needs to be revised. We are in the process of reviewing our guidelines and will release these once we have come to a conclusion. 

Meanwhile: Pukka teabags, pyramid bags and string-and-label bags are free from plastic.
Alternatively, use leaf tea and a teapot, or cut open the used teabag to release the contents onto the compost heap before putting the teabag itself into waste.
Hope this helps

Best wishes
Sally Cunningham

Garden Organic Members Advisory Service

Hot Bulbs

THAT’S tulip bulbs, and also the little lightbulbs above the Glazebrook Growers’ heads as they reflect on the 2017 growing season and look ahead to the spring. Read on for the Growers’ midwinter thoughts and wishes, shared over Christmas. Then enjoy pics of the rainiest Garden event ever, our bulb planting session. That, weirdly, we enjoyed.

An abundant midwinter, and Growers’ thoughts…

Mine are bigger than yours. Jeannine’s Trump-style challenge to Raissa. Below: a commuters’-eye view of the Kitchen Garden from the railway platform, and some fine chard, winter 2017


I really enjoyed the day in April we all spent working together in the Pleasure Garden, we accomplished a lot that day and it was a good feeling.


I enjoyed having a rivalry with Jeanine over the height of her black kale.


I’m just amazed that we are going to have beds full of healthy (ish) plants on Christmas Day – definitely a lesson learned for me..!


As for wishes, I would like to improve on my growing skills,  (this year my tomatoes didn’t show themselves). It was nice to have the great additional beds and to bring in more folks with all the busy energy that entailed from those involved.


I’ve enjoyed the Paul Richens workshops – particularly about fertilising soil and worms etc. Also satisfying to eat home-grown Kale in the middle of winter.
2018 we hope to grow some sweet potatoes and having richly composted soil!


Highlights of 2017: Workdays with neighbours and visitors from other estates and growing projects – somehow it’s always been a pleasure, even in the drizzle. Paul & Harry manoeuvring massive timbers in spite of dodgy backs. Seeing Growers who only started a year ago become more confident gardeners, and their plants suddenly a lot more happy. Does moving to a whole bed to yourself give you a boost? It seems like it.
For 2018: My wish is  for more confident gardeners, more happy plants, insects, birds. Hope to be welcoming new faces and putting down deeper roots for our group.


A thought… ‘Feeding the soil’ was the lightbulb moment for me and I loved Paul’s workshop teaching us about all the different ways of doing this… the beautiful circle of using our homemade compost to create compost tea and add further nourishment with what would have been prior to this garden just more waste going to the landfill.  Since learning about compost tea, worm tea, comfrey tea and seaweed my vegetables have grown like the weeds I love so much (as a herbalist)… and the bounty of food even moving into the winter darkness has shown me just what magic can happen when we work with the seasons and prioritise feeding the soil.

Wish for 2018… I’d like to bring more awareness of the weeds all around us that are medicine to our estate / gardening group… so I’m planning to offer a medicine walk around the Kitchen Garden and into Bel Air park in late Spring / early Summer.  Perhaps if there is a spare bed we can dedicate it to growing some ‘weeds’ and do a medicine making workshop come Autumn…

Bulb planting & close of season celebration

LAST NOVEMBER we welcomed familiar and new faces from Croxted Road Estate, as well as guests of honour from One Tree Hill Allotments and Rosendale Estate (thank you Martin, and Elaine and family) for a day tending the Pleasure Garden. 110 tulip bulbs were planted – their fiery colours will complement our Hotbed flowers – and leaves raked and stashed away to make leaf mould. Then fire, mulled wine and marshmallows provided an antidote to the damp, damp weather…

martin nov 17

Ali & J bulbs nov 17
Winter Style, fashioned by Martin (top, with Raissa’s Super Rake), Ali and Jeannine. All clothes models’ own.
Bulb planting & wine nov 17
Why so cheerful? Good honest work and community spirit! Or mulled wine and a sugar rush
rafi & j nov 17
Do marshmallows count? Rafi and Jeannine preparing one of their five a day