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

Big Bird Little Bird

Just before Christmas I got dive-bombed by a robin, which I’m taking as a sign we should be keeping an eye on the little critters. The RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch, 28-30 January seems like a good way of doing this – ordinary people all over the country watch their garden or local park for an hour and report back on what birds they see. This gives a nationwide picture of how our birds are doing. Click here to go to the RSPB webpage with details – if you get your skates on they’ll send you a bird-identifying chart, and coffee.

So, on Monday 30 January from 3.30 to 4.30, we’ll be spending an hour in the Kitchen Garden on Croxted Road Estate. Put on your long johns and join us! I’ll have a thermos and flapjacks. The railway embankment is home to masses of birds, so we should be able to tick off a good few.

If the weekend suits you better, you can sign up separately and do it on Saturday or Sunday (28/29 Jan) in a local green space of your choosing.

Update – our bird count on 30 January 2017 was as follows:

Bluetits x 2
Great tit x 1
Robins x 2
Wood pigeons x 2
House sparrows x 2
Carrion crows x 2
Parakeets x 2

Unidentified birds (the light was terrible and it’s hard to identify a bird from its sihouette) x approx.12
Not bad for an hour in this little corner of our big smelly city.

Zoë Petersen

I have! Wrens live right next to us, on the wooded railway embankment







Eat our herbs!

OUR HERB BED is still flourishing with sage, thyme and purple basil ready for the delicious meals you’re making. Providing winter isn’t too harsh we should be able to continue to harvest the sage, thyme and oregano, but the purple basil needs to be eaten before the first frosts arrive (usually around 5th November). The fennel will also die back, so pick some of her greener fronds now for your digestive teas and salad flavourings. The mint is also past its time and will hibernate for the winter before springing back to life with warmer days. Yarrow leaves can be picked for your salads – their bitterness a tonic for the digestive system. Make the most of the lemon balm before we cut it back for its winter sleep – it makes a delightful calming and aromatic tea.


With time we hope to help you deepen your knowledge of and relationship with the herbs, using labels and workshops to help you tap into their many qualities and uses.  For now we encourage you to visit the bed and take what you need for your meals & teas… they’ve been growing all summer to give us this bounty! We’ll be looking after the bed through the winter to bring it back to its fullest in summer.

As we move into Autumn it’s great to reflect on the joys this little bed of herbs has brought us this season: from the Glazebrook Growers meeting where we added different herbs to our hummus and rice crackers to create a true smorgasboard of tastes, to the magical Medicinal Herbs workshops delivered by Janine Gerhardt in July. If you didn’t make it, or want a daydream of summer, read on…

Medicinal Plants with Janine Gerhardt

ON A SUNNY JULY DAY the engaging and passionate herbalist Janine Gerhardt came to the Kitchen Garden to lead our first medicinal plants workshop.

Without moving from the grass that we sat on, we discovered the medicinal wonders of yarrow, self heal and dandelion, as Janine opened our eyes to nature’s healers growing everywhere. The herb bed in our kitchen garden is a hotspot of medicinal value, from the digestive, calming values of fennel to the soothing, relaxing properties of chamomile.  Janine got us to engage all our senses when being with these healers – touching, smelling and tasting the different plants.
A short walk around the estate revealed the treasures that we walk past every day; including feverfew, renowned for treating migraines, and verbena, a prized herb for soothing the nervous system.  We were starting to really appreciate that right on our doorstep on this beautifully green estate in the middle of London we had a trove of health helpers.

Back in the Kitchen Garden we made 100% natural lip balms and tasted various herbal teas; both adults and children loving the opportunity to create with nature. The use of herbs as medicine has been with us since the beginning of humanity, so it was wonderful to have this space to return to an often forgotten art, strengthening our relationship with our natural environment.

We hope to host more workshops of this sort in the future, so do let us know if you would be keen on attending, and what you would like us to cover.

Jeannine Mansell


Pricking Out and Potting Up

SEE HOW HAPPY our Winter Crops are! We sowed trays of mizuna, red mustard and other leafy crops just after our September workshop and they all sprang up. We’re now halfway through pricking out the seedlings and potting them up so they get good strong root systems before we plant them out.

Kitchen Gardeners, half the seedlings still need potting up! Everything you need is currently in the garden. Those who don’t know how to do it, read on…



How to prick out and pot up seedlings

INSTEAD OF THINNING OUT your seedlings (pulling some out to give the others space), you can prick them out of the seed tray and put each one straight into a pot. That way we get a plant from every seedling that comes up.

You’ll see for these pics I used a recycled polystyrene tray instead as we’re running low on pots. It needs to be something deep enough to give the roots a bit of room. Here’s what to do:

1. Fill your pot or container with compost – but not right to the top or it will overflow when you water it – and make a little hollow to receive the seedling. At the moment we have multipurpose compost and seed compost (see below). Use the multipurpose – the stuff in the yellow bag.


2. Holding the seedling GENTLY by a leaf, use a blunt pencil or something similar (plant label did the trick) to tease the roots out of the compost. Don’t touch the stem.


…if you get some soil with the roots, so much the better, but it might fall away. See those bits still clinging to the roots? They contain colonies of microbes that help the seedling take in soil nutrients. The more of them it keeps the better.


3. Not to worry: as long as the roots and stem aren’t damaged, it will be fine. The seedling should go straight from the tray to the prepared compost with zero time for the roots (and microbes) to dry out. Lower the roots into the hole, fill in and press gently down around the seedling.


If your seedling is long and spindly, bury it halfway up the stem so it can send more roots out sideways. (A note of caution: if you try this with older plants they may rot).

When you’ve done a few, water them.

4. Finally, label! Actually we don’t have enough labels to do every pot, but label at least one, and keep the pots grouped by type (as in the first photo). That way we’ll know what we’ve got when we come to share out our Winter Crops.

That’s it.

Zoë Petersen