Friday 29th January 2021
Thankfully the weather warmed up a bit today reaching a balmy high of 9 degrees meaning we could crack on with the job of cleaning the greenhouse. The we and I are quite royal as I watched Anne set too with a bucket of warm soapy water from the safe distance of the flower bed by the gate venturing close enough to take a picture before retreating back to the drier task of finishing pruning the apple tree and weeding, citing social distancing as the reason not that I didn’t want cold mucky water running down my sleeve as always seems to happen to my when I clean a greenhouse.
While Anne worked away I dug over another square metre of the flower bed removing a big bucket of grass and dandelion roots with the odd buttercup geum and wild strawberries thrown in too and rescuing a mullaine hopefully it will have a tall yellow flower spike this year. Feels good to be putting a plant in rather than just digging them up. I’m amazed at how lovely the soil is to work and how many worms there are.
Turning one fork over revealed these 6 beauties
Earlier in the week I found (in the utility room of all places) my pruning saw meaning I could finish the apple tree taking off a damaged branch allowing me to reach the rest of the 3 D’s (dead, diseased and dying) and any crossing branches.
Pruning tool, pruning saw, loppers, secateurs, shears
Dead and dying wood
Crossed branches can rub and cause a wound
Wounded branch where disease has entered
As we left Plot 33 (late as usual. I’m sure time runs differently up here, it only feels like half an hour not 2) the sky started to drizzel I think the gardening gods are smiling on us.
Stunningly beautiful, sunny morning but extremely cold with icy pavements.
So our best laid plan to get to Plot 33 and clean the very dirty greenhouse windows is delayed as there is a strong possibility the warm water would crack the glass.
Missing being outside at the plot... but is an opportunity to sort out our photos, get to grips with the blog and to sort through & plant some seeds in readiness!
All going well we will be cleaning & polishing that glass on Friday!
Friday 22nd January 2021
Having looked at the weather forecast on Monday there was a predicted soggy day. Not wanting to miss out Anne and I decided to gather some of the inevitable clutter and rubbish from around the plot and store it in the greenhouse to dry off allowing us on the soggy Friday to just come and take it to the local tip.
Very glad we did as snow was on the ground when we reached the plot. We loaded up Anne’s car and off she went while I stayed behind to potter around in the greenhouse. Taking out dead tomatoes and gathering up canes, pots and watering cans, sorting the good, binning the beyond repair and piling up the I don’t want it but someone might. When Anne returned thinking we were going to have a coffee and go home, she found me happily pulling weeds and raking gravel and got stuck in. We decided to have our coffee break in the newly spacious greenhouse on some camping stools Anne had brought with her, using the highly appropriate John Shuttlesworth flask
Half way through our break Anne spotted committee member, Nicola, we said hello and quizzed her about how to let people know we had goodies up for grabs and found out that the table in front of the hut (almost within arm’s reach over the fence) is where people usually leave spare plants and useful things.
Looking round we realised that we had gathered another car load of rubbish so we decided that we would make another tip run and then call it a day. It really is cathartic getting rid of rubbish.
Monday 18th January 2021
Although it is cold the sun is shining this morning as we venture onto our plot No.33.
Rachel is very much the horticultural expert, I am the enthusiastic amateur who has lived by my mum’s gardening tip….shove it in and with a bit of luck it will grow! So, I am already beginning to learn by my mistakes and learn so many good things from Rachel.
The site is quite overwhelming as it is some-what neglected but we are attempting to do small and often. While Rachel did the back breaking dig-over of a metre square of couch grass filled earth (mmm is it pronounced cooch or couch??) – there is no easy way to get rid of it – I was on my hands and knees using a butter knife to clear the pathways (what else would you use?)
So lovely to be up there in the open air, particularly at the moment. Good that social distancing is no problem .. so much space.
We started to clear some of the rubbish that has accumulated, and while pulling up an old wrecked tarpaulin… Rachel’s eagle eye spotted this little frog, now safely moved and hidden under some undergrowth.
We also cleared out the Greenhouse guttering in an effort to get the water flowing into the second waterbutt. The first one is lovely and full. This is an ongoing project and will require some further work.
During our coffee break we chatted and dreamed about the possibility in the future of building a wind turbine or installing solar panels so we can have electricity on site, particularly for some of our possible creative workshops. We also talked about facilitating windmill making sessions ( a Festival Stoke standard) to create colourful bird scarers. Our heads are popping with ideas.
For the moment we must keep to little and often to get the site sorted.
Friday 15th January 2021
Not the most auspicious start to a project but a lovely one though. I had to delay for half an hour as my cat decide to come for a cuddle as I had my morning cup of tea (she may have guessed I was going outside and needed some extra warmth) and I lost track of time! Got to the site to find the lock a bit frozen but once I’d wrestled it into submission, I proceeded on to the most tranquil mist covered oasis and spent 5 minutes absorbing the atmosphere. cold crisp with a myriad of birds in full song perfect time for reflection. Within a few moments Anne arrived and we set to with our plan of start from the gate and work our way deeper into the plot so people can see we’ve started.
First job, winter prune the big buddleia (butterfly bush), basically cutting it in half so its less in the way trimming the honeysuckle and cutting down an everlasting sweet pea we also chopped to top off the dead weed (this job doesn’t really do much other than make the place look tidier) then on to the daunting task of pruning the apple tree! After a quick coffee break in the hut.
The three Ds is the golden rule of pruning any plant meaning cut out any dead, diseased and dying followed by any branches that are crossing or rubbing. After these are removed its on to shaping and pruning to encourage flowers. On closer inspection I found that the tree had some damage on a low branch near to the trunk if this was removed (think the 3 D’s) it would make the tree a funny unbalanced shape, so I decided to raise the crown of the tree to allow better access all round for ourselves and to the shop and tap area just over the fence. A job for another day as we had only brough secateurs and loppers that day and a pruning saw was needed to complete the job and maybe a little advice form my mum who has looked after the fruit trees in granddads (an avid allotmenteer in his day) garden for years
A natural end to the first session we left number 33 with a sense of achievement and productivity and slightly startled realisation that it was 1pm. The morning had flown
In the depth of last year’s lock down the Greening Stoke team had time to sit back and reflect on the project that’s been taking place on the streets of Stoke on Trent for the last few years and if /how we should take the project forward in the future. We’ve had an edible pavement garden in the first year with tomatoes, courgettes and edible flowers. In the second year we encouraged people to grow and look for native wildflowers, to reclaim pockets of forgotten ground around the town. And the third year we opened up to the public and asked what you wanted to see. The pallet planters outside the market and the large planter outside Summer Street Centre filled with flowers being very popular.
Throughout the 3 years we have noticed people choosing herbs and salad veg to grow during our tin can planter workshop and having both grown veg at home came to the same conclusion that in uncertain times the sense of accomplishment you get when tucking into a plate of food freshly harvested from plants you have tended is second to none and so we put our names forward for a community allotment so we could share this feeling with as many people as possible.
Just before Christmas we were told that we had been offered a plot in the heart of Stoke at the Richmond St allotments a 2-minute walk from the Art Stop studio and last week we were shown around our new plot and given the keys (well code really) to this fab space. As you can see it’s a bit over grown but we are blown away with the potential this space offers and our creative minds have gone into overdrive thinking about how we can share this experience with you!
We want to share with you the journey of taking on an allotment for Greening Stoke. We will share our ups and our downs, and we hope that you will be able to come and visit us during 2021.
Please sign up to our newsletter too and we can tell you when we are running activities you can join in with.
We are starting this adventure in January 2021 in the middle of a national Lockdown. Until things change and begin to open up we are ,of course, abiding by all the
Covid-19 government guidance and for the foreseeable future only Rachel and Anne will be working, in a socially distanced way, to prepare and maintain Plot 33 for when we can invite the community to work with us.
Greening Stoke is a project run in partnership between Festival Stoke and Letting in the Light. We are based in Stoke-on-Trent.
We are started this adventure in January 2021 in the middle of a national lockdown. Gradually, as things begin to open up, close down and then open up again, Rachel and Anne abided by all the Covid-19 Government guidance, worked in a socially distanced way, to prepare and maintain Plot 33 so that they were eventually able to invite the community to work with them.
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