Sandgate Community Garden – weekly updates

To find out more about what is happening on the Sandgate Community Garden you can contact us via email, phone or text 07840138308. Instagram – sandgatecommunitygarden or Facebook

update 18th July 2021

July is important for the sowing of new seeds.  Many of the beds have been cleared of one crop, and another has been planted in its place.  Some of the beds will have three plantings this year, and a few may even see four before the year is out.  The days are shortening and every growing day in July is about equivalent to two in August, and a week in October.   The third lettuce sowing of the year was done just this week and they are now ready to be pricked out into individual pots or cells for growing on.  The second lettuce sowings are just starting to give us a few leaves, about four each plant for now, and the next picking a week later until they really get going and will then be picked twice a week for a few weeks until the next plants take over.  That at least is the theory, and timing is critical.

On Wednesday Chinese cabbage and Kaibroc got sown, by Friday they had grown their first two seed leaves which was pretty impressive.  The Kaibroc was moved into a tray of cells to grow on; it is a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale and produces many tender side shoots for harvesting after the main head.  The next seeds to be sown will be Florence fennel, and in a few days’ time the second batch of coriander, dill and chervil.

The very prickly job of picking all the gooseberries got completed, providing many delicious tales of mostly gooseberry crumbles, some of which got mixed with a stick or two of rhubarb – just fabulous.  It is hard to find gooseberries in the shops these days as they are so labour intensive, and ours disappeared in no time at all, as did the few blackcurrants that managed to survive the winds, and seemed to have ripened overnight.    The crowded carrots and parsnips got pulled in some spaces to allow the remaining roots to grow on, and they were just big enough to make something out of them.  The Charlotte potato variety, a second early, got lifted on Saturday and then just as quickly as they came up, disappeared and taken to several households in Sandgate – we only had room for a few plants but they were appreciated.

Many of the plants in all the community areas will be enjoying the heat and sunshine we have been experiencing, and they will be trying to catch up with where they should be.  It has been noticed that the celeriac, not ready to be harvested until October/November is trying to go to seed and developing a flower head!  This is most unusual, and apparently is caused by a period of cold days which leads them to believe they have been through winter and so start to flower when it warms up!  It is also unusual to see so many fungi in high summer.  Both Enbrook Park and Fremantle Park are sporting several ‘fairy rings’ in the grass, the one below was photographed at Fremantle.  Fairy rings are linked with folklore and often viewed with great suspicion; they can grow up to ten meters in diameter apparently.

The Incredible Edible team will be supporting the grand re-opening of the Community Network in Cheriton High Street on Saturday 24th July from 12pm until 4pm.  So if you are interested in volunteering or just joining in with the activities that day, then come along!  The Incredible Edible garden at All Souls outside the hall is now planted up with all sorts of flowers, vegetables and herbs, however pictures rarely do justice to the subject at hand and always best to come and see it all yourself!

What’s next?

Keep watering the new plantings and check the Enviromesh is in place.

Plant out the second beetroot tray

Sow coriander, dill and chervil

Start work if possible on the bed inside top gate

Finish tidying and clearing daisy area

Tackle some bind weed and mares tails

update 11th July 2021

Entries for the 5th and 12th July 2020 were uncanny!  We were rescuing wind scorched and battered plants as well as sploshing about in plenty of rain, and that is the story of this week too!  The winds that came through the start of the week caused havoc and Saturday morning session was a complete washout with just three of us daring to venture up there.  Surprisingly, the two planters along the seafront although needing to be tidied, still had flowers and parts intact which can be rescued.

This year has been much cooler and wetter – the rainfall for June was 107mm and we have not had to water for some time.  One very big difference is that last year we were observing many cabbage white butterflies flitting about the brassicas, and although they are not a gardeners favourite insect for obvious reasons, there has only been one observed in the garden this year, and that is not good.  The brassica seedlings do have a few bright green caterpillars which are from something else, and we have made sure there are plenty of nasturtiums around for all caterpillars to take advantage of. 

The kale, Romanesco and purple sprouting went immediately in the spaces where the broad beans were.  Even more lettuces got planted, chicory, endive and carrots thinned out to make extra growing space, chard and kaibroc sown.  We will only sow lettuce four times in the year and this week we shall make sowing number three to provide salad leaves for the autumn.  We have a gap of leaves between sowing one and two which has been a lesson on trying harder for that not to happen another time. 

The soft fruit this year has generally done much better for being that year older.  Although the currant bushes got wind battered, they do have some fruit which must be netted if we are to get any.  The gooseberries have given more this year, and there is still some to pick between the showers.  Although the rhubarb is not a fruit, our two original plants have grown well.  The three new roots of rhubarb are also looking good but will not be touched this year to give them a chance to get established.  The autumn raspberries have managed to stand up well to wind and are looking very green and lush with some of them just starting to flower.  In front of them are the goji berries which were sporting an entire colony of climbing snails.  Not too sure why they had taken to climbing precariously over six feet to get where they were, however they have since been relocated to pastures new.

What’s next?

Still need to take down the sugar snap pea plants and support

Tie in the sweet pea new growth

Keep checking for tomato side shoots and remove

Sow the autumn lettuces

Take out the finished daisies and compost

Finish picking the gooseberries and net the currants

update 4th July 2021

The ‘lambs ears’ silver furry planting around the pond is just full of life.  The dragonfly larvae are enjoying climbing it to begin their metamorphosis to their next phase, and bees in all sizes and forms seem to be intoxicated by the flowers and are mostly motionless there whereas they are still busy buzzing around all the other flowers – this plant is drawing them in and keeping them there, obviously the plant of choice, most interesting to see.

A busy week as always but a little different with many of our gardeners away on ‘staycations’ or making the time to visit family and friends; however we have had several new visitors to the garden.  Some come to compare the growth in our garden with their own or the allotment, others come to see what is in season and if we have any spare produce.  The first lettuce plantings have bolted now and the newly planted summer lettuces still lagging behind and probably not ready for another week or two before the first leaves can be taken.  Another bed of summer lettuces got planted as well as swede and beetroot, chicory and endive got sown and a last tray of beetroot.  The broad beans did get pulled up this week and the last pods collected to make room for Kale and Romanesco to be planted next week.  A young chap has been recently visiting the garden keen to try local produce but mentioned he thought the broad beans were somewhat stringy, until we realised he had eaten them pods and all – so it had to be explained that in this case you just eat the beans inside.  It should never be assumed that everyone knows how to prepare all the vegetables!

We were also really pleased to have Carol come and join us.  Carol has lived in Sandgate High Street for over 30 years and has recently volunteered to take on planting up the front and back areas of the flats where she lives, with some of the other residents.  We were delighted that Carol had got in touch to ask about plants, and we had a few extras we could pass on and hopefully more to come later.   We are pleased to help and hope that this new adventure will be bringing the residents together as a community which already seems to be happening. 

The Golden valley shopping planter area got a good weeding and a few more plants added.  Some of the flowers are starting to show at last, and quite a few people have enjoyed picking the pea pods.

What’s next?

Get the kale and Romanesco into the prepared beds

Water new plantings if needed

Take down the sugar snap peas now finished and prepare the bed

Prick out excess plants of chicory and endive

Check the gooseberries again!

update 27th June 2021

To continue with the bee news written by Chris and featured in last week’s newsletter, it seems that a new queen bee has been seen in the garden nucleus box.  Named ‘Lilibet’, she is certainly a welcome addition.  Chris came up to the garden Saturday morning with a local bee farmer to help her identify Lilibet, we managed to snap a quick photo of the inspection as we had to maintain our distance whilst the box was open.

An industrious week as ever, more celeriac put in, and a new bed of lettuce planted where the pea shoots had just been removed.  The sugar snap peas and the broad beans are giving up the last of their pods and will likely be removed next week to make way for new plants waiting in line to be planted out.  Compost bins got turned, tomato plant side shoots pinched out, and the coriander removed as it was starting to flower and we need the space.  Kale and cabbage seeds were sown, and more lettuce varieties pricked out.  The first cabbage white butterfly was seen this week, so we know the whole brassica and caterpillar shenanigans are about to begin, but we have a master plan up our sleeve to try this year in the hope of doing better.  We will be writing about it later once we start the battle!  We have been holding our nerve as regards black fly.  You have to suffer an invasion of pests before the cavalry in the form of ladybirds turn up.  It makes sense as they need plenty to feast on before considering moving in.  There has been plenty of evidence of ladybird larvae seen this week, and so they are already at work.

The rain and warmer weather are contributing to make the whole park continue to look stunning.  Below is a picture of a pyramidal orchid discovered the long grass.  What a treat it is to see so many wild flowers and to observe the insects that rely on them.  We have been trying to improve our planters on the sea front since they were battered and sprayed with salt water in the high winds a few weeks ago.  Below is a picture to show how they have picked up, and many a bee has been seen dropping in to make the most of the floral display, which has been our objective all along as well as trialling plants that can take the strain of being right on the seafront.   It will be a continuing story.

Our friends in Cheriton, the Incredible Edibles, are busy on a gardening project at All Souls Church.  They have put in a bid for hot composters and large water rain collectors at the church hall where new edible beds have been planted.   Kent County Council will support this project with a pledge of £1,000 towards the target but they must first reach at least 20 backers from the community by the 30th June pledging as little as £2 each.  If you would like to support this local project by pledging just £2, click on the link below to take you to ‘Spacehive’ which is a crowdfunding platform for projects aimed at improving local civic and community spaces.  Thank you.

What’s next?

Still got chicory to sow and maybe beetroot

Clear the sugar snap peas and maybe the broad beans.

Prepare beds for replanting

Clear borage from overcrowded areas in the herb bed

Prick out kale and cabbage seedlings

Check on the Hythe hops growth

Water all new plantings regularly until established

update 20th June 2021

We have gone from having to water to a deluge of rain in one week.  It is a relief not to have to water right now, and the rain makes such a difference to the whole garden.  On Wednesday evening we got 45.1mm of rain in one go, flattening some of the taller growth in the garden which was simply annoying when the RHS judge turned up  the next afternoon. 

We will have to wait and see if he thinks we have improved on our grade last year, but he seemed suitably impressed with the progress so far.  Now we can breathe for a while and continue to get on with the many jobs needing doing.  There was plenty to pick this week, pea shoots, beetroot, spring onions, rhubarb, salad leaves, garlic, broccoli, cabbages, sugar snap peas, the first sweet pea flowers and broad beans. 

We had visitors to collect some food, but anything that is left is currently taken to Sandgate High Street to see if there are any takers in town.  We are looking forward to working with the Kent Food Hub to make sure any excess can be usefully distributed.

The lettuce seedlings got pricked out into modules to grow on, as did the purple sprouting, Nero kale and swede.  Just a couple of weeks and they will be planted out, so we need to create more space for them to go to!  The last of the beans got planted as did more spring onions.

A couple of weeks ago we mentioned that we had seen the yellow female chaser dragonfly but not the blue males.  They are now very much in evidence, and the females have been seen laying eggs in the pond to continue the cycle.

What’s next?

Sow a few chicory seeds for hearting

Sow a few more kale seeds

Sort out the hops, cut back lower growth and cut out any extra shoots

Plant out more celeriac

Water new bean plantings if required

Take out pea shoots to make space for new seedlings

update 13th June 2021

Enbrook Park is looking particularly fabulous at the moment.  The growth is looking very fresh and green, and the birdsong you can hear as you travel through is delightful to hear.   Most stunning is the sheer number of flowers throughout the park which are attracting great numbers of bees and other pollinators.  Paul (the park head gardener) estimates there is around 19,000 square meters of flowering meadow this year, which is the most left uncut in the last three years.  The paths forged through and around frame the effect, and it is well worth looking at all the different wild flowers showing through as well as all the different forms of grass flower too – just beautiful.  The picture below does it no justice whatsoever!   

This week the emphasis has been on watering the new plantings and the fast growing such as the onions trying to swell, and the rapid growth of pea shoots and new lettuce leaves.  It has been hot work by hand, but the rolling sea mists have been a welcome event, and helped to provide a little moisture.  The last of the basil got planted as did the dwarf beans, and the kale which was looking healthy and perfect one day, was decimated and torn to shreds the next by pigeons probably as a result of the gooseberries being covered over – and so these were the next to have to be netted or lose them altogether.  Seeds sown this week were beetroot, Romanesco broccoli, kale and swede.  The lettuce seeds sown last week are emerging, and will soon need ‘pricking out’ or transferring  into more growing space so as not to be competing with other seedlings.

The tree spinach pictured below with its cerise pink new leaves is just starting to take off and show itself which means we will soon be able to pick a few leaves and make a colourful addition to salads.  These particular plants are a miracle in that it was thought that all the seed for this was lost, until just by chance, and after several years of not being seen, two seedlings suddenly popped up in a garden plant pot.  They were allowed to flower and set seed then later collected and sown this spring.  Simply amazing.

Below is a picture of several packets of seeds kindly donated to us by Seed Craft based right here in Folkestone.  For just £8 per month Seed Craft will send you 4 packets of seeds ready to be sown, along with comprehensive growing guides and tips to help you make a success of your growing experience.  This seems such a great idea, helping to support gardeners to grow seasonal food at the right time, which unless meticulously planned throughout the year, can be overwhelming.  If you like the idea of growing your own food but lack the confidence, this could be for you and they can be found on Facebook or Instagram, and they have a website

What’s next?

Rampaging Goji berry plants still need tackling and tying in

Keep watering the new plantings especially the dwarf beans

Maybe prick out the new lettuce plants

Tackle any emerging bindweed and mare’s tails

Keep watering and picking salad leaves

update 6th June 2021

The rainfall for May was 100.3 mm and the sunshine we have had along with Friday’s deluge of more rain is bringing the plants on a treat.  The wind scorched leaves are starting to be overtaken by some new growth and all fingers are crossed that we have some settled weather for just a while. 

The basil got planted as did the cucumbers and a few random tomatoes.  We sowed eight different lettuce varieties, and having noticed that the gooseberries had started swelling, thought it was a good idea to put some netting over them before the birds also discover them.   The onions and garlic are starting to swell, and many of them are throwing out a flower head which must be removed as soon as it appears or else the plant will concentrate all its energy into the flower and the bulb at the base will fail to develop.

We have had just had the delivery of the last two cold frames at Enbrook Park.  As yet they are not in their final resting place but will have to stay just where they are for a while until such time as we get to have a good sort out.

The garden at Fremantle Park is also filling out and looking more interesting.  All the herbs in the Golden Valley community areas are looking particularly good right now, and below is a picture showing six cut bunches (from left to right, top to bottom) – flat leaf parsley, lemon balm, coriander, mint variety 1, mint variety 2, and dill.  The parsley and coriander look so similar we have to keep tasting them to remind ourselves which is which.

There was great excitement during our Saturday morning garden session when we had the sheer delight of witnessing a dragonfly from our pond metamorphose from the larvae into a beautiful dragonfly and finally fly away.  We photographed it drying its wings in the sun where it was perched on the ‘lambs ears’ planted right on the pond edge.  It left behind the incredible empty shell of its old body just sitting on the plant as if it were resting there – simply amazing.  We discovered it was a female Broad-bodied Chaser, being yellow, and that the male is blue.  We shall be paying great attention to the pond area in the hope of seeing more.

What’s next?

The final bit of spinach needs picking and pulling up

Some broccoli may be ready

Remove any bindweed and mares tails creeping in

Support some of the trailing Goji berries

Find some open netting for the strawberries

Sow kale, Romanesco and beetroot

update 30th May 2021

May bank holiday, June is now upon us and at last the weather is starting to improve.  We were sorry to see that a large tree had fallen in Enbrook Park, always a sad sight; however we were assured that the tree had been suffering from Ganoderma  (a fungus) for some years.  We were lucky enough to benefit from some of the logs to make extra seats for the garden, and on the sunny Saturday morning session we spent a happy hour sitting on the logs sowing spring onion seeds and around 240 dwarf beans.

The poor sick looking plants having spent too much time in their pots shivering and being blown about are finally getting into the soil.  The courgettes are all planted as are the squashes and sweetcorn, plus the chard seedlings, a bit of sunshine and warmth should see them romp away.  We have held back from planting the basil and the cucumbers just yet as they are really tender and could do with getting a little bit bigger and stronger.

Whilst pottering about and planting at Enbrook this week, we came across a very interesting insect none of us had ever seen before.  It was photographed (Picture below) so that we could find out if it was a friend or a foe to the garden.  There have been several new insects and invertebrates to watch out for such as the marmorated stink bug, the harlequin ladybird, and the New Zealand flatworm, to name but a few.  Happily, this fellow is a wasp beetle, and a friend, which seems to occupy most of the world except for Ireland and the Americas – most interesting and we shall now know to be pleased if we ever come across another.

We currently have plenty of fresh herbs as well as salad leaves.  Mixing the two together in a variety of combinations makes for the most amazing salads you can imagine.  The leaves range from bright green through to a deep dark red and various shades between, the herbs are parsley, coriander, dill and chervil which lift the leaves to another level.  Add calendula petals, borage, and viola flowers, then you have something extra special which would cost a fortune in a posh restaurant.   This week we also added pea shoots, a real taste of early summer before the peas arrive!  Absolutely delicious!  We are always pleased to share what we can, and often do with visitors to the garden, and we took a batch to the library for distribution too.  However we were delighted to be contacted by the Kent Food Hub keen to work with us and other groups in or close to Folkestone like the Incredible Edibles, on a new project to promote growing seasonal local food and to make fresh food accessible to all.  We are looking forward to doing as much as we can to enable this to happen in the wider community and to make links and work together on common goals and interests.

In the meantime we have plenty to be getting on with as we have heard that the judge for the RHS ‘It’s your neighbourhood’ scheme is visiting the Enbrook garden on 17th June, no pressure!  The judge is coming in an advisory capacity, to evaluate our progress, and our Sheila has been working on the most amazing supporting statement to give to the judge as requested, because he only has an hour. The statement sums up our history and achievements so far.   We have laboured hard on this, and Sheila has turned it into a work of art, but it is still early days and we continue to work on our progress.

What’s next?

Keep up with the weeding

Keep watering the new planting for a few days until established

Pick the salads and herbs

Pull up the finished coriander to make way for the basil

Keep removing old and yellowing leaves around all plants

Start dead heading

Plant last of the summer bedding we have sown from seed

update 16th May 2021

We have started to catch up with ourselves this week and it was touch and go if the Saturday session would happen due to heavy rain, but several gardeners put on a brave face and got on with it.  We got wet, but there were a couple of breaks in the cloud and the garden is looking so green and lush, with plenty of new growth, that it made it all worthwhile.  We took off the fleece covers this week as the night time temperatures have improved but have had to replace some of them with netting or enviromesh to protect them from either flea beetles, pigeons, squirrels, foxes or maybe even badgers, depending on what they are currently looking for to eat.   A strange start to the growing season, where the planting of tender annuals, tomatoes, courgettes and squashes have been delayed, however we did decide to be bold and plant out the tomatoes, mostly up against the wall which will give a little extra protection – let us hope it was the right decision.  This rain has been just perfect for the garden, prolonged and heavy enough to penetrate right down into the soil.  All too often it can just wet the surface and run off; not reaching those roots at all.  With all the beds given a good mulch of compost, we are more confident that it will retain more moisture which we have definitely noticed this year after the long dry spell in April.

It was mentioned last week about the 14 week wait for our new tool box – it suddenly arrived Tuesday evening and the next day was assembled and put into place.  It is a smart green metal box, large enough to accommodate our longer hoes and rakes which we had to leave out before.  We are now just waiting on two more cold frames to be finished and delivered and then we will be up to date with new purchases from our Community Grant with the Kent County Council.

The supermarket, Morrisons in Folkestone, very kindly gave us two dozen petunia plants which we have put into several planters in the Enbrook garden as well as two of the planters at Golden Valley.

A couple of us finally made it to visit another Community Garden based in East Malling, called Communigrow.  A trip we had been trying to make before the onset of Covid.  This garden is more than two acres, and has salaried full and part time members of staff, but it was interesting to see what they are doing, and they were interested in how we have spread out to other areas in our locality to reach out to different people.  Their head gardener was just starting an experiment with dig and no dig beds as they had a student keen to study the similarities and differences.  We are certainly happy with our no dig methods, and the guru Charles Dowding asked us to make a short video of our garden at Enbrook to show our progress so far and to perhaps be included in one of his YouTube videos.  He currently has 400,000 subscribers to his video channel, so no pressure there!

Typically, the plentiful rain accelerated the growth of the weeds too, but they are quite easy to hoe and remove by hand, again because of the depth of compost.  Apart from looking neat and tidy for the filming, we are also expecting a visit from the RHS in June or July to give us advice on how we could improve and move forward.  Exciting times!

What’s next?

Put enviromesh over the carrot bed

Continue planting out the flowering annuals in the other Sandgate gardens and planters.

Weed the strip of ground along the outside wall

Start to turn the compost bins at Enbrook

More potting up of seedlings

Sow more spring onions and celery

Weed Fremantle areas

Keep picking the salads, herbs and spinach,

Plant out the kale

update 23rd May 2021

Now the weather has gone beyond a joke and even we have stopped saying how we really do need the rain!  The wind that rip roared through on Friday has done much damage to the garden and it is interesting to see what has been affected where other plants not so much.  Looking back at the archive of our newsletter on the Parish Council website of a year ago, we were having the very same issues with stormy and cold weather but the plants were much further along than they are now.

Enough moaning and let us concentrate on the positives.  The filming for our guru of ‘no dig’ organic gardening, Charles Dowding, got done before the garden got a blasting, and it was looking good.  We had up until August to submit our film, however the bare bones and structure are clearer now, and shows how much we have done to improve the soil, and all the pathways that also contribute to the organic matter.  There is no guarantee that our film will be used but Mr Dowding it seems was most impressed with the look of the garden and that is good enough praise indeed for us!  In fact we have had a few messages from friends of the garden to say how well things were growing, so many thanks for all those kind words as it makes a difference.

Talking of the soil and organic matter, the compost heaps got turned at last which uses much muscle power, and frees up more space.  The compost in bin three looked good enough to eat as it got barrowed to our holding pen, reminiscent of crumbly fruit cake.  The brandling worms had finished their job as the compost was clear of them and this tells you it is ready to use.  The other two bins got turned too, leaving bin one as good as empty to begin the process all over again.

We are delighted to announce that we have been given a massive £1,500 grant from the Martello fund, to be used to ‘maintain the existing gardens we look after in Sandgate as well as to explore new ones’.  £500 of this money can be put towards a water supply for the garden at Enbrook, which is certainly something we are hoping, might be a possibility for us one day.  This fund means we are on the road to expanding our horizons, and makes things seem all that more likely to actually happen.  If only it could be arranged for there to be more hours in the day…..

The Hythe hops are busy doing their thing climbing up the hairy twine, and we are removing any new shoots to concentrate on a maximum of four shoots per plant now we are in our second year of growing.  We have been given some posh new signs to display with our hops at Enbrook Park and at Fremantle Park so that anybody interested in joining the scheme can easily find the information required.

So it seems there is plenty to celebrate after all, and even when the weather prevents you from getting on with those jobs outside, you can be inspired to write poetry influenced by favourite flavours of Swiss chard and kale, which Alice has shared with us in a picture below.  Alice has made some truly amazing dishes to share with her family over the year; we get to drool over them as they are posted onto the group WhatsApp.  Mmmmmm, now there is another interesting subject – seasonal recipes from the garden.

Regardless of the weather – the Sandgate Society needs us all to get out there on 6th June for the Safari so make sure that one is in the diary – more information below.

What’s next?

Must weed the outside wall

Cut grass edge against fence and hoe

Continue to remove wind burnt damage from plants

Maybe plant the sweetcorn and squashes

Keep picking what needs picking

Maybe sow the beans at last

update 25th April 2021

It is difficult to believe that it will be May next week, so many of the plants are behind, all those we are bringing on and tender,  are bursting out of their pots but no way will they get planted until it warms up and that cold wind has gone, the fleeces are staying on!  More sessions spent peeling back the covers, watering and rolling them back on again – it will be worth it.  We read about the French government pledging 1 billion euros of aid to their farmers because of damage to crops from frosts, it has been the same here.  Now the lack of rain is adding to the situation, and we spend most of the time watering when it used to be the April showers doing that job.

The bee keepers seem to have been particularly busy of late and having to choose an appropriate time when the temperature is warm enough to be able to open the hives and have a look inside.  Below is a picture of one of our beekeepers, Ray, doing just that and wearing all his protective clothing.

It was sunny enough for many of you to visit us at Enbrook Park and take home some of our spare tomato plants for a small donation.  We managed to raise £94.05 which is brilliant for just a few tomato plants, and enough to buy more seeds for next year.  The squashes and courgettes are now starting to romp away and we are bound to have too many for us to keep so drop us a message via email or through our Instagram or Facebook page if you are interested in taking some of them home too.

There was a little spare time between the watering to plant more spring onions, the Charlotte potatoes, and sow the cucumbers as well as the sunflower seeds given to us by Morrison’s as part of their ‘Seeds of Hope’  campaign to ‘plant hope for a brighter future as lockdown restrictions start to ease’.  Our contribution of 120 sunflower plants in and around Sandgate is a small part of the 25 million seeds being distributed, but they will be most welcome, and supplement the flowers we are growing for Kent’s Plan Bee.  These are dwarf varieties which is just as well considering our giant sunflowers last year and the year before got blasted when a couple of summer storms charged through!

Last but not least we had a visit at Fremantle Park garden from the leader of Kent County Council Roger Gough, and Cllr Rory Love to have a look at what we have been up to and to find out about the Community spaces popping up in Sandgate as well as the Incredible Edible movement happening here and in Cheriton.  If you want to help make a difference in your community and would like to support the Community Gardens and Incredible Edible, we are looking for volunteers to help water the planters and small garden spaces, but if you cannot spare the time or would find the activity of watering too strenuous, we depend on donations to be able to buy more planters and all the things it takes to fill them with everything edible for humans as well as bees.  Come up to the Enbrook garden Wednesday or Saturday morning, or message us via our Instagram or Facebook page.  If everybody did just a little bit our neighbourhood could be more than simply fabulous.

What’s next?

Start re-potting the squash and courgette plants

Keep on watering – no rain in sight

Make sure we are not watering the weeds

Sow chard

Pull up rogue potatoes from last year!

First picking of lettuces?

Encourage the hops to wind clockwise around the twine

update 9th May 2021

This week we have had high winds through to hail, thunder and lightning, followed by torrential rain!

We did not manage to achieve all our tasks for the week as the Saturday session was cancelled due to rain, but all the squashes and courgettes did get potted on and at least we did not have to do much watering.  The high winds at the start of the week flattened the broad beans and rhubarb in particular, as well as battered many other things where the fleece covers got pulled off and blown about.  Two of us went to Enbrook Park once the winds had died down and replaced all the covers, and by Wednesday the broad beans were looking perky and standing up again.  The temperatures are still low for this time of year and it is good that we have not planted the tender tomatoes, courgettes and flowering annuals just yet.

In February we were given a Community Grant from Kent County Council for us to buy some cold frames and a new tool box for the garden at Enbrook.  The tool box was ordered online, and although the web site had shown the item was in stock, by the press of the button to complete the order, there was something like a 14 week wait before it would be in stock again and we are still waiting with a promise of it appearing sometime in May.  From the writing of the grant before Christmas 2020 to it being awarded, the cold frames had increased in price by nearly a third and we had to find another source.  We commissioned the maker of the planters at Fremantle Park and Cheriton High Street to make the cold frames for us instead(when he could fit it into his order book), and the first two were delivered this week, with another two due soon.  In a picture below, you can see that they are very solid and have a Perspex lid as a safety feature.  They have already been put to good use sheltering many newly potted seedlings.

On Tuesday a couple of us made a visit to Godinton House at the invite of the head gardener Viv Hunt. We were shown around the beautiful gardens, and given some seedlings and rooted cuttings of several flowering shrubs and plants.  We were most taken with their beautiful bug hotel and aspire to make something similar at some point.  We hope to remain in contact with the staff, and have invited one of their apprentices to visit our garden as he is studying how to set up a community garden in his home town.  What a privilege it was to see the hub of where all the magic of plant propagation happens, their beautiful greenhouses and potting sheds.

This coming week we have another visit planned to another Kent Community Garden in East Malling called Communigrow.  This is a garden which is ‘focused on reconnecting people to freshly grown food, the outdoor environment it comes from and the soil it grows in’, which is pretty much our ethos too. This trip has been in the pipeline for over a year now but because of ‘you know what’, has been postponed and put back until finally we think it will actually happen.  It may not be possible to compare our gardens as there are many different circumstances, but there is always something to take away from such visits and to consider as a possibility.

What’s next?

Pot up the cucumbers and tree spinach

Spread compost on small bed at Enbrook and Wilberforce Green

Move wood chips

Start work on turning the compost

First pick of new spinach beds

Salad pick

Any radishes to pick still?

Weed alley way

update 11th April 2021

Great news!  The rhubarb eventually turned up in the post at the end of the week and was immediately planted, and we have had some substantial rain at last.  The start of the week was taken up with watering the plots, and planting out more lettuces, spring onions, coriander, dill, parsley and chervil.  The herbs make a great addition to the lettuce leaves when they are picked and add some great flavours and textures.  The radishes sown in mid-February are starting to swell and should be ready to start to pick in the next week or two – such an amazing quick crop which copes well with the cold and can be eaten within nine weeks from being sown.  Not all of the jobs on the list got done as it is still quite cold and it takes time to remove fleece covers to water, and then replace them.

The garden will take some years to mature, and for the small shrubs and trees to become established but we can already see changes to some of the fruit bushes with promises of actually bearing some fruit.  The Honey Berry is a relative of the Honeysuckle, and is currently in flower.  The berries are very similar to blueberries without half the fuss, and can be eaten raw, or made into jams and jellies.  There is a picture of the flowers below.  The Goji berries are putting on some lush growth and should produce some fruit later this year – time will tell.  The autumn raspberries also planted last year are appearing thick and fast so there should be much more to pick with any luck.   In the meantime we have been tantalised with a picture on our WhatsApp group of Rosie’s parsnip pie!  There were many offers to help with the eating as it apparently tastes similar to apple pie; however it was already too late, and the pie had not surprisingly, been quickly consumed by the family.

By the pond we have some Pulmonaria or Lungwort in full flower which has certainly been attracting the bees in the few times that the sun has come out enough for them to venture out.  Other wildlife noticed this week has been many ground beetles.  It seems they are mostly active from March until October and as part of a well-balanced garden ecosystem, they will be helping out by feeding on any slugs or other insects they can find.   Every now and then we come across random small rodent sized holes, going deep underground; always interesting to consider all the life that is going on under our feet, and perhaps it was about time we got the wildlife camera out again to get some insight as to what goes on when nobody is around.

This coming Saturday, 17th April from 10 am to 12.30 pm, there is to be a plant sale and seed swap at the front of the Community Network in Cheriton High Street.  We are donating seeds and plants for this and all proceeds will go to our sister group Incredible Edible to support more planting and growing of fruit and vegetables in the community

Reminder – tomato plants will be available up at the garden from Wednesday 21st April.  Courgette plants to follow from mid-May.

What’s next?

Get to grips with unfinished jobs from last week –

Stake the raspberry patch

Plant the sweet peas

Continue the war on sycamore seedlings

Fill any lettuce gaps

Sow more celeriac and celery, plus start the sweet corn and courgettes

Keep watering carrot and parsnip beds plus pot plants and new plantings

Pot up herbs for the Incredible Edible sale

Start to pot up the tomato plants

update 2nd May 2021

The great thing about writing a weekly newsletter is that we can look back at what was happening this time last year and begin to make comparisons.  Last year we were contemplating removing the fleece covers, but this year there is no plan to do so just yet, with further cold nights on the horizon.  The promises of rain in the weather reports fizzle away and deliver nothing – the rainfall for April was 10.8mm which is a surprise as there is no recollection as to when that small amount happened as it must have sneaked in when nobody was paying attention.  We continue to water all the new plantings until they are established, or unless the rain does it for us.

All the jobs on the list for this week got tackled, from persuading the hops to climb in an orderly fashion up the hairy twine, to recovering rogue potatoes sprouting in the potato patch from last year, sowing chard, re-potting the squash and courgette plants and celebrating the first pick of the lettuces.  Just one small patch gave us 3.06kg of lettuce and the plants should keep producing more leaves for the next ten weeks until the next sowings are mature enough to take over the supply.  The first pick takes the longest as we are encouraging the lettuce plants to give up their eldest leaves and produce lots of new leaves on a central long stem which will proceed to grow upwards.  There is a knack to picking the leaves properly to discourage slugs and keep the plants clean and fresh.

As always when we ask for a little help, Sandgate comes to our assistance, either donating cash in exchange for plants or some of our produce, to bringing plants for us to use or exchange.   Richard came up to the garden with rooted cuttings of his grape vine, and Jill brought two boxes of hostas and house plants – thank you!  Really exciting is an invite from the Head gardener of Godinton House, (an amazing stately house and gardens near Ashford) to come and see the gardens next week with a hint that we might be taking home some plants and seeds too!  Just the chance to see the gardens in such good company and with any luck, the hub of the garden where the propagation takes place will be beyond comparison for a gardening anorak – deep joy!  

What’s next?

Next lettuce picking Wednesday session

Finish repotting the squashes and courgettes

Pot up the cucumbers and tree spinach

Continue to move the woodchips from the far end

Continue to monitor the water situation and rainfall

Differentiate between unwanted and wanted weeds

Spread compost on small empty bed

Update 28th Mar 2021

The slightly warmer weather has started to move some of the plants this week.  There was kale, purple sprouting, chard and spinach to pick, there is also wild garlic (popular for making into pesto), coriander, and a few mustard leaves which are now mature enough to make your eyes water  they are that hot!  The broad beans were flowering underneath the fleece covers so we took them off or the pollinators will not be able to find them.  The fleece had been protecting the beans as well as the weeds so there was plenty to sort out.  As fast as we weed the sycamore seedlings all over the plot, they pop up again to make it look like nothing has been cleared.  There is a photo below showing the purple shoots of the Hythe Hops just poking through, totally surrounded by sycamore seedlings, and that is just in one small space!  So all the hops have survived their first winter and are all showing.  The hairy twine which the hops use to climb up has been fixed or replaced ready for them to romp away bigger and hopefully better than last year.

It seems that most of the plants have survived, and although we lost the annual flowers that seemed to come through the previous winter, they had time to seed, and we can see nasturtiums, violas and pot marigolds popping up making the weeding more challenging to identify what to keep and what to hoe.   The welsh onions are just starting to flower, which will be appreciated by the insects, and with any luck provide us with more seeds.  Welsh onions are a perennial which just keep dividing and making more onions.  We are still using the seeds from our chives to grow lots of new plants.

We are all very excited that from next week we will be able to have six of us at a time back in the garden, no more shifts of working in ones and twos for just an hour at a time.  We welcomed back one of our gardeners who has been away for months recovering from Covid and the after symptoms.  Once she had managed to stagger up the hill to the garden, she could at least sit in the sunshine and sow some seeds and gather some energy to walk home again, armed with some spinach and kale to make a smoothie to help on the road to recovery.   In celebration we think that next week we should certainly indulge in some cake sharing to mark the start of spring, the chance to work together again and look forward to better times to come (like planting tomatoes perhaps!)

Reminder –From Wednesday 21st April – Tomato plants are available

Last but not least a big THANK YOU to the supermarket Morrison’s for very kindly donating 10 plants, a mix of perennial flowering plants, herbs and a gooseberry bush.  Some of them are to be planted at Enbrook Park, whilst others will go to the garden at Fremantle Park.  We have an invitation to come back again for more plants when they have more stock with particular plants we have on our wish list.

What’s next?

Stake the broad beans and run twine around

Stake the edges of the raspberry patch

Can the pond be put back together yet?

Sow fancy nasturtiums, leeks and celeriac

Plant gaps in onion beds

Have the new rhubarb plants arrived?

Plant more perennials in the flower garden area

Keep pot plants watered and newly planted seedlings

update 18th April 2021

There were some lovely episodes of sunshine during this week and a very gradual rise in temperature.  The main preoccupation of the week was to water, water and water, with no rain, and none on the horizon.  The raspberry patch got staked, the sweet peas planted, along with more lettuces to fill any gaps.  Celery, celeriac, sweet corn and all the courgettes and squashes got sown.  Dozens of tomato plants have been handed out to our volunteer gardeners to grow at home, and lots of coriander and parsley got potted up to donate to the Incredible Edible seed swap and plant sale.  The sale held on Saturday was a resounding success, raising an amazing £302.17, all of which will go towards more plantings of fruit, vegetables and herbs in the locality.  Whilst contemplating raising funds, we are getting ready to release all our spare tomato plants on Wednesday 21st April, this coming Wednesday, at the garden in Enbrook Park; we also have pots of mint, as well as some young plants of coriander and Parsley.  Please come along and support us if you can – any plants not taken on Wednesday will be available next Saturday, also at the garden.  All proceeds will go towards the various projects we have around Sandgate, with a ‘BIG plant up’ of all the areas we look after being planned for the first week or two in May IF the weather continues to improve.

Although it has been so cold, we did manage to pick our first radishes which were very welcome, and although the frost and snow finished off many of the flowering tender plants from last year, we can see evidence of their scattered seeds starting to come through; some of us are getting very good at identifying weeds to pull and what to leave.  In particular the self-sown violas are looking quite spectacular.

For some time now we have been in contact with the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch railway to get ourselves onto their list of causes to benefit from access to used railway sleepers at a much reduced rate.  Their yard has been closed during the Covid lockdown, but this week they have opened the yard, and we collected 100 of their small scale used railway sleepers which will be just perfect to edge paths and keep piles of compost and woodchip tidy.  It seemed that 100 sleepers would go a long way but we have already used over 50 at Fremantle Park without even trying!

What’s next?

Pot up all the tomato plants for the Enbrook garden

Pot up plants for the sale

Continue to water new seedlings

Plant the potatoes

Sow the cucumbers and chard

Edge the compost and woodchip piles with sleepers!

Make new bed at Fremantle for flowering annuals

update 7th Mar 2021

More trays of seeds got sown in the warmth of the Saturday sunshine in the garden, so we now have hundreds of seeds and seedlings on the go.  However, all of them are pretty hardy and early varieties that can cope with some cold.  First thing in the morning the trays of seedlings get put out into cold frames and mini greenhouses, and are taken indoors at night time when the temperature drops.  That way, the plants make some good steady growth and when they are around four weeks old, should be able to be planted out in the garden, covered with fleece, as long as the temperatures in the local weather forecast are not too low.  We have some plants ready and waiting to go out now, but this weekend says the nights are too cold and they will have to wait a little longer.  It is all about being patient, keeping an eye on the weather, as well as making judgements about how strong the plants are.  Patience being the operative word!!  So many citizens of Sandgate have been telling us about how well they are doing with getting all the seeds in the ground, outside, with no protection, expecting them to oblige by growing. Sometimes you get lucky, but we can still get heavy frosts and even snow as late as Easter, and plants can catch up and overtake earlier sowings because their growth has not been checked by the cold.  We have also had tales of annuals romping away in the greenhouse, growing well, but when we are asked when the plants can safely go outside (probably not until at least May), there is then the realisation that these plants will have to be kept under glass, watered, and moved on into much larger pots to be able to survive in good condition until then, by which time they resemble triffids.  Patience!

The temperature this winter has made a difference to the garden.  Last year we had annuals such as nasturtiums and nicotiana coming into flower – all have been lost as well as the autumn peas, even the broad beans have taken a battering.  However many gardens have lost their broad beans altogether so we count ourselves lucky there.  The temperatures were low, but not as low as in other parts of the country or even county.  There were concerns about the goji berries to see if they survived but you can see from one of the pictures below that they are sending out good strong shoots.  There is also a picture showing the new shoots of the autumn raspberries coming through.  We will have to be careful not to hoe them off!  Autumn raspberries are different to summer in that they fruit on the new stems which grow fresh in the spring, and may not need support, whereas summer raspberries fruit on the stems which grew in the previous summer and usually need to be tied into a frame.

Not enough rain to fill the pond so we cannot report back on if the repair has worked yet!  Happily all the jobs on the list for this week did get done, to include the turning of the compost bins, the planting of more fruit trees at Fremantle Park, and the application of a good amount of fresh compost at Golden Valley shops and more weeding.  There was even time to help out with a big tidy and litter pick behind the shops, as well as revamp the Meadowbrook and Chichester Road alleyway with a generous dollop of compost and some new plantings of some soft fruit bushes.  Phew!

What’s next?

Keep checking on the pond for a repair status

More sowings of herbs, lettuce, spinach and spring onions

Keep looking for pesky infestations of sycamore seedlings!

Water the new planting at the alleyway – label

Finish the wiring of the posts along the wall

Find slates/stones for making new signs

Keep all plant pots watered if dry

Divide hostas if they are growing

Start work on one of the greens in the High Street.

Update 21st Mar 2021

It is now officially spring with the arrival of the equinox, and we finished the week having caught up a little with ourselves after the lousy week before.   The current priority is to get plants that are ready into the ground as quickly as possible, releasing the sowing trays for more seeds and seedlings to be grown on.   We planted out the peas for shoots, spring onions, cabbages and broccoli, and two rows of parsnips got sown in-between the rows of radishes.  Radishes are a quick crop which will not be in the ground for many weeks whereas the parsnips are slow growers and will just be starting to do something when the radishes are being pulled up.

We think that we may have fixed the pond.  We found that we had a small leak where the repair patches were overlapped.  Chris and Alistair, two of our able volunteers, worked out what the problem was.  Chris is the only one who comes prepared with a pair of wellies so more often than not ends up in the pond checking it out, that is dedication for you.

We took some veg plants and compost to the nursery at the Saga Pavilion for the children to help plant in their playground planters.  We were sad not to be able to work with the children last year, and hope that we will get the opportunity to do so this year if the pandemic allows it.  In the meantime we will be forwarding plants so that they can at least grow something alongside their usual herbs and flowers.

We had a visit on Saturday from Dennis, who came all the way up to the garden bearing gifts.  There were seeds, new dibbers, irrigation timers (if only we had a mains water supply), a garden sign, and most touching were two clocks which apparently Dennis had put together himself and were community garden themed.  Just amazing and most kind!

Mid-week the planter outside the Ship got a good top mulch of compost, it is looking a little empty and sad at the moment but tidy, and it will not be too long before we can start filling it up again.  Opposite at the planters outside the Riviera Court, the phormiums were stripped of dead leaves and topped with a good few handfuls of pelleted chicken manure to give them a boost.  Permanent potted plants need a feed at least once a year, depending on what they are, how big and how much they grow.

Tomato plant news  – Make a note in your diaries that it is hoped that our own grown tomato plants will start to become available from Wednesday 21st April.  Be warned that this is too early to safely plant out tomatoes and they will still need protection for a while depending on the weather.  Last year we lost some seedlings to a storm that came through whilst under protection, and we had to make new sowings.  We have seven varieties, Tumbling Tom and Minibel (Cherry bush varieties) Moneymaker, Marmande, Crimson Crush, Tigerella and Yellow Delight.  We will make a further sowing just in case!

News of the Incredible Edibles  –  our sister group, have started work on a new herb and vegetable garden in Cheriton outside the All Souls Church Hall.  The traditional design will also include a cherry tree and a lavender/pollinator border.  Like our planter outside the Ship in Sandgate, the containers in Cheriton High Street will gradually be filled with plants over the spring.  A new planter has been taken on at the Three Hills Sports Centre, and of course, there are lots of plans for more projects in the pipeline.

What’s next?

There are a few new raspberry canes to plant

Plant the artichoke plants

Plant the lettuces and sugar snap peas

Plant up plot 1 at Fremantle Park with available vegetables

Check the Golden Valley for spaces to plant veg, check for weeds and if new trees need watering

Sow more seeds!

Update 14th Mar 2021

More interesting weather this week with it being so cold and wet that it was challenging to find the enthusiasm to get to Enbrook park for our usual Wednesday and Saturday morning sessions, so not many of the jobs on the list got done at all!  The seedlings are coming along fast now at nearly four weeks, and some will be ready next week to be planted.  Just the peas for pea shoots made it into the ground to be followed by beetroot, cabbage, broccoli, spring onions and possibly some lettuces if the weather improves.

This time last year we were picking up our four hop roots from the Hythe Hops Scheme to plant along the wall.  Not wanting the garden at Fremantle to miss out on the whole hop growing,  beer making and tasting experience, we ordered three more hop plants which were planted at the end of the plot beside the fruit trees and bushes.  The plants are known as ‘Prima Donna’, a dwarf hop, and we are looking forward to being able to combine all the hops from the total of seven plants we now have.  The Enbrook hops are now in their second year and so it will be interesting to compare how prolific they are compared to last year, and also with the new batch at Fremantle.

This year we are sowing and growing much more in the way of flowering annuals as our contribution to Kent’s Plan Bee.  In view of the fact we have various pockets of land around Sandgate as well as planters to fill up and look after, growing from seed is all important.  We are excited about a new area of the Enbrook garden being prepared for butterfly and moth attracting flowers which are bound to appeal to the bees and hoverflies too.

This week the green outside the chip shop in the High Street was weeded and cleared then given a mulch of compost ready for some flowering annuals as soon as they can go outside.  We hope you will be able to notice our contribution in the way of herbs, vegetables and flowers popping up all over Sandgate in the summer months.

What’s next?

All the jobs listed last week still need doing.

Plant veg seedlings and cover with fleece

Prick out the lettuce seedlings and flowering annuals