Posted by: Ealing Transition Community Garden | February 28, 2010

Raising beds at Ascott

Well, we finally got our pristine hands dirty yesterday at Ascott Allotments. The Allotment manager(ess?) was hosting a bed building day to construct meter tall beds for less mobile gardeners. This way, older allotmenters who aren’t quite up to bending over their own patch of dirt every day can come and perch beside a bed that has been raised a good three feet. Our group decided to come just to volunteer and get a sense of how raised beds are put together, since they pretty much constitute our structural plan for the garden — albeit not three feet high.

Our group split in three, between the raised beds, a pile of bindweed infested compost and an unweildy miniature orchard.  I spent most of the day laying around in mud like a pig, rummaging for bindweed. A couple of smaller plots are being prepared for those who would like to downgrade from the work of a larger plot, and one of them just happened to be filled with bindweed beneath an old woodchip pile. The pile was originally not that big, but the weed seems to spread out beneath the soil like a spideweb.

There was a time when we thought that that bindweed pile was startlingly impressive.

We took a moment to document, because that is what people do in this modern age.

I don’t think that we realised that this would be happening at four p.m.:

Yeah. That is bindweed. (And a few withered bits of bramble).

We also had another group working on pruning nearby plum trees. It was a highly productive day only briefly interrupted by torrential downpour during which time we huddled in a shed with tea and bacon butties. They also provided us with a lunch of sausages grilled on an open coal fire (I think) or leek and potato soup… to say nothing of homemade cider.

Here is a glimpse at one segment of what I will affectionately term their moonshine shed.

This was all cider that had been pressed on-site from apples that had fallen from trees on their own. They were using a cap colour-coding system to indicate the year when different bottles were pressed. Ideally, you wouldn’t crack one open until one or two years after bottling.  They sterilise old Fuller’s beer bottles and use them again and again, collecting them on their own or through local pubs who dispose of the bottles after one use. The ciders were different colours based on the type of apple that had been pressed and no one seemed to know quite what to expect when they cracked open a bottle, which I think is probably part of the fun.

Sarah and I had a little wander around the site with councillor Nigel Sumner who has what I can only term a masterful allotment site of his own at Ascott. He feeds a family of four and then some year round with the produce that they cultivate on their plot. He walked us through each growing choice he had made and it’s clearly a labour of creative love. There are (I think) 274 plots at Ascott, so you got a really widespread glimpse of individual ingenuity on each plot. Some were seriously well laid out and designed, others looked to be more of a free for all, just generally demonstrative of how everyone has their own growing techniques.

I liked these paths and beds put together with old bottles.

It was nice to do a long day working as part of a larger group, getting nice and mucky and smelling woodsmoke. Our wander round gave us a lot of good structural ideas, and I’m pumped for our “visioning” day on the sixth when we map out our plans on graph paper.




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