An oasis in the middle of our busy city centre
- Credit: Archant
Our gardens are bursting into life at the moment and this is a great time to think about growing your own vegetables, herbs and fruits.
Have you discovered the Hammonds End Food Smiles project yet? Based in Harpenden, this group of gardeners have been growing an impressive selection of vegetables for a couple of years now. As they harvest the produce, they share it amongst the group. They hold regular open days where you can go along and get tips on how to grow edibles and talk about joining up.
Some of the team have been busy transforming a plot of land right in the centre of St Albans. Surrounded by concrete paving and tall buildings, the Incredible Edibles garden is right next to the Alban Arena and St Albans council offices; I urge you to go and have a look – I was amazed to find it there! It really is an oasis in the heart of the city.
The team have worked really hard to create a garden open to the whole community, full of edible plants. Anyone is welcome to explore the garden at any time, along the paths made from bark chippings (donated by Ayletts from their Christmas tree collections) and get ideas for what to try growing at home. And, even better, you are allowed to pick the salad leaves, fruit and herbs!
There will be beans and strawberries soon and there is already plenty of perpetual spinach to pick. You might want to give it a wash first, but then, you should do that with supermarket leaves anyway as they are often sprayed with chemicals.
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You might spot some of the volunteers working on the plot – feel free to ask questions and get some ideas. You can join in too; there is always weeding and planting to be done. Naomi, who helps to organise the site, mentioned that one volunteer is a Syrian refugee who has enjoyed using his skills on the garden. The best time to go along to find out more is on farmer’s market days (every second Sunday, 1-4pm) as there is a team working there then.
As Naomi showed us around, we spotted rhubarb, garlic and lettuce. Runner beans are slowly climbing up the poles, so hopefully they will be ready to eat soon. Even the berries on the fuschia plants are edible, and a good source of vitamin C. Everything is labelled so easy to identify. I asked about security and Naomi said that the location (right by the police station and under CCTV!) means that they don’t worry about it; I think they have a great ‘get on with it’ attitude.
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The plot has been provided by the council who helped to prepare the site and Waitrose has given the team a little funding through their green token scheme.
The Incredible Edible garden has been planted with seeds and seedlings from Hammonds End Food Smiles and donations. It is a tricky plot in that there is a lot of shade from nearby buildings and large trees, but it just shows what can grow if you give it a go. It has really improved the area and when I went along there were people eating lunch nearby and enjoying the environment.
Open Food Gardens is back for this year, with gardens in Redbourn, Wheathamstead, Park Street and St Albans to explore. Running through June to August, have a look on the sustainablestalbans.org site for dates and addresses.
A trip to the Burydell Allotments in Park Street on Sunday August 5 (11am-1pm) would be interesting and a chance to meet growers and ask questions. There is usually cake available too!