Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Growing your own vegetables and lettuces in lofty heights

As regular visitors to my blog know, I became a gardener last year. I read about the roof-park as an event space and popped by to see what it's all about. What surprised me the most was that they actually have a garden up there. They are Bootstrap, who owns the place, and a few volunteers, community members either working or living in Hackney, or both. I had a chat with Kate - one of them - since I've always been interested in gardening, but never had a backyard since it's a tad difficult in London. So I got in touch with Bootstrap, attended my first meeting and have become an enthusiastic member since then. It's addictive, you see? Once you sow seeds, the joy of seeing the first green pushing through the soil, watching it grow and harvest it when it's time; it comes with a great deal of satisfaction. I eat a lot of salad in the summer, and I get my lettuces, spring onions and tomatoes from the roof. Unfortunately, feta-cheese doesn't grow on trees and cows would look rather odd on the roof, but hey, one can't have it all, right?

Over the winter, Kate and I popped up to the roof to look after the garlic and broad beans we've planted and harvested plenty of lettuce, kale and broccoli. We also organised ourselves and founded a garden committee, consisting of the hard core of gardeners who meet monthly - with Zak from Bootstrap - to put the plans for the new design into action. The past two years have been a bit of trial and error, but this year, we gardeners have a firm grasp on what is going to happen, fully supported by the company, which is lucky indeed. Since yesterday it's official: to join the merry digging, community gardener Alex has been appointed to  help us gain more knowledge and provide workshops, open for everyone to pop by and take a stab at gardening. (Picture: us discussing what we'd like to grow, left to right: Kate, Zak, JC, Barbara, Tess, Christine.)

(Last Sunday: JC and Alex are busy working, Tess taking notes, whereas
 Anthony just made a good impression. Just kidding.)
To  make the garden as pretty as possible we have been working like maniacs over the past few weeks. Since I'm a bit more flexible with my time, I've been on the roof almost every day for two hours, weeding, preparing growbags with soil, compost and manure, replanting some of the plants that have survived the winter. On Sundays, we got together with all gardeners, including Alex and Zak, who's not afraid to get his hands dirty, and quickly we transformed the former mess into something more appealing. There will be another day to put everything in the right place, but then we'll start with planting. Just before the Roof Park will be opened to the public.

As you can see, the black boxes have been replaced with much nicer cladding. It's not finished yet; it'll look pretty when it's done, though. We also plan to use the wall; it's the sunniest place and we all agreed that it would be a shame to waste that space. Hanging baskets with either flowers or herbs would be appropriate, anything that can take sun and water from above. In the bags below, we'll have fruit bushes and small trees, as well as our grapes, which carried sweet red fruit last year. I don't know about you, but I'll spend a lot of time this summer on the roof. Not only is it a bit of a oasis for me, but I also love the idea of growing my own food. And Sundays, we all get together, gardening for a few hours, then have a massive BBQ, accompanied with our very own crop.

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