Germinating flax seed is easy. It takes about a week at this time of year. We covered the seeds to protect them from birds but failed the anticipate the number of mammals tramping and bouncing over them gouging out geat ditches in the soil, so I have tried to make the patch more dog – and human – proof with ramshackle netting structures and a plea to passers by not to walk on the soil.
What a beautiful day to start our Seeds of Fashion/garment-growing project at the London College of Fashion! The forecast was chilly but it lied. It was sunny and warm and we got our hearts going with digging up grass for the LCF flax patch. Flax only takes about 90 days from seed to harvest so if anyone out there wants to take part, there’s plenty of time. It’s easy to grow and doesn’t even need decent soil or a huge amount of sun. A very forgiving plant. Just let me know if you want to have a go. The main enemies are birds, cats, dogs – and people of course. We have covered our 5x3m patch with netting at least till it germinates but last year our patch did really well until someone with a big dog let it roll in the crop – crushing it of course. If anyone out there has ideas about how to keep dogs (and their owners) away, please let me know. Here is the site before (replete with rubbish thrown over the wall), during and after our sowing.
Our small community garden is maintained entirely by volunteers. We run it with enthusiasm (mostly) and a belief in the power of gardening to bring people together – as well as improving the environment of course. We have learnt that amongst our gardeners we have a variety of skills – composting, seed-sowing, planning, raising veg, PR, samosa-making, taking photos, organising things – but most people have other things to do – other lives – and sometimes we need a boost to help get things done.
Our first big volunteer day in February 2011 was to build two big beds. Local people and students from the London College of Fashion turned out on a bright (but cold) day to shovel, carry, dig and construct. We found that getting together to drink tea at the beginning, middle or end of the volunteer day was as important – maybe more – as getting the job done – especially if we try to make tea on the camping stove. The waiting makes it taste so much better.
Our biggest ongoing project so far is what we call the Slow Shed. We’ve built it almost entirely from reclaimed materials and voluntary labour. With a general lack of building skills amongst us it is a slow business with lots of set-backs but it has brought lots of people together and provided everyone with an enormous sense of achievement. The Slow Shed – like a Herculean task – is never finished so we always have jobs to do on it.
We got a big boost when a corporate group came for a day last summer. They helped weave the front with willow, painted some lockers we’d found in the street and put up some shelves.
It’s usually not usually money we need — the garden is cheap to run and we raise money through cake and plant sales and subs cover most of our day-to-day expenses. Occasionally we need financial help with a specific project (like the willow-weaving where we needed to buy materials). More important to us is energy and enthusiasm – and a keenness to drink tea together.
For such a small organisation like ours, it’s wonderful to get an injection of vigour and good will from people who really don’t need to help but do anyway. We’re looking forward to seeing more groups from our neighbours in the business world and beyond.