Preparing for Autumn & Winter Growing

Preparing for Autumn & Winter Growing

Paul Richens, of the renowned Skip Garden led a workshop at Cordwainers looking at what we can grow at this time of year.  He gave us a fascinating talk which got us thinking about rainfall, light levels, temperature and local conditions – and the useful seasonal benchmark of Guy Fawkes night (5th November) as the real end of the growing season in London.  Still time to put in a crop of radishes.  Even then we can still grow microgreens and plants that will survive – or even thrive in – the winter. Brassicas mostly, winter lettuces and ‘oriental’ greens such as mizuna (if you like that mustardy heat).  We then went to the garden and took root and stem cuttings from mint and a scented pelargonium. _DSC0292

Mint
Mint is probably the easiest plant to take root or stem cuttings from.
Pelargonium
You can take pelargonium cuttings easily. Cut the stem with sharp secateurs and place several of these cuttings in a mixture of John Innes 3 and some horticultural grit to help with drainage.

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Pelargonium cutting
Water then make a greenhouse for your cuttings with a plastic bag. These should take root within a couple of weeks.

 

 

 

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The Blues

The Blues

Our annual woad and indigo harvest and dye workshop was an evening of gentle delight.  It involved curiosity, experiment and awe at that magical transformation of plant into colour.  We also harvested our flax and ate amazing scones with home-made jams.  Sometimes you can imagine that all is right with the world.

We did two pots – one of woad and one of Japanese indigo, which usually gives a stronger colour but we found the woad was just as potent this year.  Thanks to Steve for taking the photos.

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Woad seeds.
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Woad leaves steeped in hot water for about 40 minutes.
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Japanese indigo steeping.
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The liquid should be sherry-coloured (ph9). Then get oxygen into it until the bubbles turn blue.

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Add Spectralite and leave till the liquid turns yellowy-green.
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Get the temperature up to 50 degrees C.
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Wait, talk, eat scones.
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Fold, twist and block the fabric.

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Fold, clip, twist or block the fabric.
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Gently put the fabric in the vat, avoiding getting air into the liquid.
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Leave the fabric for about 10 minutes. It should be fully submerged to avoid oxidisation. Easier said than done.

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Carefully remove the fabric, avoiding drips. As it hits the air it will turn blue.

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Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

Sometimes, when we’re setting up a stall for a community event my heart sinks a little. The sky is grey and the wind is whipping round the marquee.  We have a long day ahead of us and we must be friendly and active and sometimes that seems too much.  But these are the times when you really need that human activity.  These are the times that will really lift you.

Some local organisations got together on Saturday at Mabley Green to coincide with a football competition at Hackney Wick FC.  Our stall neighbours included Children With Voices, Hackney Quest , Hackney Pirates  and ecoACTIVE– all creative and inspiring outfits which encourage children to be active, curious and inventive – to give them alternatives to the other stuff out there like gangs and slumping on the sofa.

As our contribution we set up to make willow crowns with plants picked from the garden – including ceanothus, ivy, broccoli flowers, dandelions, shepherd’s purse, geraniums, yarrow and red valerian – and seeing the wonderful variety in both the people and their creations lifted our spirits.

And if this video of Michelle talking about the event doesn’t lift your heart, you may need to seek a doctor: Jumping Beans

Incredible Edible – Not this frog though.

Incredible Edible – Not this frog though.

Visitors from afar…. well outside London.  Bicester, Oxfordshire to be exact.  Azul, Jason, Kate, Mark and Claudia from Grassroots Bicester and Banbury Community Action were on an awayday to find out about setting up a community growing space.  We talked about what Cordwainers has done (and some of the mistakes), did a tour of the garden, spent a lots of time watching the frogs, drank tea and ate cake (of course) and did a quick bundle dye session – a great way to get people interested in plants and growing. In return I found out about their projects which include community orchards and setting up Incredible Edible Bicester – making community-grown fruit and veg available to ANYone who wants it, based on this excellent principle started by Incredible Edible Todmorden – and Jason gave our fruit trees an overdue prune.

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Dyeing al fresco is the best way.
Some tried and tested dye plants – crocus, marigold, hollyhock, onion skins – and experimenting with chard stalks.
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Claudia, Kate, Mark, Jason and Azul with their flower-dyed pocket squares.

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Jason pruned the cherry so that we can reach the fruit and so that it’s growth is more balanced.
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Mulching with compost keeps weeds down, moisture in and provides nourishment.

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Pollination in action. Thanks, bee, for future plums.

Tea at Morningside – Guest Blog by Jillian Wieda

I’m Jillian Wieda, a Master’s of Psychology student at University of Westminster, originally from California. I’ve been in the U.K. just over a year and hope to stay longer to train as a therapist or psychologist. Volunteering with Cordwainers Grow is an amazing opportunity to commune with the natural world, learn new skills and meet amazing people. I hope one day soon to grow organic produce of my own!

Enjoying a warm, delicious cup of tea with biscuits is such a treat for many of us. Now imagine drinking a healthy cup of tea that you grew and assembled yourself, using all of your favorite herbs! Cordwainers Grow, in partnership with Sanctuary Housing, recently presented the workshop: Growing Herbal Tea on your Balcony. It was great fun and a group of young children from the community joined our volunteers to give it a go!

This workshop is part of a free series called Herbs in the Home offered at the Morningside Community Centre in Hackney.

Some upcoming fall workshops include; Creating herbal remedies and a First Aid Kit (September 25), Making Body and Home Cleaning Products (October 23) and Making Anti-Bug Herbal Moth Balls (November 20).

The herbal tea workshop started with clipping a few fresh herbs, like rosemary and sage, from the Morningside Community Centre’s own garden. We then learned (as I’m a volunteer as well) how to clip segments of the plants and replant them in small pots. These small, potted herb gardens can grow on balconies and window sills to provide fresh herbs for tea and cooking.

The next step was to create our own customized tea bags from a variety of dried herbs. The children used their sense of smell to select from chamomile, echinacea, lemon balm, lemon verbena, lavender and nettle. The volunteers also shared some of the natural healing qualities, historically linked with the herbs. Some children added hot water to their creations and sipped on them right away, while others crafted ingredient labels and were off to give them to their families.

Corwainers Grow would love for more community members to join us for free fun and education, so please spread the good word!

   

Rosemary is easy to take cuttings from.
Rosemary is easy to take cuttings from.
Making cuttings from sage
Making cuttings from sage
Rosemary cuttings
Rosemary cuttings
Protect the cuttings and keep moisture in with plastic bags
Protect the cuttings and keep moisture in with plastic bags
Choosing herb mixtures to make tea.
Choosing herb mixtures to make tea.
Making brews.
Making brews.
Herbal teabag personally mixed.
Herbal teabag personally mixed.

 

The Woad Factor

The Woad Factor

If you’ve never witnessed the magic of a woad (or indigo) vat, seen the alchemy of one thing turning into another, book yourself a place on a workshop now.  Forget the wow factor, the woad factor will bowl you over. The nearest thing I could think of in twenty-first century terms is the awe we felt the first time you see an iphone swipe. That wonder soon wears off. Never with woad.

We set up an informal workshop at Cordwainers Garden to experiment with our woad harvest and went through the exacting (but not difficult) process of turning a handful of leaves into a permanent dye. It took about three hours in all. We had a great turnout of people from all corners of the world.  People from Uruguay, Argentina, Spain, Leicester, and Wembley came to have a go and help us with the magic.

Woad leaves collected then torn up.
We collected and weighed our woad leaves then tore them up. 
The process we followed.
The process we followed.
Boiling water poured over the leaves.
We poured boiling water from our storm kettle (no electricity) over the leaves.
The leaves steep for about an hour.
The leaves steep for about an hour.
We squeezed (and kept) the leaves to use again.
We squeezed (and kept) the leaves to use again.
We then aerated the water until the bubbles turned blue.
We then added soda ash and aerated the water until the bubbles turned blue.
We then heated it to 50 degrees and left for about 20 minutes.
We then heated it to 50 degrees and left for about 20 minutes.
Folding and twisting our material.
Preparing the material to be dyed.
After adding spectralite to remove the oxygen we carefully added our dyestuff.
After adding spectralite to remove the oxygen we carefully added our dyestuff.  The liquid is greeny yellow and the material doesn’t seem to have taken on any colour when you look at it in the water.
The magic happens as the material hits the air.
The magic happens as the material hits the air.
It takes on more colour.
It takes on more colour.

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It zings
It zings

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