Abbey Gardens viewed from the Webcam


Abbey Gardens earlier this month
Abbey Gardens earlier this month

Image: Thanks to Robert Rogers

It seems the only thing to be moving at the moment with Abbey Gardens is my growing seedling collection outside the bedroom window!

The actual project progress seems to be frozen in a horrible limbo - this, it seems, is caused by the soil remediation report (or lack of report) which we have been waiting weeks and weeks for. Even when this does come back we still have to wait for the suggested action plan and see how this impacts on the design for the Harvest Garden.
In extreme brief the soil on the site is polluted (which we always knew) but now the council have to find out exactly how polluted and how this can be put right. The Harvest Garden was designed with remediation in mind (raised beds at different heights for edible and non-edible plants etc.) but we had to do this before the reports etc. were available.

Anyway the waiting is all very tedious and frustrating as we inch nearer and nearer to the start of the growing season proper.

On a more positive note we have now secured funding for the site from the councillors 'Local Fund' and the application I drafted with the friends group to Community Spaces has got through stage one, and we now have the help of an advisor with stage two. Karen has also submitted an Arts Council application which we'll hear about very soon - so all fingers crossed.

Karen's garden opening for the NGS this year

On July 26th 2009 Karen opens her Lake District garden - Lawson Park - again for the NGS, here's the info complete with pics

is a great idea!

With allotment waiting lists massively over-subscribed and people right across the country keener than ever to grow their own fruit and veg, the aim for Landshare is to become a UK wide initiative to make British land more productive and fresh local produce more accessible to all.

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall is supporting it (I wonder if he's sharing his land...!) and it looks to launch early next year. You can register online for updates.

The long view

View down from the local tower block
View down from the local tower block

Photo: Nina Pope

Yesterday with some kind help (and safety guidance) from Newham Homes I got to go and stand on the top of the tower block that you normally see in the background of all our images of Abbey Gardens. I wanted to see if the garden layout we marked at the weekend was visible from up there ... at the time I couldn't really make it out but when I downloaded the photos later I could just see the outlines, here I've enhanced them a bit so you get the full effect!

Star struck

Near my hometown Largs in Ayrshire, I was really pleased to read about Fairlie village's community organic garden, a fantastic 40 large raised beds and counting.
See some images and info here. Darn it, they have even invented a special wormcast (i.e plant food) producing box which I for one will be trying out.
Their website also includes pictures of the filming of the Beechgrove Garden TV show on their lovely seaside site. To readers from south of the border, this will mean nothing, but to any Scottish gardener born in the last 80 years this level of acclaim is up there with appearing on X factor or Strictly. To this iconic show - shot in farflung Aberdeen- I owe the early appearance of my green fingers, it being one of the two TV shows I remember watching only with my mum, the rest of the family must have lost the will to live at what I found to be gripping explanations of gooseberry pruning techniques.
BTW The other show was Come Dancing.

En route for home after the Abbey Gardens laying-out day I was amazed to find myself next to Carol Klein, presenter of BBC Gardener's World, on the London tube. Being quite a fan, I tried to remain casual and respect her privacy for all of 90 seconds before realising this was the opportunity of a lifetime. She was charm personified as I screeched over the train racket about how my garden had been pipped to the post for the NGS Open Garden TV series that she presented (my opener, it's true, it had), my recent project on Exmoor, near her home and nursery (profuse apologies for not having visited, trains and plants being incompatible), and this really exciting garden project in London.....

How long is a piece of (high visibility) string?

Site at the end of Day 1 of marking up
Site at the end of Day 1 of marking up

Photo: Nina Pope

Nina had spent quite some time calculating just how long this particular piece of high-visibility string should be, the answer coming out as 1.83km. I think.
However, the technique eventually "selected" (or fallen upon ;-)) for marking out the grid of beds meant we had to string across paths, not just around them.
So we probably should have had another kilometer for this massive cats-cradle-on-the-ground, but in the eventuality we reused string after spraying the lines with road-marking paint...

The only comparable experience I have had was the laying out of my raised bed vegetable garden at home at Lawson Park, where the weather was even worse than on Saturday, and the terrain a good deal less flat. However I do recall the propensity for string to get very tangled, my inability to tie a reliable knot and the dawning realisation of the vastness of the job ahead. I seemed to have failed to learn from any of this and even forgot to bring a waterproof for the Abbey Gardens laying-out. (A nice FOAG sorted me out with one when my ponyskin coat began to smell of wet dog)

After a few false starts caused by erratic rainbursts Nina and I and the many FAOG settled into not unchaotic (but still productive) teams who marked, measured and sprayed with some urgency in the darkening afternoon light. The session brought to light some of the mistakes in the Council’s measurements on plan, and also some significant issues with soil levels and the crooked south facing wall, all of which inform the next stages.

Mark Up Day

Ali & Parvin work into the night!
Ali & Parvin work into the night!

Photo: Nina Pope

Andreas, Gordon and I have all now added our images from the Mark Up day into the Flickr Group ...

Weekend Events

The Friends of Abbey Gardens & Somewhere invite you to two weekend events as part of


On Saturday the 8th of November we will be leading a 'layout day' at the Abbey Gardens site. Working with string, tapes and spray paint we will be literally marking out the design for next years Harvest Garden onto the grass at Baker's Row.

It should be a fun afternoon outdoors with lots of potential for measuring and string mistakes! Liberal tea brakes will be programmed into the schedule.

We will be meeting at Abbey Gardens at 12.30 for the all-afternoon project, please wear suitable clothing and footwear, and do bring along any coloured string you have to help us mark out the beds. Children are welcome but must be supervised.

Following on from this we will also be meeting on Saturday the 15th of November to build some compost bins and a test raised bed on the site ... again all welcome. Meet at the gardens from 12.30 onwards.

Delicious pods

Radish pods
Radish pods

a great veg for the lazy!

During the summer we visited the nearby St Mary's allotment and I spotted pods like these in the 'show' they were holding alongside their barbeque. I tracked them to an Asian family who told me that they are the fruit of radish plants allowed to flower.
So when mine ran to seed a few months ago I thought I'd leave them in the ground and see what I got. These plentiful pods are indeed very good to eat, briefly stirfried or steamed, and they couldn't be easier to grow.

Public Farm 1

PF1 at PS1 2008
PF1 at PS1 2008

Project by WORK architecture

I saw an image (in art monthly) of this great project at PS1 called Pf1 .

Public Farm 1 is a project designed by WORK Architecture Company for P.S.1's Young Architects Program. I loved the way they've used the cardboard tubes to create the bed shapes, and embed all sorts of other features in the structure. There's lots more information and a good timelapse movie of the construction on this website:

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