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FEBRUARY 2009

August 4, 2009

Snowed in

It’s been coming down solidly for 24 hours straight.  Travel chaos has ensued and Londoners are collectively shivering, but the capital city is looking very lovely under its thick snow blanket.  At night, the light polluted sky makes the snow glow yellow.  Looking out at my roof well after it should be dark, the garden is infused with a strange kind of twilight.

I was out on the roof earlier this weekend, before the snow started, putting out nuts and fat-balls for the birds and admiring the bulb shoots that were starting to emerge.  The squirrels had the nuts pretty quickly, but I’m hoping the bird cakes will survive the big freeze to be discovered by those for whom they were intended, and that the bulbs will be OK.

Obviously it’s currently too early and too cold to start planting anything outside, so my year of edible, aerial gardening is still very much a theoretical project. I have been doing a lot of thinking and reading over the last month though, and hatching some plans.  I’ve been studying ‘The Edible Container Garden’ by Michael Guerra and ‘Urban Eden’ by Adam and James Caplin, and, somewhat embarrassingly, ‘Teach yourself basic garden skills’, which is aimed at people who know nothing terribly practical, people a bit like me!

I’ve taken measurements, drawn diagrams and chewed numerous pencils.  As well as all this reading and research, I’ve also been stashing away empty milk cartons and plastic containers, ready to become seed trays and cloches in the spring.

I’ve recently been writing articles about homemade habitats and about bee friendly planting, and I am more certain than ever that I want my roof to be a slice of paradise for urban wildlife as well as me.  The plan is definitely to grow crops that birds and insects will enjoy as well as humans.  The benefits of low impact growing have become clearer than ever.  This Sunday, again before the snow hit, I headed off to Hove, near Brighton on the south coast, to an event called ‘Seedy Sunday’.  It’s a big, annual community seed swap and was a brilliant opportunity to pick up an exciting selection of seeds.

The Seedy Sunday campaign is about protecting biodiversity and about protesting against a focus on large scale growing and retailing.  The people behind the event and the campaign believe that, by growing open pollinated or ‘heritage’ plant varieties, then saving and swapping the seeds, growers can keep so called ‘outlawed’ seed varieties alive, conserve biodiversity and limit corporate control of our lives.

All sounded good to me, and I spent a very interesting couple of hours wandering around the stalls in Hove Town Hall. I bought some runner beans, radishes and salad leaves, plus some seeds for a chilli loving friend.  I admit the quirky names and beautiful homemade packaging had a lot to do with the seeds I chose.  ‘Drunken woman’ lettuce, ‘Flamingo beet leaf’, ’Mohawk’ peppers and ‘French breakfast’ radish to name a few.

You can find out more on www.seedysunday.org.  My latest article for Kitchen Garden is all about problem wildlife, so terrible beasts like the mole, the pigeon, the slug and the squirrel.  Writing it, I found out lots about these creatures that made me think they were all really rather great, or at least fascinating, I’m not sure even I can think a slug is great.  You can read it in the March issue of the magazine. Enjoy.

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