Children’s Community Garden 2015

This post contains a diary of events and reflections on the different features that make up our children’s community garden. We hope it gives a taste of  the different events, the successes and set-backs, and generally helps others who would like to do something similar in their community space.

10th August, the Keyhole Garden

The day the keyhole got started, we gained a new volunteer! Chrissie-Louise grabbed a fork and spade that day and has been coming pretty regularly ever since. In fact there are signs of her turning up on other occasions too. She’s been bringing runner beans and broad beans, courgettes, rocket, beets, a tomato. There’s time for a harvest yet … And I did notice that a spot of weeding had also been accomplished so people can actually walk around the edge of the hole garden bed now. Thanks Chrissie! I think I know who deserves to eat the first harvests from this bed!

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Meanwhile, the gourds in the pumpkin patch are at last holding their own alongside the flurry of nasturtiums. Nature is not afraid of a little competitiveness. We can only think that both have done so well because of the rich compost they went into.

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17th May 2015, National Children’s Day UK ChildrensGarden PosterOnly150517

Two new features popped up at our Open Orchard session today: a pumpkin patch on one of the berms, and a keyhole garden – a water conserving plant bed with its own compost pile at the centre. The design was originally devised for use in Africa, but anyone who has worked in our orchard knows that we have problems with access to water too. We were going to set up the keyhole at the north end of the orchard but it was really to shady for the kinds of plants we want to grow. So we had a last minute change of plan! The keyhole garden proudly sits in a sunny spot at the gateway to the orchard, just inside the lower end of the fruit rail.

The pumpkin patch on a nearby berm got planted up as planned, with four squashes and a few companion nasturtiums. There are more pumpkin seedlings in my back garden, waiting their turn to go in. (Come on sun! They need to grow a bit bigger before they can be planted out)

Many thanks to Nerys Keyte (and her family) who showed us how and led the work, and to Ian and Chris who gave us a hand.

Nerys, Liz, Ian clearing keyhole garden base

Nerys, Liz, Ian clearing keyhole garden base

Ian, Liz, Nerys raking keyhole base

Ian, Liz, Nerys raking keyhole base

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Marking the edge with bricks. The diagonal pattern means we can build up another layer quite easily.

layering up with newspaper and water

layering up with newspaper and water

the last task for today - starting the compost pile in the centre.

the last task for today – starting the compost pile in the centre.

Neither the dragon nor the pond is finished, but both are looking more distinctive. More work will continue on a later date. I am hoping park visitors may start cladding the dragon with scales from pine cones, or even flower heads (I am sure the dandelions would be OK). Then we could do some more work on the legs.

Wednesday 22nd April

Down to Earth (from 1:30  – 3:30) and Woodland Play families (3:45 – 5:00) accomplished two tasks in one today. We divided into two groups each time, with one group at the pond and one at the dragon. Those excavating the mud from the pond – which was very hard slow work –  brought it down to the dragon, small loads at a time, in a wheebarrow.

The dragon team then got on with smearing it on the log-and-brush “carcass” of the dragon – creating her cladding. Of course the teams swapped around a bit as and when the children wished for a change of task. My, her muddy coating did stink when we had done for the day! Hopefully she becomes less offensive as time moves on and the spring sun dries out the mud. In fact, the dragon’s gender is still under discussion. The younger children decided to call him Jake the Firepot (as everyone knows, only the males are fire-breathing!), whereas the older ones found what could be a dragon’s egg which suggests she could be female. She has already whispered to me that her name might be Matilda. But I am sure she or he will accomodate the change according to the imagination of his or her current admirers.

Our many-legged dragon

Our many-legged dragon

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Last year’s “wings”, this year’s firey breath!

Children working hard

Children working hard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working with children on pond digging is great fun. They work very hard, get their wellies stuck many times over, and eventually dig out a small amount of mud.  Even the adults who accompanied them struggled (mostly women). And I got very tired having completed two shifts of heavy work in one day.  Most of the mud has been laid up in shallow mounds around the edge of the pond, but any removed by children and wheelbarrows (they love working the wheelbarrow!) was done in small loads which had to be light and manageable. Next time I am hoping to include some much larger, stronger people who can shift greater quantities with each shovel-load. Of course it is important to balance the hard work that gets the job done with community interest that is more enthusiastic than efficient. I think this dilemma will arise with each mini-project that we tackle …

The site for the pond is a marshy place on the southern edge of the estate, where a beautiful willow tree grows, and much reed mace. It has been left to its own devices for a long time and has formed almost a monoculture of reed mace, with some willowherb and the occasional lady’s smock. The mud is waterlogged and there is not much evidence of animal life in it, but the occasional beetle, centipede and millipede. We can only do good here and hopefully improve the biodiversity in the space we have selected. The pond itself will be pear-shaped: deep at the southern rounded end where creatures can retreat from the warm water on sunny days, shallower at the tip where amphibians will be able to climb out or where other animals may visit for a drink. Here it will merge into a bog garden, and the “stalk” will be a cunningly-shaped log pile for animals that enjoy that darkness. Once dug out we will lay split logs around the edge, so you don’t have to wear wellies when you visit. A variety of marginal and bog plants will be planted between the logs and the water, thus indicating the pond’s edge and making it a bit safer for visitors.

None of the four established ponds in the park have a sign indicating their presence, but we shall make a sign for this one because it is new and will take people by surprise for  some while.

Saturday 4th April

We had a wonderful bunch of people arrive for our Pond Digging event today.

We made a great start  – but there is plenty more to do over coming weeks.

On Wednesday 22nd April (it’s the nearest we get to St George’s Day), we are going to combine excavating the pond with a rebuild of our dragon who is languishing on the playtrail in the park. She or he will get clad in the mud we remove from the pond. Cunning plan, eh? If you’re a family who’d like to help, please come by anytime betwen 1:30 and 5:00.

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Before

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Digging the pond

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These split logs will make an accessible pond edging.

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Now for some play with clay.

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A tasty wild garlic sandwich, with nettle and mint tea – yum!

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Session over and the waterproofs get a thorough hosedown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our very first activity to create the children’s community garden takes place on 4th April, Easter Saturday 1:30 – 4:30!

We will be digging out a wildlife pond for the garden. It should attract frogs and newts, and dragonflies, and hopefully many other water creatures. It’s be somewhere where your children can explore and examine the pond with supervision, near the family gathering space which is already underway.

Jenny who led the night walk will be joining us and taking you on a short foraging excursion in the park, then back to the campfire and a craft activity.

Please meet us at the play area in Highbury Park, Moseley. There is a charge of £5 per family which allows you to bring up to three children. So siblings or friends are welcome! The activities will mainly suit 5 – 8s, but younger and older children may well enjoy themselves too. It helps if you let us know you are coming by emailing hoccic@gmail.com, or calling Liz on 0121 628 2680, but you can just turn up on the day.

If you can share our poster with friends or colleagues, please find it here. WPClub PondPoster 150404

By the way, Asda Kings Heath are helping us raise money for the garden by making us one of their charities for March. April and May. If you shop there, you can ask for tokens and put them in our “slot”. The winning charity receives £200, so please help us to get plenty of tokens!

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