Last weekend we enjoyed the sixth crop of fortnightly ‘triple-header’ Growing Tooting workshops – one each in Balham, Tooting and Wandsworth. (Plus there’s the fourth series: an extra Wandsworth group running on the intervening weekends).
As ever, thanks to Martin for the energy and co-ordination!

What did we do this week?
As a comprehensive gardening topic we looked in detail at Permaculture – a growing approach that aims to integrate natural systems with social and individual needs for food, clean water, energy… (click here or here for two in-depth web resources).

To make that practical, in one group Donna presented her own garden as a case study.

She filmed a video of the back garden, plus photos of the front, for us to get an idea of the spaces and how the garden fits into her life.

Donna’s team of advisers – an unusual opportunity!

‘Observing’ before diving in is as useful in gardening as it is in swimming. Thank you Donna!

How is the potato progressing?

Secondly about observing – in our classes we encourage participants to be ‘grower scientist – investigators’ alongside enjoying being outside and putting good food on the table.
Here’s an example from someone who likes to measure and celebrate her plants’ progress! Why not try it – you learn a lot.

We have our latest Growing Tooting Handout 6 available – click here to download. The handout includes interrelated features of good common-sense gardening (and of permaculture):

  • Attracting wildlife to control pests
  • Mulch
  • Compost
  • Mycorrhizal soil fungi
  • No-dig gardening 

To illustrate combing several of these elements, the second Wandsworth group planted up a square foot raised bed which had been prepared with a no-dig approach. First we removed the weeds then covered with a couple of inches of leaf mould from one of the housing estate’s leaf pens, then covered that with sieved soil to achieve a fine tilth for sowing seeds.

You can see the separate layers

We planted spinach, nasturtium, basil, plus marigold and tomato seedlings under bottle cloches (we’re experimenting with companion planting for the latter two).

Finally: two more illustrations of this week’s topics:

Attracting beneficial insects.
It’s useful to provide habitats for predators such as ladybirds (the larvae eat loads of greenfly).
This is a roll of corrugated card inside a plastic bottle with its base cut off.

No-dig and mulch gardening.
One guru for this approach was Ruth Stout. We’ll share some excerpts from her 1970s book, which is worth looking out for.

A practical no-dig resource online is SPUDS (Society for the Prevention of Unnecessary Disturbance of the Soil).

It really works.

Happy Gardening – Charles