Here’s the report from the seventh weekend of our Growing Tooting ‘grow your own food’ local fortnightly classes. We’ve been offering these in Balham, Tooting and Wandsworth since April.

The common themes this week have been exploring more ambitious planting schemes, visiting other local gardens, and looking at forest gardening.

So: here’s a group planting a ‘Three Sisters’ bed in Balham: 
That means establishing a bed with three complementary crops (sweet corn, beans, pumpkin) which combine well in terms of habit, shade needs and care. It’s a fascinating traditional native american method making good use of limited cultivated land.

The Tooting group visited the Tooting Community Garden
Here they are comparing our bread wheat with an experimental bed of teff, a ‘wonder grain’ from Ethiopia.

One of the Wandsworth groups
visited members’ allotments in King George’s Park.
That’s a nice scene!

This fortnight’s Seventh Growing Tooting Handout is available to everyone by clicking here.
The focus is Forest Gardening: as a development of the permaculture conversations in the 6th weekend of Growing Tooting. It’s a fascinating method where short-term crops are not planted, and the plot is managed to produce from perennial ground cover plants, bushes and trees.

That’s very different from the experience most of us have on our allotments or balconies! 
Keeping up the theme of visiting inspiring gardens, a great place to experience a half-way house between growing in beds and developing wilder forest growing is at Spiralfields Community Garden, part of the wonderful Spitalfields City Farm in Tower Hamlets. 

At Spiralfields they have dumped 60+ tons of soil in hillocks and valleys right on top of existing paving…and planted trees which will break through the concrete in time.

The whole space is a super-productive oasis right alongside the Eurostar tracks.
Visiting info for Spitalfields City Farm – click here.

One of the UK’s gurus of Forest Gardening is Martin Crawford.
He finds that with a mature forest garden, just a few day’s work per year produces a big proportion of his family’s food -though some of the crops are not very familiar. Info here.

Martin’s garden is just under a hectare (as it’s Euro 2016, that’s the size of two football pitches).
Many of us make plans of our planting beds; Martin has identified every tree on his site….!

He’s written a comprehensive guide and runs regular courses in Devon (see details online here).
Courses are highly recommended if you want to immerse yourself…

Always new things to explore in gardening!
– Charles