De Beauvoir Gardeners' group (which is open to all Hackney residents) started this project as part of Chelsea Fringe, which began in 2012 - but we didn't intend it to begin and end with the three weeks for which the Fringe officially ran this year.
Our idea was to use the Fringe project to kick-start a street and estate planting initiative across as much of Hackney as we could enthuse with the idea, then carry on supporting ever more of this activity, for as long as local people wanted to join in. Everything which we've achieved to date has been written up and illustrated, mostly by Miranda Janatka, on our CF project site at http://dbgchelseafringe.wordpress.com .
With only token funding available, we set out to achieve this at minimal cost, using entirely free soil and spare plants that were donated, bought as plugs and grown on or started from seed (mainly by the two plantswomen on our little project committee).
We collaborated with Dalston Eastern Curve Garden to arrange a huge delivery of free municipal compost from LondonWaste, since even existing street containers need to have lots of organic matter added. Local residents disposing of unwanted topsoil donated that to complement the sterile compost and create a usable planting mixture for planting under street trees and in new temporary pop-up gardens. Those were set up where we could obtain site-specific permission to do so from Hackney Council.
We also needed Council permission to under-plant Hackney street trees because the Council normally sprays with herbicide, twice a year, anything growing in the street that hasn't been planted there officially. We therefore agreed with the Council street arboriculturist, who's responsible for all our street trees, an appropriate basis for under-planting those (see http://dbgchelseafringe.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/instructions-for-s... ) and to notify him of any new street plantings being done. So, if anyone wants to plant up open spaces in their street, please would they tell us exactly what they've done and where; we'll add that to our site list to safeguard their work against being weed-killered.
Street planting at ground level makes growing food there impossible due to animal fouling but Hackney Homes is actively encouraging residents to develop estate gardening groups to plant food in public areas of their estates. As not all Hackney Homes estates yet have established groups, any new venture needs to register their plans with HH, to enable the estate management to co-ordinate this with any other efforts being planned or implemented there. I can send the standard 'Grow Your Own' registration form to anyone who needs it, or they can get it directly from and submit it to Cherie Joseph of the HH Estate Environment team, who can identify and organise permission from the relevant grounds maintenance area manager.
There's no equivalent scheme yet for anyone who wants to help improve public parts of their Council estate with purely ornamental planting but Cherie Joseph would be the best initial point of contact, again for co-ordination and permission purposes.
(So far, we haven't been approached for help by anyone living on a privately-owned estate who wants to grow plants in its common grounds.)
Under-planting street trees can be done very successfully for free, using just spare plants from friends and group members' own gardens: a kind of horticultural communism developed around De Beauvoir this spring, when everyone got the street planting bug! More challenging is tackling sites which need specific plants and/or equipment, due to their difficult location/orientation, so we've begun to investigate sources of public funding.
Miranda has just done the Master Gardener's training and obtained a Community Development Fund grant through Hackney Council for a new estate 'Grow and Eat' project starting now. There should also be funds available from Capital Growth for other food growing projects - but doubtless many other SH members (especially the other Master Gardeners, like Alex Collings and Martina Dervis), will already know more about this than I've yet had cause to learn!
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