Doing food growing workshops on a Hackney housing estate

It's April and it's all go: picked up some soft fruit bushes from Hackney Marshes Tree Nursery today, getting free topsoil delivered on Friday (thanks to a combination of the people at Good Gym and the Master Gardeners network) and next week will get a pile of wood chip delivered free from a Hackney Parks contractor...

I have been running food growing workshops on my small housing estate in north Hackney, with the help of a neighbour, since the beginning of March, funded by a grant from HCVS.

The estate has an old tarmacked laundry area, which we cleared a couple of years ago of weeds and rubbish. We started growing in builders bags, but now we have 10 raised beds, and a small area of earth round the back.

I had planned the workshops carefully, imagining a group of attentive people listening with fascination as I explained about the difference between annual and perennial weeds...the reality is much more chaotic than that: lots of kids with an attention span of 45 seconds, and neighbours who don't speak English so well. Keep them busy, watch out for for the tools, and slip in some gardening information when you can.

But attendance has been great: 20 people so far, including kids, people over 60, even a teenager! The word is getting round the estate, and people are dropping by to see what's going on.

So next session it's planting potatoes and fruit bushes, transplanting lettuces and potting up our tomato seedlings (all grown in various windowsills). My attempts to get everyone to chop the compost have been less successful though -- they tend to stick at it for about 2 minutes before giving up -- so I guess  I'm just going to have to do that job...

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