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Hither Green: Spread the word! SeedSwap Sunday is coming.

Posted by Lewisham Gardens on January 22, 2014 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Time/ Date: 6pm Sunday 23 February

Venue: The Station Hotel in Hither Green SE13 5NB.

Bring some seeds to swap and it's all FREE- though you'll have to get your own drinks in!


Are you considering growing Italian tomatoes for the first time?

Or do you want to grow your own golden sweetcorn and salad potatoes?

Would you like to grab handfuls of home grown coriander, parsley and basil?


Then come and swap seeds with veggie veterans and first time growers.

Twitter: @GolightlyGarden and @LewishamGarden

Get in! 100% strike rate!

Posted by Lewisham Gardens on March 3, 2013 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Penstemon 'Raven' (Photo from Wooten Plants)

Last Summer a keen poster on this forum shared a tip about propagating penstemons. 

Someone had complained about a patchy strike rate for penstemon cuttings and Alan suggested placing them in water rather than in gritty compost.

I was keen to give it a try and stuck 12 P. Raven cuttings in a jam of tap water. It went on the kitchen window sill next to the over wintering cayenne chilli plant. Apart from topping up the water once or twice, Ive not bothered with it at all. 

This weekend I needed the sill space for my newly sown Tomato 'San Marzano' and Itaian parsley , so I took the  penstemon jar into the garden.  I checked them and its a 100% strike rate! And with decent root systems too. I spent a gleeful 19 minutes potted them all up. 

Back of the net!

Kitchen Garden Vegetable Planner for Download.

Posted by Lewisham Gardens on February 20, 2013 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Ive spent the past couple of nights putting together a planting and volunteering schedule for the St Mungos Centre Kitchen Garden.

We're planning to get started soon in the vegetable garden and we've got a lot to do.


Ive based my plan on the official RHS Vegetable planner; but Ive increased the vegetable and herb selection.


You're welcome to have a copy and amend it for your own use.


Here is the new vegetable planner

Allotmenteers! Home gardeners! Dont rush but there is streaming fresh horse manure available in Lee!

Posted by Lewisham Gardens on February 6, 2013 at 6:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Katy, the Lewisham Allotments Officer has sent out an email. 

There is fresh manure available - tonnes of it! 

From the Willow Tree Stables on Ronver Road, Lee. MAP

Jan the owner has a good stock of fresh manure if anyone is interested. The manure itself is free but she may charge for delivery.

If you would like a delivery or more info please contact Jan direct on 07850 349 526.  She can deliver to homes, commuty gardens and allotments. 

Last spring we had a wagon load of Willow Tree muck delivered to the Hither Green Community Garden and it was the most hilarious afternoon. EVER. Rotted down  a treat and went down in the autumn. 

NOTE: remember fresh manure is too high in nitrogen to put on your beds and borders immediately.  Stack it for 5 or 6 months before using it. 

Become a South London Master Gardener: help people grow food- training available

Posted by Lewisham Gardens on January 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Garden Organic the national charity for organic gardening is looking to sign up another 20 Master Gardeners with growing experience to help local people and communities grow their own food organically.

Take a look at this link and circulate among your gardening friends - allotmenteers, scool, chuch, social media. networks.

Document: Become a Master Gardener - South London 2013

Find out more information from the latest MG quarterly report so you know the latest and a poster for printing.

Document: South London MG Quarterly Report 


Job available: BOST (Banskside Open Spaces Trust) admin assistant in Southwark and a friend of South London Master Gardeners

Information supplied by Fiona Law, Volunteer Co-ordinator, South London Master Gardeners

A Vertical Veg Workshop, Mark Ridsdill Smith comes to Lewisham!

Posted by Lewisham Gardens on January 11, 2013 at 7:15 PM Comments comments (1)

Mark is beloved in Grow Your Own circles for his excellent   Vertical Veg gardening blog and workshops.

He will be in Lewisham on Saturday 26 January to run a one-off workshop on growing tasty food in small spaces.

This event is perfect for beginners who dont have acres of space but who want to grow tasty things to eat.


St. Mungo's Centre- 'Spring Gardens'

1 Arlington Close- off Ennersdale Rd,

London, SE13 6JQ

Time: 2.30-3.30pm   Cost: £5

Its a non- profit event, and the entrance fee will cover the costs of the workshop. Places are limited, so send an email if you would like to come along!

Click for the Event flyer



A review of my gardening year

Posted by Lewisham Gardens on August 31, 2012 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (6)

This has been an strange year. Largely to do with the weather my vegetable garden was a disaster. the slugs took everything. Plus  most veg seem so horribly high maintennance if I take my eye off  for a week, an entire crop is lost.

Cranesbill geranium magnificum

On the other hand, the ornamental garden has done really well- again largely to do with the weather.  My planting isnt quite low maintennace ,  but all the plants which usually from from lack of water have donw really well.  The foiliage plants are looking really lovely.

Allium Christophii

In spring my  tulips did great, I had layered up six pots with bulbs: tulips, alliums and anemones. They flowered their heads off until the alliums gave up the ghost in May/ June. The alliums were a revelation. I had previously thought them expensively showy. But I took a punt on a discounted bag of Christophii and I plan on  investing in more, plus some Glomerata this autumn.  Im a total convert.

Frilly Poppy- pretty!

Next up were the foxgloves and poppies. Poppies arrived  in the garden last summer via wildlife,  or perhaps I disturbed some dormant seed. But they were so pretty I saved seed and scattered it last winter. . This year I have randm poppies coming all over the garden and anticipating the colour sna style has been a real joy.  Evern when the weather was rotten.  Ive had pinks and intense purples and huge scarlet poppies.  They inspired the 'colour' thread.

Jasmine Officinale

June means Jasmine-  a gloriously scented three weeks.  Propaply my favourite scented plant in the world. I potted up 20 or so seedlings and hope to give them away next year.

Penstemon 'Flame'

Penstemmons and sedums have performed well this year, cherring up dully corners.  The sedumsa arent terribly special,  but they are reliable bursts of colour.

Ox-Eye Daisy

Just as reliable have been the ox-eye daisies. Great swathes of bright flowers that I dont need to worry about ever. My first patch was given to me by a friend of my mother's. She was always fairly onery when i was a child,  but now we have gardening in common, we get on really well.  Of course it could just be that Ive stopped being such a pain!

Rose 'New Dawn'

Rosa 'New Dawn, did really well this summer and indeed is still flowering.  Its been a fairly said year for my roess-  between the rain despoiling blooms, I lost a large climber 'Iceberg' at  midsummer - I think something was sprayed on it. Its decline was swift and its now all but dead.  Im gutted about it. I plan on using its carcass as a frame for some clematis next year.

Heuchera 'Dark Secret'

Honourable mentions for heuchera which I pick up 2 for "5 and immediately split last year. They have all put on enormous growth effectively transforming my main garden with  their deep plummy and bronze tones. Japanese anemones are flowering right now. I had no idea of the colour as I picked them up at the Corbett plant swap last summer. Also in flower are tall, elegant rudbeckia and evening primrose.  Lovely,  but yellow. I fear they are no long for my garden!

Best of all- No photos yet,  but my new law put on growth and looks lovely. I dug it up last year after patchy growth and failed attempts to repair it. I dug it up and left huge lumps of clay on the surface for the snow and frost to break down.  In the spring I dug in  losts of compost and horse manure. aked it level  and removed stones over two months.  Finally I laid turf and re-sowed in the thin area  and now Im delighted with it.  

Not great- what REALLY disappointed in 2012.

Clematis. I wasnt expecting my from the clematis as they were hacked to bits last year,  I got some nice flowers, but 2013 will be their year!

Hostas. Several HUGE clumps were split and divided  last year and so  I wasnt expecting greeat things.  The plants were top dressed with home compost and bonemeal in the spring when the fresh  tips appeared, but the slugs demolished a few and the rest have been chewed beyond respectability. No flowers this year, which I have missed.  My hostas usuall send out a metre tall spike of pruple flowers.

Agapanthus- still no flowers! I sowed some from seed 3 years ago.  I expect  flowers,  but nothing.  Fingers crossed for 2013!

What worked for you?

I will no longer be Growing My Own

Posted by Lewisham Gardens on June 21, 2012 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (7)

Sometimes gardening means heart break. This is one of those times.

Ive emerged from my semi-catatonic state, so this post is going to be more lament than rant. Regular readers may be aware of the entractable battle Ive been waging with the snails and slugs of Hither Green.

Well tonight Ive come to a big decision. They win. I will no longer be growing vegetables. 

Certainly not in the main garden any way,  Im simply not going to put myself through it any more. 

Im sure Ive probably said something similar to friends in years past,  but every spring I get caught up in the spring planting fervour - sowing seeds is just a part of the rhythm of my year.  This year once again, against my better judgement,  I was seduced by seeds. 

There is such joy in sowing seed- so much hope and potential. I get real pleasure when the tiny plants come through their dormancy into life.

The staging for my trays was dragged out of the shed and set up in the dinning room; seed and potting compost mixes were made up, and germination temperatures were monitored. .Big strapping support frames were constructed out of pruned cherry branches.

Last week I planted out peas that I had sown successionally in window boxes and were  doing so well I felt moved to plant them out. Also planted out were  8 scarlet empereor runner beans and 6 white lady runner beans given to me at a Chelsea Fringe urban farming event in Dalston last month.

However, this week I lost almost everything.  

On Tuesday all I had left was a scarlet emperor and 6 tatty little sugar snaps. 

Tonight I went out to check on those few remaining plants and realised there was more bare earth than necessary.

I had been so struck by the loss of the beans that I hadnt even noticed the 2 courgettes and 4 squash plants were also missing!  Gone.

I stood starring at bare earth like the time I discovered my bike had been stolen from the bike rack at Hither Green Station. Just an empty space where something real and solid had once stood.  Of my 'three sisters'  bed I planted last month- all that's left is the sweetcorn.

There is little trace of the healthy squash plants I nurtured so well. All the snails have left me with are a few peas and a solitary half eaten squash, the main stem of which has been chewed through.

Seriously, what's the point? 

  • Ive tried  organic measures to tacke the snails-  spending sizable sums on pelleted sheep wool, and bl*ody nematodes.  My hostas got trashed all the same. Ive had to lift them and plant them up in pots.
  • Ive tried going out in the evening and picking off dozens and dozens of snails and re-homing them. I dont like to kill them, see?
  •  I even built  pond! Well I dug a hole and sunk a builder's bucket.   

But essentially all Ive achieved this year is ensured that I have the most expensively fed molluscs for miles around. 

Ive spent hours and cash making sure the snails and slugs in my garden have had the choicest food in the borough.

What makes this even more galling is the joy and anticipation that came before.  We all spend happy winter hours flicking through catalogues,  making notes on vegetable varieties,  drawing up plans in a jornal  and even putting together spreadsheets (Be gentle with your mocking,  spreadsheets are my lifeblood!)

  • I made up my own seed compost mixes, using sieved home made leaf mold from 2 years ago!  
  • I worked in the garden preparing seed beds during the wettest April on record to ensure my seedlings have the best possible start.
  • I fed my soil with rich dark garden compost just like Monty, Alan and Bunny told me to. Ive even gone as far as collecting manure from riding stables for goodness sake.  And yet  at the mid year point, all I have to show for it is a couple of runner beans.  


So officially now,  I state II will not be doing it again. Half the veg plot will be returned to lawn, and with the other half I'll extend the hot herbaceous border. I'll fill it with ruby red hemerocallis, and deep purple nepeta and salvias. I''ll go to town growing the talliest echiums and verbascum varieties I can  find.  

No more veg for me! 

Want to grow your own fruit and veg at home, but not quite sure where to start? Master Gardeners are here to help!

Posted by Sue Luxton on June 11, 2012 at 7:05 AM Comments comments (5)


I'd like to let you know about a great scheme I'm involved in to support people to grow fruit and veg. Run by Garden Organic (the UK's leading organic growing charity dedicated to researching and promoting organic gardening, farming and food) , the South London Master Gardeners are volunteers who support households, families,schools, hostels and many other groups with growing fruit and vegetables.

Master Gardeners have from two to many decades’ experience growing (I'm definitely towards the lower end of this scale and sometimes feel a bit intimidated by the 'Master Gardener' tag, but hey!). What we all have in common is an enthusiasm to share our passion for sowing, growing and harvesting with others. Lots of us also enjoy preparing, preserving and eating crops too!

As Fiona Law, the co-ordinator of the South London Garden Organic Scheme says:

"More and more people want to grow their own for a healthy diet and lifestyle, money saving, access to greenspace, environment-friendly organic gardening, and contribute to national food security and growing skills. Everyone can grow fruit and veg; young and old, whether starting from scratch or gardening for years, using a windowsill, balcony, garden, allotment, orcommunity space. It’s exciting and rewarding wherever the seed is sown."

Each Master Gardener supports 10 householders starting out or already growing food, offering seasonal advice/visits, demonstrations, local community network, andother engagement. NB: One thing it's definitely not is a free gardening service - the household has to do the bulk of the work, but we're there to offer encouragement and guidance as needed. Householders then feedback their successes and problems. They’re also offered free resourcesas well as discounted Garden Organic membership and Grow Your Own magazine subscription. Each Master Gardener promotes benefits of growing your own through events, community groups, talks, articles,demos, and other innovative engagement.

I've been a little slow off the ground since attending my initial training weekend last Autumn, partly because a lot of my time has been spent helping to set up a garden project at a hostel for young women in Brockley. However, I've signed the hostel up as my first 'household' and am holding my first stall at Hilly Fields Fayre on Saturday 23rd June, where I'm hoping we can promote the scheme a bit more locally and sign up a few more interested people. If you'd like to know a bit more about the scheme and how to get involved, whether to get some support or perhaps to become a future Master Gardener, do pop along to our stall at Hilly Fields on 23rd June, or check out the website for further info.

The Master Gardener scheme is funded with generous support from Local Food (Big Lottery Fund), charitable trusts and local authorities.There are strong links to community growing in South London, in the boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth (come on Lewisham!), and the fringes of neighbouring boroughs (Merton, Lewisham, Kingston Upon Thames, Bromley and Croydon). The South London Master Gardener programme started in June 2010 when the first cohort of 20 volunteers had their induction training. To date over 80 Master Gardeners have joined the programme. They’ve clocked up nearly 2000 hours with their volunteering, supporting over 800 people. They’ve also engaged with 6000 people in the wider community at events and shows.

At home with Garden Birds!

Posted by Tom on May 8, 2012 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (10)

Robin at home in the London Garden

Article by Hillyfields Birdwatch

Having or sharing a garden can bring us much closer to certain wild creatures with whom we share our daily lives - I refer, of course, to the birds. There are seven "regulars" who visit my garden every day: the Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, House Sparrow, Magpie, Robin and Woodpigeon. In this article, I want to say a little bit about them and their habits, mention some of the other birds you may see in your garden and talk about how you can help them.

The Usual Crew

The Blackbird - everyone knows the male blackbird with its bright yellow bill; the female is dark brown with a duller yellow bill. Apart from excavating worms and insects from lawns, they also eat some berries (eg. Cotoneaster), pounce on fallen apples and pears and will eat kitchen scraps from the ground or bird table. And they sing throughout the day - beautifully.

The Blue Tit and Great Tit - very common garden and park birds. The Great Tit is larger and has a black crown and black stripe down the breast. It "sings" mainly from January to June, deploying a wide range of short phrases. The most famous of these is the two-note call dubbed "teacher teacher" repeated so insistently that it may well drive you up the garden wall. The Blue Tit is a cute little bird, predominantly blue and yellow, which tseeps and churrs and flits acrobatically amongst the trees. Both these birds feed on insects, caterpillars, berries and love the nuts and seed mix in bird feeders.

Great Tits - male on right with broader black stripe down the breast


The House Sparrow - once ubiquitous, the "cockney sparrer" has declined sharply in numbers in London and other urban areas (by 65% since 1970). However, it is making a comeback and is now fairly common again in Lewisham. "Sparrers can't sing" said Lionel Bart, but they make up for it with excited chirping, fly around in small gangs and eat almost anything. Mainly chest-nut brown and black, with the male sporting a grey cap.

The Comeback Kid: House Sparrow

The Magpie - a large, bold bird with a striking black, white and dark blue plumage. Unlike its relative the Crow, the Magpie often comes into gardens and will sometimes build its domed nest in garden trees. They have no "song" as such, but "chatter" loudly. They will eat almost anything but their reputation for raiding nests and eating other birds eggs is, says the RSPB, "unproven". As for the famous rhyme: "One for sorrow, two for joy" - don't despair if you only see one. Magpies are not loners and it's mate will usually show up before long!

The Robin needs no introduction. The "gardener's friend" often appears when you are digging, knowing that worms are about to be served up. It will perch so close that you get the best view of any wild bird apart from the pigeon. The Robin is very territorial and in autumn/winter, you will often hear its warning call which sounds like a clock being wound up. A great songster, it is perhaps not quite as melodic as the Blackbird but has a wider repertoire of phrases. It sings most of the year apart from July-Sept when it moults and becomes rather furtive.

Lastly, the funny old Woodpigeon which waddles around my garden looking for clover, plant material, seeds, berries etc. I grow a few veggies and haven't been troubled yet by the Woodpigeon, but they are known to be fond of brassicas. Woodpigeons can be told very easily from the other common pigeon (aka. the Feral Pigeon, London pigeon or town pigeon) by the white collar or bar on their neck. They are also bigger and plumper with a pinkish breast.


Best of the Rest

Other birds that I see in my garden include Wrens, Starlings, Goldfinches, Long-tailed Tits, Feral Pigeons and occasionally that beautiful bird, the Jay. A neighbour once spotted a Coal Tit but I have yet to see it.

What you may see in your garden depends on its location, its size and what you have in it. Do you have a pond stocked with fish? Prepare for visits from a Grey Heron whose numbers in urban London have increased. (Yes, you can buy a fake "decoy heron" but do they work? At present, the reviewers on Amazon are divided!)


Heron in the Ravensbourne at Cornmill Gardens


Are you near a woodland or a park? If so, you'll get some extra visitors - perhaps Song Thrushes, a Nuthatch or two (they like bird feeders), a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Dunnocks and perhaps those two increasingly common spring migrants, the Blackcap - which has a fine song but can be most easily identified by its pale grey body and black head (chestnut brown if it's a female) -and the little Chiffchaff which can't always be seen very easily, but punches out a unique song of between six to twelve notes. Once you've heard it, I guarantee you will always recognise it.


Male Blackcap singing


More exotic visitors could include the Sparrowhawk, which may drop into your garden to eat its lunch. Unfortunately, this consists mainly of smaller birds! The birds do keep a lookout for predators though and larger garden birds will sometimes hassle or "mob" them. Finally, how could I forget the Ring-necked Parakeet? - a bird which displaces others (nuthatches, woodpeckers) from breeding holes in trees and knows how to get the most out of a bird feeder. Luckily, I don't get them in my garden but they do "flypasts" now and then.

Attracting more birds 

There is a lot of information on the web about how to attract birds and other wildlife to your garden. In the case of birds, it can be summarised as:

  • put out suitable food and water for them;
  • install nesting boxes;
  • grow trees, bushes and hedges for them to hide in and sing from;
  • grow food-bearing plants with berries, seeds, fruits etc.


Well sited nesting box

Bird Feeders

Here are just a few tips from my personal experience with regard to bird feeders. 

If you put up a bird feeder for the first time, don't be disappointed if the birds don't flock to it straight away. It may take them a few days to realise it's there and also there are seasonal ups and downs. In spring, you won't be able to keep up. The males need to take food back to the nest for the female and fledglings, as well as feed themselves.

Store up extra packets so you can keep them going! In high summer, they may visit less frequently as the air is full of delicious insects. In winter, offer them all the food you can. Generally though it's safest not to try and second guess how the weather (or birds) might behave and keep your feeder stocked up all year round! And remember to put water out as well, particularly during dry spells.

Spot the bird feeder

If squirrels visit your garden, you'll need to buy a squirrel proof feeder, ie. one with lots of bars around it. On the whole, they work. Parakeets are a greater nuisance for us in South London and are ingenious at getting through such defences. There are one or two feeders on the market which claim to be Parakeet-proof. I'm sceptical, though happy to be proved wrong.

It might help if you can hang the feeder where Parakeets won't spot it as they fly over. I have a large wild cherry tree in my garden and I use a long pole to hang the feeder from one of its branches - a branch that curves upwards so the feeder doesn't slip off. For two-thirds of the year, it's half-hidden by foliage. The local birds know where it is, but the passing Parakeets don't notice it. Of course, you should only ever hang feeders - this goes without saying, but I'll still say it - in a cat-free zone.

Incidentally, recent research has found that birds can pick up diseases from bird feeders including salmonella poisoning and avian pox, so wash them regularly using a disinfectant. Again more detailed advice can be found on the web.

In Conclusion

If you want help with bird identification, the RSPB website is an excellent resource and they have particularly good audio clips of birdsong. If you want to hear for example what a Chaffinch or a Chiffchaff sound like, play their clips!

This has been a very compressed article on a huge subject. Entire books have been written about garden birds while I've used less than 1500 words! However, I hope that it's been useful. I would be interested to hear about other peoples experiences and in particular if you've had any birds in your Lewisham gardens which I haven't mentioned.  

Tom, the Hillyfields Birdwatcher

Useful Links:

RSPB Bird identifier

RSPB Birds in your garden booklet (Free)

RSPB Wildlife on your doorstep (Free)