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The revolution will be composted: the permaculture show garden

Burgess Park Food Project


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “The revolution will be composted: the permaculture show garden” was written by Ruth Jamieson, for guardian.co.uk on Thursday 5th April 2012 13.46 UTC

A freshly-cleared patch of wasteland on the edge of Burgess Park in South London is about to become a flagship for permaculture in community gardening. Introducing this month’s rebel gardening project: The Glengall Wharf Garden.

When Sue Amos got a dog six years ago she started coming to Burgess Park in South London every day. In one corner of the park, just visible through a fence, crouched the overgrown remains of a pallet wharf that once served the now defunct Grand Surrey Canal. Having already worked on several smaller community garden projects, Sue immediately saw the growing potential of this unloved plot, measuring some 2600m squared. She joined the Friends of Burgess Park, formed the Burgess Park Food Project, secured a soil donation from Capital Growth and £46,000 of funding from Community Spaces, a Big Lottery fund. And now Sue and the rest of the Burgess Park Food Project volunteers are months from opening what will be one of London’s most ambitious community gardens yet.

Sue says: “when the Friends of Burgess Park were doing the consultation for the regeneration of the park, lots of people said they wanted allotments to grow food. But the trouble with allotments is it’s only the lucky few get them and it’s the same old situation. People wanting to grow food, sitting on a waiting list for years. So we decided to do an open access project. People will be able to register, then contribute to the whole and take a share of the whole.”

Sue and her team saw a demand for a sort of community show garden. She says, “The idea is that people come here and we display all sorts of different ways of doing stuff and people then go away and start their own gardens.” The Glengall Wharf Garden will work to support inspire and energise community gardeners and educate about sustainable gardening. There are plans to apply for Permaculture Association LAND Centre status. The team will then be able to treat visitors to demonstrations of permaculture practices. Eventually the garden will boast an edible hedge, a rainwater harvesting system, hives for natural bee keeping, a compost loo, an edible forest and four 7ft high, 10ft long hugelkultur beds. Hugelkultur being the permaculture practice, pioneered by Sepp Holzer, of burying rotten wood in the sub soil, then piling it high like a manmade nurse log and covering with top soil. The resulting bed offers more planting space. While the rotting wood provides improved irrigation, a heat source and some say negates the need to dress the top soil each year.

Already on site is a gabion wall created by Deutsche Bank volunteers with rubble donated by Lambeth Council, a habitat-encouraging dead hedge, a bug fence and a blue box garden made from recycled recycling containers. April will see landscaping begin in earnest, removal of buddleja roots and fencing. Raised beds and a long-awaited soil delivery are expected in May. Planting will continue in preparation for a green fair to officially open the garden in July, where it is hoped that willow, weaving and spinning demonstrations will use fibres grown on site. Planting pits are already being carved out in rubble ready for tree planting in autumn.

When Glengall Wharf Community Garden opens properly in July it will be a valuable resource for aspiring community gardeners. But if you can’t wait till then, Sue has this advice: “aspiring community gardeners should do what I did; find any number of other projects and go and have a look around. See what they’re doing and pinch their ideas. Then work out what works for your garden. That’s what everyone else is doing. A big aspect of what we’re doing is learning and skill sharing. For us it’s like Sepp Holzer says, ‘once the neighbours start doing it, we know it works'”.

WoodblocX competition
Congratulations to Ian Burnett of Lancashire who was the winner in our recent competition to win a Woodblocx kit.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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