We have a WONDERFUL NEW WEBSITE. There's still a few bits on this site that need to come across to it - but all the latest info is there.
EDIBLE LANDSCAPES LONDON is a volunteer-led project which aims to help Londoners grow more of their own food. We propagate edible plants which are then used on local growing projects. We teach people how to recognise plants, which parts are edible, how to propagate them, how they are grown in a forest garden and even how to cook with them. Our workdays (Monday and Friday) are open to anyone who has an interest in growing and eating food. Shared lunch is at 1pm.
latest news: the great plant giveaway
by Hannah Roberson ... November 2012
Worrying news at ELL this week when the leaseholders, Metropolitan Housing (with whom we share the site), informed us that we need to almost halve the amount of land we are using. The last few days have seen a frenzy of activity as we try to spread the word to other food-growing projects, asking if they can find a use for our soon-to-be-homeless plants, and discuss ways to move forward that both meet the obligations in our lease and allow us to continue growing and thriving as a project.
In September, we were granted Lottery funding that will enable us to run accredited training. We asked Metropolitan for the use of some extra land for our ‘Creating a Forest Garden’ courses. This would allow two groups of students to create a forest garden on-site in 2013, transforming currently unused land into productive, attractive permaculture spaces and equipping at least 40 people with the skills to replicate this elsewhere. As part of the negotiations for the extra land, Metropolitan measured our site (for the first time in over two years) and found that our original agreement with them was based on quite a significant underestimate. They are now insisting that we reduce the area we are using to the 80 square metres specified in the agreement.
We are happy to comply with their request. As the leaseholders, they are entitled to do this – and it has given us the opportunity to give away plants to other food-growing projects, which is, of course, what we are here for! However, we are struggling to understand why, after we have been making use of the same strip of land in this way for so long, with nobody measuring or expressing concerns about how much space we were using, Metropolitan have suddenly decided to enforce the letter of the law, and moreover to change the agreement to include pathways. Since these were not included in the original estimate, we actually have even less space than we thought we did before.
In practice, this means we would need to reduce our growing space by removing one entire raised bed and at least 60 plants in pots. It also means dismantling many of the creative ways we have adapted the site to use natural resources and ‘waste’ sustainably: our compost heap, our outdoor loo (free nitrogen!) and our rainwater harvester. This last was built alongside 20 teenagers from ‘the Challenge’ and was a great achievement for the project. We had discussed this with Metropolitan before building it and they raised no concerns about the extra space it might take up.
It is disappointing to have to undo work that has been done by volunteers for the benefit of the local community and the environment, and to have it forced upon us so suddenly. Still, since this happened we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from local residents and other food-growing projects. We have been inundated with emails offering to store plants and other materials, and advocating for us with Metropolitan’s management and local councillors. The events have even attracted the attention of the local press. We also have the satisfaction of knowing that our plants are now growing in 8 local food projects so far - mostly school gardens and estates, including "Pensioners’ Paradise" in east London. It is encouraging to see that so many people in the local area and the wider food-growing movement support our aims of growing edible low-maintenance plants and ensuring that public land is used for initiatives that benefit the community.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE SOME FREE PLANTS FOR YOUR COMMUNITY FOOD-GROWING PROJECT, PLEASE CONTACT US TO ARRANGE A TIME TO COLLECT THEM.
Our showcase bed has been primped, re-signed and has a few losses and additions in 2012: in come seed-grown Loquat and True Service Tree. Out go Medlar and Chinese Dogwood - both non-starters. Caucasian spinach died suddenly in June, but fortunately we have 40 seedling plants growing very well at our supplementary nursery (at Parkwood Primary School) as well as the splendid specimen in the propagation area.
Our edible hedge, showcase salad bed and mother bed are nicely established, we have loads of successful cuttings from the spring and quite a few grafted trees. In our rootstock area, there's some plants that we propagated last year that could do with planting out. To this end, we had a plant give away in May at which we gave plants to four schools, Greenwich University, the Castle Climbing Centre and four communal gardens. Projects pay for plants by exchange, with a donation or not at all.
Seeds collected from Plants for a Future last year didn't germinate, but we have had success with Quince and Service Tree, amongst others. Sea Buckthorns, Siberian Pea Tree and Eleagnus are looking great, we have some nice new scramblers to propagate from - thornless blackberry, loganberry and tayberry. Our plants are listed here. On this spreadsheet you'll see what plants we have, where they're planted, how many we have, what parts to eat, how to propagate them, what plants we want and even which plants have been used in other projects.
WHAT WE NEED TO DO NEXT is to systematically put into action a programme of propagation to make sure we have plenty of what we want. We need signage for the edible hedge and to get hold of extra plants for our shady salad bed - e.g. Plum Yew and Groundcover Raspberry. We also want to buy loads of special pots which air prune the roots, thereby developing healthy roots.
For our shared lunches Richard (AKA the Offgrid Chef) has been regularly bringing in cooked up delights which he cooks outside at his allotment in Wood Green. During the spring we cooked or warmed up food on an open fire at ELL. Gemma continues to bring in experimental recipes made from UK and foraged ingredients. At the moment there's lots of split pea dips and pastry to enjoy. We always have a hand-picked salad. In addition, all volunteers are invited to take a bag of leaves home with them every time they come.
Leaves: Yarrow, Land Cress, Giant Red Mustard, Horseradish, Salad Burnet, Chard, Perennial Broccoli, Hops, Violet, Chives, Siberian Purslane, Red Veined Sorrel, Everlasting Onion, Tree Onion.
Flowers: Honesty, Violet, Chives, Sage.
Leaves: Polish Sorrel, Marguerite, Perennial Rocket, Ice Plant, Horseradish, Lime (Tilia), Sweet Cicetly, Marjoram, Caucasian Spinach, Fennel, Oxalis, Mint, Lemon Balm, Mallow.
Flowers: Mallow, Turkish Rocket, Rose, Salsify, Calendula.
Fruits: Strawberries, Blackcurrants.
WHAT WE NEED TO DO NEXT is ramp up the cooking side of things, with the help of our friends from The People's Kitchen. They are keen to come on site every other week, initially, and get cooking with food from local supermarkets that would otherwise be wasted. The People's Kitchen already operates succesfully at Passing Clouds in Dalston (weekly) and at a site in Brixton.
Alongside the regular informal training, roughly once a month we offer some kind of more formal training; on a Saturday and the following Friday. We've covered plant identification, taxonomy, various kinds of plant propogation and toolcare. People can pay for our training by volunteering with us in advance, with Time Credits, with North London LETS pledges or in pounds sterling. There are reductions for those not working and those aligned with other Capital Growth sites. The courses have been very popular, most attendees so far are already fairly knowledgeable or associated with an existing growing project. The teachers have all been volunteers from the project and we are developing a good 'stock' of teachers, lessons plans, confidence and experience. We've also offered training workshops at festivals and at events, for example at the Capital Growth summer networking event. Training is our biggest source of income.
We now have a way of reclaiming some of the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) that would otherwise be flushed down the toilet. Our state-of-the-art NPK collection point allows site users to retrieve and then donate their own NPK, applying it directly where it's most needed and keeping our plants healthy. We focus on the larger shrubs and trees in the showcase bed, mother bed, edible hedge, as well as ensuring any potted trees get their fair share. This, along with our regular top mulches of leaf mould, ensure that our longer-term plants get all the nutrients they need. To assist our volunteers we have a couple of prominent markers indicate what needs fertilising next.
WHAT WE NEED TO DO NEXT is complete our rainwater harvesting design and put it into practice. The conversation has been going on for over a year now, with a number of different proposed ideas almost reaching fruition, only to falter. We've been helped out by the extra rain this year. Jane has been leading on this but would love to have someone help her get this finished.