Guest blog from The Growing Kitchen & Wenlock Orchard

The Growing Kitchen and Wenlock Orchard are resident led, community food growing spaces on The Wenlock Barn Estate in Hackney. Volunteers have transformed three spaces on the estate from mown grass to thriving, organic, productive sites for people and nature. Residents have individual micro allotments in The Growing Kitchen and jointly care for a shared foraging area with soft fruits, rhubarb and the orchard. Both sites have become havens for wildlife and we have a healthy population of breeding smooth newts and common toads, along with an amazing variety of moths, butterflies and bees. The spaces offer the community tranquil, natural spaces to spend time in, grow their own food and meet their neighbours.

During lockdown…

There is something very reassuring in the fact that nature’s processes continue without our intervention. The toads and newts spawned in the pond and the little toad tadpoles now have their back legs. It’s such a delight to be able to see them progressing through their life cycle and never fails to evoke feelings of true awe and wonder.

Meanwhile the berries are ripening on the fruit bushes, a mixture of strawberries, raspberries, black and red currants, gooseberries and one of my favourites, the jostaberry, a delicious blackcurrant, gooseberry hybrid, which is sweet enough to just eat straight from the plant. The first cherries were ready in May this year!

We’ve been feeding the fruits with homemade comfrey and nettle tea which works as an excellent feed rich in nitrogen and potassium, essential for fruit growth. Pretty stinky but when you know it’s doing the plants good, it’s bearable!

Watering has been a real challenge in the sunniest April on record, combined with those winds that further dried the soil. Mulching with wood chip and a good soaking with watering cans so you know how much each plant or tree is getting works better in lots of ways than the hose. We’ve had a watering rota but it’s been hard to keep up and the newer apricot trees in the orchard have suffered a little. Looking forward to some more rain! Can’t wait to taste the plums that are ripening in the orchard and watch the toadlets take their first steps out of the pond.

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