We started at the beds in March, tidied them up, got potatoes in and compost on, all going nicely. Then lockdown started although we tended the beds, but within the new rules. We still sourced plants, strimmed the edges and watered; who remembers all that hot weather?
In new developments, we produced information sheets about the crops we were growing including advice on using them. We also labelled the plants which went down well with visitors. We also have a new sign in front of the beds which reflects new information e.g. the web site.
Strawberry plants had to be cleared from some squares to make room for other crops. We gave some away to passers-by, and invited people on social media to help themselves to plants we left on the grass. We were pleased they were all taken.
A good harvest
Crops grew well and we had some decent harvests and colourful flowers. For the first time, it seems that some people harvested potatoes as there weren’t many left when we checked. We also saw people come to the beds specially to collect the lovely looking oregano for cooking. We also planted a range of smaller plants later in the year to leave in over winter (dill, parsley, dragons tongue, etc and several squares of garlic).
There’s always one!
There was one disappointing spot of vandalism and a problem with the sorrel which suddenly developed rust spots and had to be cut right back. It looked fresher when it grew again (and more appetising for the little boy who gorges on it every time he comes to the park) so we’ll keep doing that in future.
Impact of Covid lockdown /restrictions
Looking back now the lockdown, and the drought, we’re now used to working in a different way. Volunteers have been going alone, or jointly, and much more frequently than normal. This is something that the retired volunteers could keep doing in future, even though the fortnightly sessions would continue.
The importance of a quick chat
We’re used to passers-by stopping to chat, show appreciation and ask questions but this really took on a new dimension in lockdown. It was quite easy to have friendly interactions with people whilst social distancing. Where else could you speak so easily to strangers? It must have provided some of those on their solitary walks with the only social contact in their day.
In a play park like St Mary’s our beds provide a real point of interest for older people who aren’t drawn to the swings or exercise equipment, as well as the families who like their kids to see where food comes from. It also appeals to those curious to know what’s growing and how to cook it. One big attraction is the variety of crops we grow, so there’s always something new to see. There’s also the fact that by the nature of things the beds are always changing as things grow, flower and fruit. It’s very much alive!
We’d like to thank all the volunteers who helped at St Mary’s over the year and made sure the beds were still a focal point in the park.