Category Archives: Community Garden

Community Garden – 20th & 21st July 2013

Work continues in the garden and it is beginning to bear fruit – well veg – as we picked peas and beans this weekend and ate them together during the barbeque after our work morning on Saturday. The children also picked some after church on Sunday morning and “shared the peas” with the rest of the church over tea and coffee.

On Saturday we  cut some of the grass, did some weeding and tidying along with starting to edge one of the beds with stones ably helped by some of the local children who seemed to enjoy being in our green space (and slightly brown due to lack of rain).

One of the big problems with our garden is the soil, it is quite thin, poor and very dry with loads of rubble just under the surface. We are trying to source some free topsoil but this has not been successful yet. The lack of depth of soil has meant that our first vegetable bed has had to be raised and has used the soil from where we were planning another bed leaving a big hole. It was while reflecting on the quality of the soil and where we might get some that I suddenly realised that I had become blinkered in my thinking! One way of creating a raised bed, creating good soil and getting rid of some of the garden waste all at the same time is to bury the garden waste and make what is called a Hugel-Kultur bed. These beds have been well demonstrated by an Austrian called Sepp Holzer who makes Hugel-Kultur beds using whole trees on a mountain side in Austria. As the wood and green waste rots down it provides a home for lots of beneficial microbes and fungi in the soil, helps to trap and store water and traps carbon dioxide in the soil. I have made two mini-hugel beds in my home garden with considerable Hugel Kultur bed 1success. Since we had just generated a load of garden “waste” on the Saturday by pruning back shrubs, hedges and trees at the front of the church along with cutting the grass this was the perfect opportunity to find a new home for it and create some soil so on Sunday afternoon we moved it all into the big hole that Tony, Joanne and others had dug. You can see in the picture that there is a wide range of plant material including a few solid branches, a Christmas tree, etc. It is important that we use materials that will rot down and don’t inhibit fungi and bacteria. Our next step will be to add some more grass cuttings, water well ( I think the thunderstorms of today (Tuesday) will have done a pretty good job, cover over with soil and then immediately plant up with a good green manure – we will probably use red clover – which will provide much needed nitrogen to the soil. Into this we will eventually be able to plant vegetables – at home I have grown some superb tomatoes and squashes.

For more on Hugel-Kultur beds read:

Community Garden – 16th June 2013

There are a lot of tired feet and legs around church today after yesterday’s walk but we still managed to raise a group of people to do a bit of work today. Over the last couple of weeks Tony and Joanne, with some help from Danny and others, have made a superb effort on digging the beds (yes, it is now plural!) Today we managed to get the wooden edge for the first bed finished, this is made from the timber that used to be the vicarage fence until the wind blew it down. It’s not brilliant timber but it was a timely gift that blew in!

The four apple trees are doing really well and I am very pleased with them. The peas and beans are making steady progress, they have been a bit buffeted by the wind and we will need to look at how we support them a bit better and perhaps protect them a bit better. We have flower on the loganberry and strawberries so hopefully we will get some fruit this year. The two rose trees and the unidentified tree near the gate look stunning after their pruning and with all the flower that is on them they are buzzing with bees.

The grass has got a little too long and Rob and Ramesh have made a very brave effort to cut it using a push mower! Hopefully the church mower will reappear this week after a much needed service and repair. The wild flowers in the grass do look stunning though and we will be keeping a wild flower grass patch.

After the morning service the garden was also visited by the Archdeacon of Leeds, the Venerable Paul Hooper who led our service this morning. Unfortunately we were unable to persuade him to stay long enough to join us in the digging!

The huge amount of stone that has been dug out suggests that we will need to import some topsoil or compost so …. get your tyres pumped up on your wheelbarrows, we may need them soon!

Community Garden session 8 + 9 – Sunday Afternoon 26th May and 2nd June

Work continues, the weather has been kind but the ground has not! As you can see from these photos the ground is very difficult, it’s not just boulders, rocks, stones and concrete, Tony and Joanne found another conduit with a cable in it. Fortunately they didn’t do what I did to Rev Steve’s cable!

If we had the money we would just build raised beds on top of ground and fill it with imported top soil or compost, but we can’t afford that and it would be a high-carbon solution (lots of fuel used to transport wood and soil). Our aim is to re-use as much materials as possible and to regenerate / generate the soil. It may take a while but “Rome wasn’t built in a day” or as Permaculturalists say “slow and steady wins the race”!

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We still want to “obtain a yield” though and the plants we have put in are doing surprisingly well, even if the odd slug has appeared. We have also added some comfrey, a small hazel, mint and some raspberry plants to the collection. Ramesh, ably supported by Rob, has managed to cut some of the grass – we will leave an area for wild flowers to grow in – and this will hopefully add to the composting and help to improve the soil. We also have some alfalfa seed to use as a green manure. Alfalfa has very deep roots that seek out minerals and nutrients deep in the ground and pull these up into the leaves and upper roots making them available to other plants. It also helps to break up and aerate the soil – something our soil desperately needs!

Apple BlossomThe fruit trees are looking good and two of them have some blossom on – we mustn’t let them fruit this year as we want all their energy to go into becoming strong established plants.

So, we continue to make steady progress. We have lots of issues still to tackle such as access to the garden and water, but I’m sure we will come up with creative and effective solutions. As always, if you would like to help or just offer encouragement, do get in touch.

Community Garden session 7 – Sunday Afternoon 19th May

In the absence of Paul the garden continued to grow a little on Sunday. We started out doing some weeding. Pippa and Jackie brought along their peas and beans which looked like they had been very happy on her window sill. She also dropped off a palette to help build the compost heap!

Danny offered his assistance again and together with Jo they planted some beans and peas in the raised bed. Tony wrestled with some more large stones while digging and extended the raised bed a little – hardly noticeable really but enough for some more planting this weekend. Some of the removed grass turfs were added upside down to the bottom of the bed so that the grass can rot down.

Rev Steve has been watering the plants during the week and they are looking good.

Next Sunday we hope to have a team working again when we will try to dig and build the remainder of the first raised bed, and possibly cut the grass. A few more palettes and we’ll be able to build the compost heap as well. Progress is slowly being made!


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Community Garden session 6 – Sunday Afternoon 12th May

This Sunday we invited members of the congregation to bring back their pea and bean plants if they had grown to a reasonable size – and if they wanted to – so that we could plant them in the garden. Unfortunately, because it had taken us so long to prepare the ground for the apple trees the first vegetable bed was not ready so the beans and peas were planted along the vicarage fence and under the other two fruit trees along with some strawberry plants. It never ceases to amaze me how few people have grown plants from seed or planted plants out in the garden! Definitely something to work on.

Raised BedOnce we had planted our young plants we went back to tackling the first vegetable bed. Since we now have timber from the blown down fence we don’t have to go foraging / purchasing any edging yet, however, the timbers are slightly shorter than the width of the bed so rather than messing about with cutting wood to size we are going to reduce the width of the bed slightly. Alternatively we could “nick” some of the timbers from the nice new fence to the vicarage – or maybe not! Joanne yet again started digging to Australia using the new spade and fork that we now have (thanks Tony and Joanne!) but this time she came up against a much tougher barrier, a lump of rock almost as wide as the vegetable bed. Fortunately, by the time we get the bed raised the soil should be deep enough for most plants but it has reminded us of what we are up against.

The contractors who put up the fence said that they were coming back to take away the plant waste and last week we thought that we had missed out the chance of burning it and incorporating the ash into the soil. Fortunately they haven’t been so the two pyromaniacs (T&J) set light to it being careful not to burn down the church.

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Many thanks this week to Tony, Joanne, Andrea, Kate, all the pea and bean growers, the children, to anyone else I have forgotten and to the tea boy (Rev Steve). I’ve got a few weeks off now for good behaviour so Tony and Joanne are in charge and I hope to be writing up some of the Permaculture thinking behind the planning of the garden over the next few weeks.



Community Garden weekend – Sunday Afternoon – no.5

Sunday 5th May, beautiful weather and we are going to get these trees planted!

Dandelion Tree!

Dandelion Tree!


After the church service the congregation were invited to come into the garden to see how things were going, to discuss our plans and to see where their peas and beans are going to end up. The children in particular seemed to enjoy the garden and very quickly picked loads of dandelions to make chains of yellow flowers which they hung from the rose tree.



With a larger number of volunteers we managed to dig over the bed next to the fence and to finish digging out the trench for the trees to a sufficient depth and width so in went the rest of the trees along with two blackcurrants and two loganberries which we will try to grow up the fence to provide some privacy for the vicarage.

We also dismantled the old fence for the wood panels that we hope to use for making slightly raised beds. The timber is old and dry but it should suffice for the time being. We also have a huge pile of cuttings from the cotoneaster that was cut down. We had hoped to burn this for the ash to enrich the soil but we ran out of time and it will probably be removed by contractors during the week – an opportunity missed!

A huge thank you to Tony, Joanne, Pippa, Rob, Ramesh, Steve, Danny, Catherine, Buster (the dog!), the children and everyone else who helped to make the weekend so productive. The garden is beginning to take shape!

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Community Garden weekend – Saturday morning – no.4

This weekend saw two work sessions in the garden – on the Saturday morning and the Sunday afternoon. The main aim being to get the four fruit trees planted and to plant some other fruit bushes that we had acquired.

The trees are from Ashridge Nurseries and are all maidens:

Tony and Joanne tackle the stony ground

Tony and Joanne tackle the stony ground

Saturday morning saw Tony and Joanne hacking away at the stony ground. Huge pieces of stone and brick were dug up. Joanne in particular seemed intent on digging a hole through to Australia!

During the week contractors had been to replace the vicarage fence that had blown down. They also removed the whole of a fantastic cotoneaster that had been growing along the fence. The new fence was about 2m tall and provided some privacy for Rev Steve but the old fence is lower and without the plant allows us to watch Rev Steve making his cups of tea in his kitchen. We will need to look at growing something new, attractive and hopefully productive along that section of the fence.

The soil against the fence that has now been revealed looks quite rich. It is dark and moist and contains a lot of works. Because we needed a quick fix for planting  our trees – it looked like we would need a week of digging to get the trench ready for four – we decided to plant two of them against the fence and to grow them as espaliers so in went the Greensleeves with plenty of water and a bit of micorrhizal fungi rootgrow. Mycorrhizae are fungi that coexist in the soil with plant root systems. They have a symbiotic relationship in which the fungi provide the host with additional water and nutrient in exchange for the plant’s waste products (mainly starches) that the fungi require to grow. Mycorrhizae grow vastly more rapidly than roots and so they can increase the effective root area of a plant many times in only a few weeks.

Lunchtime came, hands were blistered, so we decided to call it a day and reconvene after church on Sunday.

Community Garden work afternoon – no.3

The 28th April saw another very busy Sunday with AJAR holding their training event at church so person power in the garden was a little low!

The good news was that we had acquired four apple trees for planting. They are maidens on MM106 rootstock and so should train into espaliers or cordons according to our requirements. The plan is to have a tunnel made out of two rows of fruit trees (probably apple and pear) outside the window of the church. This should look stunning in the spring when they are in blossom (any potential weddings at this time of year?) though you might want to wear a hard hat if you walk through the tunnel in autumn. Anyway, that is some time off yet!

So, measure up, mark out, in goes the spade and … guess what … there is that Virgin Media cable again, but fortunately not cut this time. Relocate the markers, start digging …. guess what …. more stone. The top couple of centimetres of soil has been formed from the rotting down of grass and leaves over the last umpteen years and so looks quite good but underneath the soil is either dry, dusty and stony or rock solid clay or rubble. It is going to take some time to dig this trench so I am going to have to heal in the fruit trees (stick them in some soil to keep the roots cool and moist) for a week or two.

In Permaculture our aim is to turn “spirals of erosion” into “spirals of abundance”. A spiral of erosion could also be known as a vicious cycle and they lead to resources being lost. A simple example is growing the same crop on the same bit of soil every year, the crop removes the same nutrients from the soil every year, it is then harvested and the soil gets poorer. To turn this into a spiral of abundance we have to find a “point of intervention”, a way in which we can interrupt this cycle and turn it into one of positive feedback and productivity.

We also try to identify the limiting factors – those things which stop us from making effective interventions, things that lead to a leak or blockage of resources and energies that are needed to create our spiral of abundance.

I am beginning to identify some of these now in our garden. Obviously the quality of the soil is going to be a limiting factor. To improve our soil we currently have a number of strategies:

  • we have started a compost heap which will hopefully develop into a proper two or three bin system
  • we have got the congregation to start growing legumes for the garden – peas and beans are good at fixing nitrogen in their roots which helps to improve the soil
  • we will be planting lots of green manure such as afalfa which has deep tap roots that can draw goodness up from clay deep in the ground. Green manures also cover over bare soil to stop it being eroded by the wind and rain, the roots help to break up and aerate the soil, the leaves will eventually be used as mulch or compost and the roots will die back to help form humus (organic matter) in the soil which helps to prevent erosion and to store moisture
  • we will plant some comfrey which helps to improve the soil (rather like afalfa) and can be used to make a liquid feed
  • importing some compost – one of our volunteers does some work at a local gardens where there is a surplus of compost and he has volunteered to bring some back for us

All this will take time but it has taken time for the spiral of erosion to work on the land, we can’t expect to change it overnight without a major input of energy and importing lots of materials, both of which we are trying to avoid. The major input of energy needed at the moment is to finish digging a trench to plant our fruit trees and that is the plan for next weekend!

Community Garden work afternoon – no.2

This Sunday was a very busy day with  the church’s AGM following the service. potThis was closely followed by the opportunity to plant some pea and bean seeds to take home and germinate on all those window sills. Since we don’t have a green house at church this seemed like a good way of using the resources that are available to us as well as giving lots of people the chance to grow their own plants – though we do hope that in a few weeks time some of them will be returned to plant in the garden!

As for the garden itself, Joanne continued working on clearing the Russian Vine and Tony and I continued to work on the first vegetable bed and started a second bed.


After last weeks efforts we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Rev Steve’s TV / phone / broadband cable had been repaired and still occupied the same bit of soil so we were going to lose that part of the bed until the cable gets re-routed.



concrete1The next bit of bed turned out have a solid lump of concrete only a few inches below the soil! This wasn’t in the plans! And as Tony cleared the turf off the second bed he found a rock with another cable duct under, fortunately he didn’t cut through it like I did the previous week.

What should we do?

The ideal would be to have raised beds. The soil here is not very good, has loads of rubble in it and is not very deep but we have no funds at the moment to buy in the materials to make raised beds or for compost / soil to fill them. Circumstances and a desire to be regenerative mean that we will have to find a way round this problem.

The soil between the “new” cable and the lump of concrete seems reasonable clear of big stones and looks as if it is about a spades depth before it hits the worst of the clay and stone so we have combined one third of one bed with two thirds of the other bed to make the new bed. The turves that we have been digging up are currently piled to allow the grass in them to rot down so that we can re-use the soil as top soil later. The stones we have been digging out are going to be used to make paths between the short ends of the beds which means that we can lift that topsoil for use in the beds as well. So, hopefully, we will be able to get a reasonable depth of soil. Maybe one day we will be able to raise the beds.

Meanwhile, Joanne had been chopping up all the Russian Vine. Time for a fire! We moved the material onto the bed we had been working on and lit the touch paper. There’s something very satisfying about fires! Although they produce carbon dioxide they are also part of the regenerative cycle. We burnt up all the Russian Vine which we would otherwise probably have had to remove from the site as I doubt whether it would compost down very well, and we burnt the cuttings from the rose tree. The result, a big pile of ash to dig into the bed, a great discussion about biochar, the Zai method of farming used by Yacouba Sawadogo in the Sahel and other exciting things that are happening around the world to regenerate soil and recreate abundance that nature provides. Maybe, eventually, All Hallows’ Community Garden will be part of all this!

So, next we will finish digging this bed and in a few weeks time we hope to plant all those pea and bean plants that are now germinating on the “AH distributed windowsill greenhouse” along with some green manure to help cover enrich the soil. We are still on the look out for some old doors or / and pallets to make our compost heap so if anyone has any to spare please let us know.

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If you are inspired to be part of this project then do contact me via the Church Wardens email address or via this blog.

Community Garden work afternoon – no.1

This afternoon was our first work session in the church garden which we hope to develop into a community garden. As you can see from this photo the garden has been neglected for some time, the grass was being cut regularly until last year and some of the plants are rather overgrown.


There have been a good number of people who have expressed interest in getting the garden going and after church today we got started. The sun kept breaking out between the clouds and the rain held off allowing us to complete several hours of work. A huge Russian Vine which has already manged to invade into the church building through a window vent was cut right back to the ground and now awaits burning to enrich the soil, the very large rose tree seen in the middle of the picture above was pruned back to a more manageable size, huge amounts of rubbish (and potential treasure?) was cleared up and we made a start on the first vegetable bed. This bed is full of rubble, presumably from the old church so we felt that we were a bit like a Time Team. We hope that in a week or two we will get this bed dug over properly so that we can grow some legumes and green manure in it in order to improve the soil.

We hope to continue work next Sunday afternoon – everyone welcome.

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Thanks to Tony, Joanne, Lois, Angus, Ramesh and Rob and a big thank you to Rev Steve for lending us some tools …. and I’m so sorry about the TV cable!