Forest Gate Community Garden
Monday, 29 May 2023
The last half of May has been dry, after a very wet April and March. The garden is still green as the earlier rain has soaked into the soil, but another week or so and the plants in the soil will begin to suffer as those in pots and raised beds already are. We are watering regularly and our supplies are running down quickly. I look at the forecast, and they say there’s next to no rain in the next ten days. Could this be the beginning of a long drought?
The plumber has been and given us a quote to put in a standpipe. Thames Water will be here in a month or so to put in the water meter, and then we will have water on tap. Such luxury. We soon forget, as it wasn’t so long ago when the Gateway estate was being built, we had a water tap courtesy of the builders. But once they had completion, they turned us off.
Earlham Bridge, the big plant out we did a couple of weeks ago, is suffering from lack of water too. We barrowed water there in the week, and again yesterday. An obliging neighbour has offered his hose. We will take him up on his offer.
I see the first frog from the pond. Such a tiny thing! I missed those developing back legs, then front, and finally the tail going. Missed it all. These are the outward signs of development, while internally a skeleton has been growing with muscles for the limbs, early sex organs, teeth, ears. The froglets leave the pond, and spend three years away, though they might return if the drought persists as it will be the only wet place nearby. Should they dry out, they die.
There’s a mistake in my wildflower display. I had called one of the plants bristly ox-tongue, but it has been growing more prickly, as opposed to bristly. I make the correction on the clothes peg label. It’s now spear thistle. In two weeks I am doing a session on wildflowers (Saturday 10 June, 2 to 3 pm, all welcome). I have a fair knowledge of wildflowers, but make mistakes. Then again, this isn’t a University course. Which reminds me of the definition of an expert: someone who knows a bit more than you do.
The buddleia leaf curl has been picked up by the nearby bird cherry. I assume it’s the same disease, as the curl is similar and they are neighbours. This is the price of green fecundity, plenty for the parasites to attack, and to multiply.
Our peaceful garden is a battleground.
In and around our pond are lots of damselflies. Some flying in pairs, like two aircraft attached nose to tail. These are mating pairs. On quite a few of the iris leaves are the husks of the damselflies. The larvae climb onto the leaf after three years in the water, and shed their final skin, emerging as adults at long last. But it’s a short adulthood, their one task is to mate, and then they will die.
The wildflower bed is coming into its own. I watch over it with impatience, knowing it will be the glory of the garden. Already I see red poppies, California poppies, scentless mayweed, forget-me-nots, herb robert, and vetch. In amongst them are soft fruit: raspberries and gooseberries, the latter almost ripe.
I see a cabbage white butterfly and a common blue. There are bumble bees darting into the flowers, and solitary bees too. Honey bees, from our neighbour’s garden, drink at our pond. There’s plenty of hoverflies, looking like wasps, but lacking a buzz. I have seen few ladybirds.
The small pergola has been extended, thanks to corporate volunteers. There is already a grapevine climbing on the old half, and we look forward to it covering the enlarged structure, with dangling, juicy, purple bunches in the autumn.
All the raised vegetable beds are now filled with compost, with plants coming through. We have volunteers keen to water on the days when the garden is closed. I note runner beans, potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes and onions. And think back on the Americana project of two years ago. The first three on that list originated on that continent.