Derek – Friday 28th May 2020

Gateway agreed to put in a water tap as a quid pro quo for the space they have taken from us for as long as their building work continues. I was pessimistic on their timetable for installing it. My feeling was, now that they have what they want, why hurry. But they did it quickly, and now we have running water in the garden. An iota of my confidence in human nature is restored.

The tap is between the metre cube and the compost heaps. Beneath it is a tank where we can scoop water into watering cans. And, of course, attach a hose to the tap. If this drought goes on much longer there may be a hosepipe ban. In the meantime, we can water the garden freely. It is such a novel experience for us.

Forest Gate Community Garden has been open since 2016. All that time, up to now, we’ve had no running water, relying on water butts and, at the driest of times, help from our friends. The worst time was the summer of 2018 when the drought lasted two months. At least we were able to bring water in. That is ruled out this year because of social distancing, so the tap is a godsend.

Being short of water in the past highlights how important water is to plants. Water allows vital chemicals to flow round a plant. Water is the skeleton; pressure in the cells keeps plants upright. We recognize lack of water by flaccid plants, which have little water pressure in their dried out cells.

And then we have photosynthesis, the process which feeds us all. Photosynthesis is the mechanism by which a plant makes sugar (glucose or fructose) in its leaves. Sugar gives the plant energy for growth, making fruit and setting seeds. The vital ingredients are carbon dioxide (that goody/baddy gas), sunlight and water in the presence of chlorophyll. It can be represented by:

6CO2 + 6H2O →C6H12O6 + 602

or Carbon dioxide + Water →Glucose + Oxygen

The process is much more complicated than that equation suggests. There are many sub stages involving chlorophyll, giving many a biochemistry student sleepless nights. Across the world scientists have been attempting for many years to replicate photosynthesis. If they succeed, they could feed the world from a chemical plant (as opposed to a biological one). But of more interest to the chemical giants, is the fact that they could make billions.

Our elder is in bloom, full of elder blossom. Some time ago, a friend of mine made elderflower champagne from the elder flowers and sugar. It was lightly alcoholic, around 0.5%, and delicious. We were having a summer party a couple of weeks later and he put a gallon in the punch. That was delicious too and so drinkable. But the punch gave everyone, who had more than a glass of it, the worst hangover ever. Fermentation had obviously continued, giving a dreadful morning after.

Our wild flower patch is on the march. So far we have California poppies, mayweed, white campion, hedge mustard and borage. Other plants are slow due to lack of water, but they are catching up as we have given the bed a good soaking. I am sure we’ll have a brilliant display in a few weeks.

We have made another video tour of the garden. As well as flowers, you’ll see changes to the garden, dragonflies and a family of foxes setting off to forage the local streets. Here’s the link:

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