OxGrow Monthly – July 2016

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‘Leaves
Murmuring by miriads in the shimmering trees…’

TV presenters tell us we’ve been having a ‘heat wave’, but it is such a poor expression. What actually happens is infinitely more complex and interesting than what is conveyed by that dry (ekhm) phrase.

For those lucky enough to be enjoying their summer break, hot days mean a wonderfully lazy time: having ice cream, cooling off in the river or Hinksey Lake, listening to bees humming in the garden (and neighbours blasting summer hits through their windows)… Wilfred Owen captures the heat-infused summer mood perfectly in his poem ‘From My Diary, July 1914’, which I enclose below this post – enjoy!

For gardeners, hot days mean hard work: we’ve been spending lots of our time watering all our crops, both in the polytunnels and outside, but even so the earth got so dry in some patches that it started to crack (to the point where it reminded me of that scene from the Lion King when Timon and Pumba find Simba – scary!)

But the garden seems to be doing well regardless. It is so abundant right now, with a lush green backdrop against which the wild flowers are swaying their vividly multi-coloured heads, and a glorious gala of leaves and tops which come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes: the feathery crowns of fennel, cumin and coriander; the regal parsnip and carrot tops, the lazily sprawling beet and turnip leaves, and the huge, exotic looking leaves of horseradish, squash and courgettes. Bees and butterflies visit often, attracted by the wildflowers. We’ve also spotted some pond skaters skimming along the pond surface and we wonder what other creatures are living in it which we can’t even see…

We have been harvesting loads. Some plants only give us a little bit, just enough to gather a handful and stuff it in our mouths, which we have been doing with raspberries, wild strawberries, and sweet peas. Others come in batches big enough to cook or preserve, and so we’ve been making sauerkraut with our cabbages, ratatouille with our courgettes, side dishes of fried, steamed and cooked beans (dwarf, French, speckled…), and an infinite assortment of salads (made with rocket, mustard, mizuna, turnip tops, amaranth leaves, and herbs such as sage, mint, fennel, and dill). An absolutely incredible discovery of this month was, for me, fried tiny turnips: after I’ve thinned them to make room for the remaining ones to get bigger, I took the tiny ones home, removed the tops, scrubbed them clean, and fried them for a few minutes in a little rapeseed oil. They were delicious – tender, sweet, and packed with a kind of nutty, rich flavour.

The most satisfying thing about cooking OxGrow stuff is that you know it is so special – not only was it grown together by a bunch of lovely, dedicated people, but it is often stuff you would not get anywhere else. No shops sell thinned tiny turnips. Not many sell heritage varieties such as achochas, which we planted last month and which will soon be ready to eat. And none of the stuff from the shop will ever be as fresh or tasty as that bit of kale I picked yesterday afternoon and steamed later that same evening.

Despite all the work we had to do – the incessant and relentless drill of weeding, watering, sowing, harvesting, thinning, planting, trimming, cutting, weeding, watering, sowing, thinning, planting, trimming, weeding… you get the idea – we still found a little bit of time to enjoy the space, have some of those delicious Hogacre Café treats on Sundays and share a bit of food on Wednesday evenings.

And we found some time to plot and plan a little… We have some exciting ideas for the coming months. Keep your eyes peeled for updates – we are looking to have quite a few events in the garden in late summer and early autumn (workshops, courses, and arts and crafts evenings). We’ll be spreading the word via our newsletter, social media, and the wider Oxford networks, so stay tuned.

If ever you feel like you need a bit of space just to catch your breath and escape the pressures of the modern world for a little bit, feel free to come down and join us on any Sunday afternoon or Wednesday evening. There’s no other place like this in Oxford – our very own secret garden.

 

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July Newsletters:

(And here’s the poem I mentioned earlier:)

Wilfred Owen
From My Diary, July 1914

Leaves
Murmuring by miriads in the shimmering trees.
Lives
Wakening with wonder in the Pyrenees.
Birds
Cheerily chirping in the early day.
Bards
Singing of summer, scything thro’ the hay.
Bees
Shaking the heavy dews from bloom and frond.
Boys
Bursting the surface of the ebony pond.
Flashes
Of swimmers carving thro’ the sparkling cold.
Fleshes
Gleaming with wetness to the morning gold.
A mead
Bordered about with warbling water brooks.
A maid
Laughing the love-laugh with me; proud of looks.
The heat
Throbbing between the upland and the peak.
Her heart
Quivering with passion to my pressed cheek.
Braiding
Of floating flames across the mountain brow.
Brooding
Of stillness; and a sighing of the bough.
Stirs
Of leaflets in the gloom; soft petal-showers;
Stars
Expanding with the starr’d nocturnal flowers.

 

OxGrow Monthly – June 2016

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Summer sun is here and the garden is bursting with life! The combination of a few hot days, interspersed with rain showers, is enough to transform the place into an abundant, productive garden as we see seedlings maturing into the plants we recognise. The last weeks of June are the time to keep on sowing to ensure a plentiful harvest for late Summer and early Autumn. The last few weeks at OxGrow have seen much digging, raking and watering. We have so many plants growing now it can be hard to remember them all! The broad beans are bursting out of their nets but still need a little more time to fully develop. Onions and leeks are steadily ripening and a few strawberries are beginning to weigh down their stems. In addition, the harvest bed is full with potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sweet corn, and cabbages. More recently, salads, tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes and pumpkins have been planted.

Elsewhere in the garden we are excited to be growing some plants from heritage seeds. The aim of heritage seeds is to conserve varieties of vegetable that are no longer widely available. This may be varieties that were grown in earlier periods but are not used in large scale growing. The seeds are collected and maintained by gardeners, farmers or ‘seed guardians’. They can then be collected by a seed bank to be redistributed to interested gardeners. Currently we are growing Dudi (Tower Hamlets variety), Achocha and Lablab (Yings variety). The Achocha is a climbing plant that will produce small cucumber-type fruits which can be eaten raw or cooked in stir fries and curries. Dudi (also known as bottle gourd) is also a climbing or trailing vine. It will produce white flowers and fruits which can be eaten when young. Later, the gourds can be turned into pots, instruments or bird houses. Lablab is a bean which also produces beautiful flowers. It will be fun to observe how this interesting and attractive bed of plants develops!

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The last few months have seen some new and attractive additions to the OxGrow garden. The new Polytunnel (Polytunnel 2 – the larger one) has created a new space for growing. Currently, we have a few different varieties of tomatoes growing (heritage and otherwise). Soon we hope to take out the staging and dig a middle bed to increase our growing capacity. The pond has created an attractive centre space to the garden with a few reeds and now a solar powered fountain. A few tadpoles have been seen darting about already! As we move further into summer the garden attracts more visitors. It becomes its most relaxed as a social space with people wandering through from Hogacre Cafe. Pleasant weather makes it a wonderful time to enjoy this peaceful corner of Oxford and we have several events coming up. See below for details and this month’s newsletters. Nevertheless, the garden needs our attention as sowing, watering, weeding and picking continue! Join us for Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Remember all are welcome for as little or as long as you like.

Our wormest wishes,

Team OxGrow

 

June Newsletters: