Art in the Garden @OxGrow

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Join us in celebrating Summer by letting our stunning garden inspire your creative side! This June/July, we will be inviting you to join us for five different free arts-focused workshops – ‘Art in the Garden’. Through muisc, photography, painting, drawing and writing, we hope to make the most of our beautiful garden space, celebrating and enjoying its beauty. These relaxed, outdoor sessions will help us explore different artistic techniques and create art. As usual for OxGrow, we welcome people of all levels, from absolute novices to experts, to share the space in an inclusive and supportive environment. We’ll culminate the sessions with an exhibition event at the end of July.

 

take great photos

**Painting and Drawing – 22nd June 6pm-8pm**
Come and paint or draw with us. This session will involve freestyle painting with watercolours, ink drawing; observational drawing using microscopes and sketching (or anything else you’d like if you have your own materials). Please bring your own art materials if you have them but if not we can provide some materials for sketching and watercolour painting.

**Leaf Printing and Collage – 29th June 6pm-8pm**
Come and create images by printing with leaves and vegetables and using natural materials to make collages. Artisits Jezella Pigott and Moez Kaudeer will support on this event.

**Take Great Photos – 13th July 6pm-8pm**
Capturing the perfect photograph is always harder than you think. Come along to learn and practice a few basic tips and tricks that can help you take attractive and eye-catching photos in any situation. This session will be led by freelance filmmaker Peter Lefort.

**Creative Writing – 20th July 6pm – 8pm**
The aim of this collaborative session, based on group exercises and nature themed poetry is to inspire participants to create their own poetry of, about or around the garden.

**Please bring snacks and drinks to share to all sessions.**

**Exhibition Event in colloboration with Hogacre Cafe – 30th July (exact timing tbc**
A chance to celebrate and share the art we have created together!

These sessions are part of OxGrow’s ‘Art in the Garden’ series of free workshops.

PLACES ARE FREE BUT PLEASE R.S.V.P. @ mail@oxgrow.org

Sessions made possible with grant from University  of Oxford Community Fund. 

painting and drawing

OxGrow Monthly – January 2017

Welcome 2017! January has had rather changeable weather to match our changeable levels of motivation. Sometimes it seems that not only are the plants asleep but we are too! However, this has not stopped us from having a good crack at digging in the green manure (clover, trefoil, the dreaded Hungarian Rye of winter 2016). Perhaps after all this digging in you’ve been wondering why we plant green manure in the first place? Here’s a quick guide…

  • It grows quickly and covers up bare soil after we have harvested and cleared whatever was growing there before.
  • Its roots prevent soil erosion.
  • When we dig it in it ensure a nutrient rich soil in which to plant the next set of plants.

digging green manure jan 2017

The middle of January saw us having a lazy session mainly spent in in the pavilion. We  chose heritage seeds from the organic gardening catalogue. Our heritage patch last year was a super success with Dudis, Achochas and Lab Lab causing much interest. I think it’s prime spot as the last thing you see before heading to the café in summer had something to do with it! Nevertheless, we can be proud that our little garden had such interesting things growing in it. We hope to repeat the success again this year!

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After a wonderfully sunny session cleaning tools and clearing thistles and bramble from the borders the following week was a downpour worthy of Noah! This did not stop Hogacre from being a hive of activity. Incredible Edible ran their fantastic ‘Build a Cold Frame’ course. The day started with many trips over the railway bridge to ensure we had all the tools and wood we needed. After a quick get to know each other we began building! Cold frames are like miniature green houses which you can use to protect plants from frosts e.g. keeping them warmer for longer. The ones we built have four wooden walls which can be placed anywhere in the garden. They have a hinging transparent lid to let in sunshine and create warmth. Two participants on the course did so in order to create cold frames for OxGrow so we now have two for our garden! Watch this space to see what’s growing in them!

cleaning tools 3  building a cold frame

cold frame success

 

January is a time of resolutions and this often brings newcomers to the garden. This year has been no exception and we have welcomed lots of friendly, enthusiastic, new volunteers! Some people talk of the ‘January blues’ but how about the ‘January greens’? That’s the positive, happy feeling you get when even though it’s grim and grey; the working week seems a slog and the glitter and sparkle of December has gone Sundays in the garden are bound to cheer you up with smiling faces and lots to do! Cheers ( and a wink!) to the ‘January greens’!

 

olive tree blue sky   winking green man

OxGrow Monthly – December

It’s that time of the year again! A time to withdraw, relax, rest, and take stock of the last 12 months. If we wanted to list all the things we’ve done, you’d be in for a really long read which you’re probably already too lazy for, so let’s just have a quick glance at the most interesting changes or events that happened in 2016.

  • We planted apple saplings, sunflowers and holly bushes along the border fence (to complement the striking Jerusalem artichokes and an array of wild and garden flowers which were there already)

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  • We built a small pond to attract more aquatic wildlife – see how happy Judy looks posing in front of it!

Judy proudly displaying a cabbage head

  • We constructed a large polytunnel which significantly increased the hothouse growing space (= more tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers, melons, and the like)

polytunnel-2

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  • We dug up new beds: a lovely little children’d bed and quite a large patch for growing many different kinds of herbs

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  • We had really great social gatherings. Having kicked off with a sociable AGM on 13 March, we then celebrated the Spring Equinox (20 March), had a great turnout for the Harvest Festival (9 October), Pumpkin Day (6 November), Christmas Social (4 December). We had a couple of cosy get-togethers on Winter Wednesdays, a few impromptu meals, and several bonfires, some with hot chocolate and toasted marshmellows and some with a can of something refreshing and cold 🙂

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  • We did quite a lot of outreach/media work: in addition to this lovely article in the Oxford Times, we also attended meetings of the new Growing Collaborate group which brings together various green and growing spaces around the city; Penny and Marta were on the panel of Garden Experts as part of the CAG Skill Share; and OxGrow was represented at various student and city fairs around Oxford.

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  • We got new funding from the Midlands Cooperative which will keep us going for another year or maybe even two!

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  • In May, we hired a Garden Community Development Officer on a six-month contract. Jade helped us lots with reaching out to more people, including a leafleting campaign we launched jointly with the Hogacre Cafe, and attending numerous fairs and networking events, both in the city and at the universities. She played a major role in strengthening our structures and communications, from the new signage system to monthly organisational meetings, to drafting and improving various written documents. She was also instrumental in instigating our collaboration with Incredible Edible Oxford, which resulted in our launching a series of workshops around self-sufficiency skills. So a great success all around, and we feel we’ve become a stronger organisation as a result of her work – thanks Jade!

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  •  We’ve had some good creative sessions as well: from our own Peter Naumann launching his new poetry book in the garden in June, to the very successful Arts in the Garden sessions in September, we celebrated the garden not just as a source of delicious food but also as a beautiful space which nourishes the body as well as the soul.

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We created a new signage and garden record-keeping system. Each plot is numbered on a map, so they’re very easy to find. The whole space is divided into five sections, each of which has its own colour. We have notebooks which correspond to each of these colours, and after every session, we write down what we did so that it’s easier to keep track of what happened in each plot. It’s been working really well – it adds to the fun and makes communicating easier.

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  • Finally, over the last few weeks we’ve had really good garden planning sessions. From coming up with a list of things we’d like to grow, to choosing particular varieties and mapping out where they need to go, to writing down the order, it’s been great fun and quite a large group of people got involved. The whole process made it clear that OxGrow really is a community garden where a group of people, rather than one or two individuals, take responsibility for how it develops, so it’s been really wonderful to be part of that.

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Phew! And that’s in addition to all the usual garden activities! Yes – lots and lots happened over the last 12 months. We really feel like the garden is going from strength to strength, both in terms of what grows there and in terms of the group of people involved in the running of it. So, we all look forward to 2017 when more of this good stuff is going to happen! As a sneak preview, here’s a few things to look forward to:

  • getting new seeds in early February. Some of the less usual seeds for 2017 include cucamelons, okra, scorzonera, cardoons, mangel, and we’ll probably get another ‘lucky dip’ wacky selection of heritage plants from Garden Organic
  • our Annual General Meeting in February or March (tbd)
  • More ‘Art in the Garden‘ sessions and more festivities
  • More courses, workshops, and skill-share sessions, from indoor mushroom growing to using herbs to cooking and preserving food

So book those Sundays in your 2017 diary now and make sure you come along! OxGrow Community Garden is a unique space and a unique community: a group of humans who do their best to look after a patch of land, nourishing and caring for it and getting some nourishment and caring for their bodies and souls in return. Being there every week in 2016 has given us a wonderful sense of purpose, stewardship and belonging, both in terms of the place and the community. We feel very lucky to have OxGrow in our lives and our one resolution for 2017 is that we will carry on loving it as much as we have in 2016.

Enjoy your winter breaks everyone and have a Happy New Year, and see you all in 2017!

Yours

Team OxGrow

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OxGrow Monthly – October 2016

OCTOBER WAS SO ACTIVE!

We did loads in the garden and outside of it. We did a lot of outreach: visited Freshers Fairs, were represented at the Oxford Food Festival, and spoke at the Midlands Cooperative’s annual meeting (following the grant we received from them recently). This resulted in lots of new faces in the garden, which in turn meant lots and lots of activity as we now regularly have between 25-30 people there each Sunday (compared to 10-15 during the summer).

fresher-stall

We’ve harvested most of our veg, and a lot of it ended up being cooked or given away for a donation at Hogacre’s annual Harvest Festival. A few hundred people attended and learnt more about Hogacre’s activities and local food and drink. We had some really excellent music, and it was a special treat to see the amazing Horns of Plenty walk through our garden while playing their powerful music!

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We also started doing some garden planning. We had a very fruitful discussion about the organisational structures of OxGrow during our first Cosy Wednesday meeting, and started putting together a list of vegetables we’d like to grow next year.

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So it’s been really good fun and we’re looking forward to more activities over winter! We’ll be doing more planning and organising; clearing and getting ready for spring; and celebrating and feasting!

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AND WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN NOVEMBER?

Lots of things!

  • Pumpkin Day is on Sunday 6 November
  • Garden Planning session number 2 will take place on a mid-week evening – look out for updates on Facebook
  • CAG Skill Share on Saturday 12 Nov
  • More clearing, digging, tidying, constructing, de-constructing, plotting, charting, chatting, planting, harvesting and just generally HAVING A GOOD TIME outdoors, rain or shine or frost!

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If you want to make sure you’re up to date with what’s happening, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, sign up to our newsletter, or email us at mail@oxgrow.org (questions and suggestions always welcome!)

With warm wishes

Team OxGrow

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: