A year at Bandstand Beds

Here at Bandstand Beds,we often talk about the growing season, which runs from the beginning of April until the end of September. We usually kick things off with a seed sharing and sowing session in the garden, and this year were thrilled to partner with Heathbrook Primary School by holding a Good to Grow 22 event.

In the weeks that followed, we spent lots of time pricking out and potting on seedlings in the polytunnel ready to plant outdoors when the last chance of frost had passed, at the end of May. This is also the month when hold our Common People event on the Bandstand.

Courgette plants in the polytunnel

Throughout the summer our community growing space is a hive of gardening and social activity, culminating in lots of delicious home-grown fruit and veg and delicious lunches together. And when there’s a glut, we make delicious jams and chutneys – available at our Saturday produce stall at our garden gate.

Prepping Plum Chutney & Season Chutney

However, ‘summer’s lease hath all too short a date’ and in the blink of an eye it’s September… Time for our annual feast, celebrating our harvest with the local community.

‘So, is that it until the spring?’ you might ask. Well, it’s certainly the end of growing tomatoes, courgettes and other tender crops but there’s still always plenty to do in the garden before the next growing season starts.

Prepping for plants to grow over winter

This year, beds were cleared and mulched using our own compost (started in October 2021). We them planted lots onions, shallots, garlic and broad beans which will grow over the winter and be ready to harvest next May/June.

We often find that because so much of our attention has been on crop growing during the summer, some areas of the garden have become a bit neglected and are in need of some serious weed clearance. This was definitely the case with the mini orchard we planted beside our new compost bays last year.

Serious weeding (before)
Spot the difference

It was important to weed around the young fruit trees while they are getting established, but a neat and tidy garden isn’t always a good thing. At BBA we also like to make sure there are plenty of areas in the garden that will support wildlife. During one of our Monday 55+ sessions with Froglife we built a hibernaculum to provide a winter home for amphibians.

Adding the first layer of wood to the hibernaculum

In recent years,  the Mayor of London and The Conservation Volunteers have given away free whips to celebrate National Tree Week, and in 2019 Sadiq Khan joined us to help with planting. This November, we received another 200 whips (hawthorn, cherry plum, rowan spindle and goat willow) to plant along the edge along the edge of the waste depot. In time these, along with the hawthorn and blackthorn we’ve already planted, will provide food and nesting habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Watch this space

Once December arrives and the cold weather really starts to kick in, there’s just one last thing to do… Hold a Yuletide get-together with lots of bring ‘n’ share festive food and mulled drinks.

Festive fun to end the year

With winter here our garden gates have closed until the end of January, when we’ll be back to start some serious bed mending and building, and planning for the growing season ahead. Some of us will also try and get a head start by sowing chillies and tomatoes on windowsills at home – they certainly wouldn’t stand a chance in our frosty polytunnel!

If you would like to get involved with our community garden on Clapham Common or receive updates of our activities, why not become BBA a member? It costs just £5 a year, or £10 for family membership. To join, simply click on this link.

Written by David Dandridge