Newsletter Number 15 – 22nd April 2016

Upcoming events

Sunday 24th April Skill Sharing at Bluebell 11-12am
Sunday May 1st Nature in the Garden at Grapes Hill Community Garden, 11am-3pm
Half Term Activity at Marlpit CG – “It’s all about bees” Saturday 4th June 2-4pm

Recent events

Saturday 16th April Learning at Marlpit Community Garden
– Morning – Soil Preparation and Planning
– Afternoon – Spring Tonics


Skill-sharing at GO2 Bluebell South Allotments

11 to 12am on the last Sunday of the month.
Next is 24th April, followed by 29th May and 26th June

chocolate_cakeThese are friendly and informal meetings for growers to share tips and advice, find answers to their questions and discuss specific topics. Tea and cakes provided!
This Sunday – 24th April, we’ll discuss improving soil and preparing the ground for sowing – sharing some of the ideas from the recent practical training session at Marlpit Community Garden.

Get in touch at Click here to see the “Team Page”

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Seeds and plants at GO2 Bluebell

If you haven’t already planted your early potatoes, now is the time. There are still plenty of Orla seed potatoes ready chitted available from the GO2 big shed. Main crop potatoes will arrive by the end of the month so save a space for a few of those.

There are seeds of the most popular vegetables on the table at the end of the big shed. Carrots, beetroot, turnips, radishes, spinach, parsnips and all kinds of peas can all be sown now, in well-watered drills. Don’t forget to give peas netting or chicken wire protection from the birds.

The first plants – lettuce, mizuna and mibuna – will be available outside the polytunnel on Sunday. If you miss them look on the shelves just inside the polytunnel where they’ll be put for safe-keeping at the end of the morning.

We’re busy sowing tender seeds – courgettes and squashes and the like – in the GO2 greenhouse. They, along with runner beans, sweet corn and climbing French beans, will be ready as plants once the risk of frost has gone, usually the last week in May or even early June. The tender plants on sale now in garden centres can be very tempting but be warned, with frost forecast next week, even cloche protection is unlikely to keep them safe.

For now, the sun is shining, there’s plenty to sow and plant, and to look forward to.

Bridget for Seed and Plant Team

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Nature in the Garden

Nature in the Garden May2016Would you like to help on the Sustainable Living Initiative stall at the Nature in the Garden/ Hawk and Owl event on Sunday May 1st 2016 at Grapes Hill Community Garden?

Volunteers are still needed to help on the stall.

It promises to be a very interesting and enjoyable day. Please let us know if you would like to help. Email In any case, come along if you can and enjoy the event.

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Soil – Preparation and Planning

Soil, its composition and how we treat it, is fundamental to growing veges successfully…

Click here to read a full report about last Saturday’s course – Jon was entertaining and highly informative about soil types, nutrients, pH, soil-structure, conditioners, compost… Not to mention digging, earthworms, fungi, bacteria and weeds.

crop-rotationMahesh talked about crop rotation, ‘Turnip’ Townshend, Thomas Coke of Holkham, … and about plant families. You can find more on our website Grower’s Guide.  I recommend having a look at

Training was followed by a delicious lunch prepared by Amy.

training day lunch


Read more here

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Growing and Using Herbs – April 2016

Spring Tonics, the third of the ‘Growing and Using Herbs’ Practical Training Courses,  was held at the Marlpit Community Garden on Saturday, April 16th.

Once again, there were excellent  handouts providing descriptions of the plants that we would use and a recipe for Nettle Soup (a warming sample of which was also provided).

We were then instructed in the preparation of tinctures – extraction of essences by alcohol – which was followed by a practical session – a trip to the Garden to collect our own sample using Nettles, Chickweed, and Goose Grass to create our own  Spring Tonic.

We discovered that these humble plants are , in fact, “superfoods” in their own right, containing many necessary vitamins and trace chemicals.

The preparation of Chickweed Vinegar was demonstrated, and its uses described. (Both culinary and medicinal!).

We were shown how those herbal essences that cannot  be extracted by alcohol may be obtained by decoction – simmering in water.

spring tonic preparationcutting up dandelionchopping nettles and dandelionschopped chickweed



Teresa and Claire


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Grounds for

I’ve been wanting to experiment with coffee grounds to grow vegetables and now Waitrose in Eaton is offering customers free coffee grounds.
The consensus is that coffee grounds provide phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and copper. You can find out more about physical properties and carbon/nitrogen ratio on websites, but the overall verdict is: coffee grounds provide short- and long-term soil improvement. They act as a slow-release fertiliser by either blending as ‘green’ compost on your heap and left to ripen there with everything else, or made into ‘tea’ by putting two cups of grounds into 20 litres of water, leaving overnight and then using around your veges on in containers. You can also dig them into the soil to a depth of 15-20 cm.
slug-sips-coffeeSome say they’re slightly acidic at a range of 6.2 on the pH scale, or 6.9 depending which website you look at.
They can also create a slug and snail barrier – and don’t we all want an effective deterrent to those? Coffee grounds are both abrasive as well as acidic, so a barrier of grounds placed near slug-prone plants may just save them from these garden pests.
If you want to get some from Waitrose, they’re in a galvanised dustbin near the ‘horticultural area’. Take your own bags and a scoop or take a box from near the drinks department. It’s probably best to use them when they’re still slightly fresh.


P1280320-strawberryP1280322-waitrose-starbucksLast Sunday I spread 2 Kg of used coffee grounds (from a motorway Starbucks) on Moira’s strawberry bed at Bluebell South. I have tried them as a slug deterrent to little effect, but we’ll see if it improves the strawberries (or the snails!)


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Climbing Roses

Two Keith Maughan climbing rose shrubs have been given to Marlpit Community Garden by Wayne Taylor in memory of his father, Keith Maughan, who died ten years ago. They are two of seventy of the rose donated to formal gardens and community projects. Keith Maughan, who died 10 years ago, spent his life in Norfolk as an artist, illustrator and teacher of drama.Keith Maughan Rose_page_001The rose, developed by Peter Beales Classic Roses, was introduced at the 2008 Chelsea flower show. Its single, fragrant apricot, yellow and pink flowers are attractive to bees and we have planted them in a position to climb up the fencing surrounding our apiary.


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Newsletter Number 14 – 8th April 2016

Upcoming events

Saturday 16th April Learning at Marlpit Community Garden
Saturday 23rd April South American Food with Maria
Sunday 24th April Skill Sharing at Bluebell
Sunday May 1st Nature in the Garden at Grapes Hill Community Garden

Recent events

Saturday/Sunday 5th April Planting Snowdrops at MCG


Planting Snowdrops

On Tuesday 5th April we planted 1000 native snowdrops at Marlpit Community Garden with the help of four young volunteers from Earlham Academy and C.N.S. school. The youngsters worked hard to prepare the ground which was thick with nettles and couch grass.
We chose sites behind the bugs hotel, round young apple trees near the container and under trees in the forest garden for the snowdrops.
As well as giving us a wonderful display to enjoy, the flowers will provide a rich source of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinators on mild days in late winter and early spring – the time of year when flowers are scarce and food may be hard to find.

preparing the groundplanting snowdropsclearing couch grass

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The soil is warming up; it’s time to start sowing.

Have you noticed a rash of newly germinated weed seedlings on your plot? The weed seeds have been dormant during the winter but now their germination is a sure sign that the soil is warming up and that sowing of seeds can start in earnest. The weedlings can be hoed off – best done when it’s sunny so they dry out and shrivel – and the soil raked to a fine tilth.
Click for video
At GO2 Bluebell, there’s plenty to sow. Radishes, beetroot, parsnips and carrots can be sown in well-watered narrow drills. Broad beans, mange tout, sugar snap and traditional peas are sown in wider drills. All seeds can all be found in the Big Shed on the table at the back. If you’re not sure what do, or need a reminder, there are people to ask on Wednesday and Sunday mornings when the shed is open. There are also sowing guides in the planting manual kept in the shed and on display in the window.

In a week or so there will be potatoes to plant. The first earlies, Orla, are developing shoots – chitting – in boxes in the shed, almost but not quite ready to go out.

We have been sowing seeds in the warmth of the greenhouse for several weeks. The first batches of Brussel sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli, lettuces and oriental salads, parsley and thyme, several varieties of flowers are growing fast. The first, probably salad plants, will be ready to go out sometime in late April.

for Seeds and Plant Team at Bluebell South

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Badevci Hive

Beaman children with beehiveThe Beaman children photographed with the hive that the family donated for our apiary at Marlpit Community Garden.
They have called the hive ‘Badevci’ as a tribute to Sveta’s grandfather. He was a beekeeper in the village of that name and first raised her interest in bees.
name plateThe hive now joins the other two thriving colonies in our bee sanctuary. It’s new inhabitants will be introduced to their home in late spring or early summer.
When the numbers build up in our existing hives they will probably prepare to swarm. That is when it is possible to divide one colony into two and introduce one of these to the new hive. If all goes well they will quickly settle in the ‘Badevci’ hive. Their queen will start laying eggs and the workers will be busy bringing home pollen and nectar to feed the young and store in the combs.

Forest Garden Trees

Willows, Common Osier (Salix viminalis)

Among the first trees we planted in the forest garden area of Marlpit Community Garden were a double row of willows along the western side of the garden.

Now over two years old the willows are developing well.willow flower Marlpit

They are incredibly useful trees. In this position they will help to screen the garden from the houses and this section of Marriots Way. By coppicing, we will prevent them growing too tall and overshadowing the garden, as well as obtaining wood for hurdles. We can run crafts workshops using the willows whips for basketry and sculpture, and Mahesh has plans to experiment in producing an alternative to netting to protect our plants against birds. Another idea is making growing structures such as wigwams and domes from the whips.willow at Marlpit

In addition the catkins provide a source of pollen early in the year for our honey bees.

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Birds of Marlpit Community Garden April 2016

A Little Egret has been on the Community Garden, briefly alighting behind the lake on 22 March. These small white members of the heron family were extremely rare in Britain until 1989, when there was an influx in the autumn but have increased their numbers rapidly and there are now several hundred in the country. They first nested in Britain in 1996. The British population is the most northerly in the world and it is possible thEgret-at-MCGe northern expansion of the species is due to climate change
A number of different species of gull continue to visit, and a pair of herring gulls were observed paddling on the ground with their feet, a behaviour they use to attract worms, the worms coming to the surface in response to the paddling, possibly because it leads them to believe that a mole, their greatest predator, is coming, or because they believe it is raining and they are about to be drowned. The behaviour of the gulls appears to be innate.
A pair of mallard ducks were on the lake in March. These are our commonest British duck, and the ancestor of most of the varieties of domestic duck. They should now be nesting, with the brown coloured females incubating the eggs, when their plumage provides them with camouflage. The more brightly coloured males, with their handsome bottle green heads and grey backs, take no part in incubation, and may even desert the female to pair with another one whilst she is incubating.

Chris Keene

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Vegetable Growing – Monthly Calendar – April

General Tasks Sow/Plant Harvest
Provide support for peas using pea sticks. Outdoors: Beetroot, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Chards, Kale, Kohl Rabi, Lettuce, Peas, Potatoes (earlies first and main crop towards the end of the month), Radish, Spinach, Turnip, Herbs Broccoli Purple Sprouting, Cabbage (spring greens), Lettuce, Leek, Rocket, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Turnip Tops, Rhubarb
Keep watering young plants; water well before sowing seeds if the soil is dry.
Keep hoeing the area around broadbean, onion, garlic and any other vegetables Under cover -ubergine, French Beans, Courgettes, Cucumbers, Lettuce, Marrows, Peppers, Pumpkins, Sweet Corn, Tomatoes
Beware weeds – don’t let them take over your crop!

March May