This week in the garden, we have added to our fern collection by planting 30 new ferns on the woodland bank. These include evergreen and deciduous ferns. Ferns are a very ancient form of plant which appeared on earth long before flowering plants had evolved. Ferns reproduce by producing spores which develop on the underside of their leaves. (Unlike flowering plants they do not produce flowers or seeds.)

Ferns were around at the time of the dinosaurs or to put it another way, ferns are the dinosaurs of the plant world! Back then the world was a warmer, wetter place than it is now, and ferns were adapted to moist conditions. Ferns grow well in shade and this is one of the reasons why we are developing our fern collection along our shady woodland bank.

Back in dinosaur times ferns were one of the main kinds of plant to be found all over the world so it is not surprising to discover there are many different varieties. Some ferns can grow in dryer conditions and these are the ones we have planted at the top of the bank. Polystichiums are one variety which are able to tolerate these conditions. For the ferns that need a little more moisture we are extending our leaky hose irrigation to create damper conditions further down the bank. Then for the ferns which need really damp conditions such as Matteuccias, we will be creating hollows near the bottom of the bank and lining these hollows with pond liner to ensure more boggy conditions. We will also be planting some Fritillaria Meleagris bulbs that like these damp lightly shady conditions.

When thinking about where to place ferns on a bank it is worth remembering that tops of banks have much dryer growing conditions because water, drawn by gravity will always seek the lowest point, hence the increase in moisture you find at the bottom of banks and in any hollow in the ground. We have carefully situated our ferns at the top, middle or bottom of the bank taking into account the conditions they prefer.

Ferns like to grow in humus rich soil and we have planted ours in bark compost. They also like to be planted in leaf litter. The important thing to remember is that ferns have quite under developed roots so they cannot compete with trees and need not to be planted too close to tree roots.

Meet our new ferns! Their names which you will find on their labels (before the squirrels play with them) are: Athyrium x ’Ghost’ , Athyrium niponicum ‘Pewter Lace’, Dryopteris lepidopoda, Polystichum x dycei, Polystichum seitiferum ‘Dahlem’, Doodia media, Woodwardia unigemmata, Matteuccia struthiopteris, Dryopteris affinis ‘Polydactyla’

If you have a shady garden and you are wondering what would grow well in it, you won’t go far wrong by developing a fern collection! The Victorian were very keen on ferns and brought them back to Britain in Wardian cases, the fore-runner to terrariums.

If you would like to read more about the Wardian case you can follow this link to ‘The remarkable case of Dr Ward’.

It is time to harvest our quinces which are now ripe on the tree in the woodland. We will be carefully picking them, trying to get them off the tree without brushing them.

As the weather gets colder and wetter it is time to bring our large Agave plants in to the upper greenhouse to overwinter in dryer conditions.

Now that the coolness of autumn has arrived it is also time for us to take down the shade netting inside in the upper greenhouse.  We have a delivery of manure that will need putting into our compost bays, (a job that is guaranteed to keep us all warm in the colder weather!)

We had a Squash Roast up on Saturday where we ate, guess what, lots of squash with grapes and figs for lunch.  Here’s a great little film that Andy Lynch made about the day – thanks to him and to Duncan Law and Incredible Edible Lambeth,

Coming up weekend of 6th/7th and weekend of 13/14th October
Saturday 6th October a Demijohn and a Jar Terrarium Workshop, 11 to 12.45 and 1.45 to 3.  Book here

Sunday 7th October  ChebetoJazz 4pm to 5pm. Book with Herne Hill Music Festival

Sunday 14th October 11 to 12.30 Workshop on the Edible Garden – You can eat produce from your garden year round if  you know the right things to do – and when.  Learn from Cat our community gardener all about this how to make your Garden Edible – 12 months of the year. This month, Cat will teach you how to establish and look after perennial fruit and veg like Rhubarb, Oca and Asparagus. She will also show you how to select and plant good winter and spring vegetables, and how to collect, save and store seeds for sowing next year. Free but book online  

Sunday 14th October 5pm to 8pm.  Idumea Quartet play Appalachian folk music but with a twist.  Have a listen to them here. Coming from a shared background in traditional music, Idumea bring traditional folk into into conversation with both minimalism and chamber music. Add harmonized singing into the mix and the result is a sound which is as high and lonesome as it is symphonic.  The Idumea Quartet is: Jane Rothfield and Ewan Macdonald on fiddle, Becka Wolfe on viola, Nathan Bontrager on cello.  There will be bean soup and corn bread – proper Appalachian fare – as well as a botanical bar.  Book online.