May Fete, Support our Plants and the Bloody Marvel

It’s May Day today and here at BPCG we are looking forward to our May Fete on Saturday May 11th 1pm to 5pm when the Brixton Tatterjacks will lead our Maypole dancing and put on a spectacular display of their own Morris dancing. There will be cob oven pizzas, afternoon tea, traditional games, nature crafts, facepainting, demonstrations from our beekeepers, greenwood workers, fermenters and loads of fun!

This week in the free Edible Garden workshop with Cat on Sunday 5th May 11am to 1pm we will be looking at a range of different plant supports and creating some of our own including a tomato ladder/arch for our cordon tomatoes.  On the following Sunday 12th May 1.30 to 3.30, there is a willow weaving workshop where you can learn to make willow plant supports, amongst other things. There are still 2 free places left for regular BPCG volunteers on this so let Kate know by replying to this email if you’d like one.

One plant support that may have caught your eye this week is the very tall wooden pole attached to our entrance gate. We are aiming for a ‘Jack and the Bean Stalk’ effect for our youngsters in the Play Kitchen and at Story Stompers (Tues and Thurs mornings). Our climbing bean is called ‘Firestorm,’ and will produce lovely red flowers.

As the day lengths continue to increase and the temperatures erratically increase too, we need to give some of our greenhouse plants a little protection from leaf scorching, and keep the greenhouse a comfortable temperature for our volunteers (!), so it is time to put up the overhead greenhouse shade netting.

We will also need nets in our soft fruit areas soon to keep out birds who are attracted to the colour and taste of ripening fruit. In the woodland area, the fruit bushes have flowered and now you can see the tiny fruit which has set where the flowers previously were. The red, black and white currants have a lot of fruit forming on them and the small gooseberries are already swelling. The thornless loganberry which has been beautifully trained along our perimeter fence by Dafydd is covered in flower buds, which should be an indicator of a good harvest to come. Our three pear trees have a good fruit set too, so much so that they might need a slight thinning out a bit later on in the season as the weight of their fruit looks as if it may break the branches! Carefully thinning out fruit can also encourage the tree to produce larger fruits.

If you look closely, you will see that the medlar tree in the woodland (Mespilus germanica), has many large buds that will open any day now. These are lovely flowers that have the distinctive characteristic of sitting at the centre of a rosette of leaves. Notice too that it has been ‘snowing’ apple blossom in the woodland. Another good sign that we should have an abundant fruit harvest in 2019.

In the Lower Garden, do also look out for Bloody Marvel lettuce grown in the Passive Greenhouse (just by the Cob Oven.) This is an experimental new lettuce variety bred for the London Freedom Seed Bank by Richard Galpin in Walworth, South London. It is inspired by research into the Bloody Cos variety, also known as Spotted Aleppo which originated in Syria in the 18th Century. The parent plants for Bloody Marvel were Marvel of Four Seasons and Majan Jaguar, selected through the 2017 Walworth Lettuce Trials for their suitability for London growing conditions. They were then manually cross-pollinated and the resulting cross selected for desirable characteristics – resilience, red flecks of colour, vigour and taste.

As this is only the third generation, plants will vary considerably, manifesting different characteristics of both parents including variations in size, colour, and vigour. While new commercial varieties undergo much more rigorous selection, and are grown out for up to 8 or 10 generations to maintain consistency, a new generation of breeders and growers are embracing diversity and variability. BPCG has participated in this trial and is reporting back on the results, in a collective effort to develop a new London variety.

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