Monday, 3 October 2011

Bath City Farm update

Good evening!

The students are back in town, and we're inviting them to come and get their hands dirty. This is a quick update about the going on at Bath City Farm, which will tell you what has been achieved so far, and what's on offer.

If you take a look at the previous post, you'll see that we covered up the space with a weed suppressant cover. Now we're at the stage of turning the space--which is essentially just grass and thistles--into fertile soil. We've gone about this in a couple of ways. To begin with, we asked the advice of two experienced local gardeners from Transition Bath, who pointed and gestured a bit. Here they are.

They suggested a couple of lazy ways to turn the grass into fertile soil without too much digging. Here are the 2 lazy ways to turn grass into soil:

1) Cut the soil in bricks a spade's width on each side, not too deep. Pile your bricks up (with the grass on the bottom) around the outside of the bed you're digging. You've made a raised bed. Easy. Here's a picture.

If you look closely you can see one wall of the raised bed on the right, and a line of bare soil running up the length of the bed. That stuff growing on the left hand side of the bed is white mustard. White mustard is a 'green manure'. A green manure is basically a non-edible plant which is really easy to grow, and which is beneficial to the soil. It's a great way to improve the quality of the soil over winter: just chuck a load of green manure in, it'll grow like mad, and then in spring you chop it all down and bury it, so that it rots down and makes the soil really great. On the right hand side of the bed there's some rye grass, which is another sort of green manure. Different green manures have different benefits to the soil: I can explain all this stuff in detail to volunteers who come and visit. For now, let's hear about the second really lazy way to turn grass into fertile soil.

2) Cut out bricks of the soil as above, but take particular care to cut the bricks as shallow as possible. You basically want to just take away the layer of grass. Pile these bricks out of the way for a minute. Run a rake over it. Done. Here's one we did earlier:

So now we've got two complete beds. In the raised bed, we're planting green manures. In spring, we'll plant some vegetables. In the non-raised bed (above), we've got nothing. That's where you come in. There's plenty of vegetables that can be grown over winter and there's the space, tools, and expert advice available to make it happen. Get in touch at and you can grow food for free.

Finally, what can be done with the spare bricks of soil? Here's one idea: make a compost bin out of pallets and line it with your bricks. All the worms inside the soil will get stuck into your food waste, helping to turn it into decent compost. Ace. Here's a picture. That's some cosy looking food waste.

Okay, enough from me. If you'd like to grow your own food, or have a day getting sweaty and dirty in the fresh air, or meet new people, or whatever, then get in touch with me at

Monday, 8 August 2011

Bath City Farm Update

Exciting news: we've joined up with the lovely people at Growing Together to kick off the work at the new Bath City Farm allotment, and they've given us £200 to help buy some tools and stuff. For anybody who doesn't know what Growing Together is, it's a project very similar to Student Community Allotments. Growing Together is based in Oldfield Park, where they work to convert disused student gardens into working allotment spaces for use by local residents. In this way, they bring together the students and the residents in Oldfield Park. Good stuff! We're hoping to get more involved with Growing Together in the future, and there may come a point where our projects join together in a very solid way, rather like a custard cream biscuit (the custard is obviously symbolic of our joint goals). I'll post more about our relationship with Growing Together as it develops, for now let me show you what we've bought with their money.
To begin with, we wanted to get a weed suppressant cover over the top of the allotment . Weed suppressant cover is basically a sort of posh tarpaulin which lets rain through but keeps sunlight out. It does what its name suggests: by stopping the light getting through, the weeds start to die off, which makes them a bit easier to tackle. The cover is also useful for that stage when you've prepared a bit of land, but aren't yet ready to plant anything in: if you put the cover over the top of the freshly-dug bit of land then it should stop the weeds springing up again.

So, do you want to see a stage-by-stage description of how we laid the weed suppressant cover? Do you really? Are you sure you haven't got anything better to do? Okay, here you go.

Stage 1: Get youself a big roll of weed suppressant cover.

Stage 2: Unroll your big roll of weed suppressant cover.

Stage 3: Realise that you haven't brought a hammer, and use a rock to knock in some pegs.

Stage 4: Lay on top of it. This is the final and most important stage.

After this was done, I spent a little time imagining myself as a weed beneath the weed suppressant cover. I was all like "Where's the sun gone? There's no sun! How am I supposed to grow with no sun? The rain can get through, and that's great, but I need sun as well. Hello? Hello? Can anybody hear me? Oh well, I guess I'll just die."

Following this act of genocide we decided to cheer ourselves up by buying some tools and a big lock-up box to keep them in. The lock-up box was very heavy, but luckily it was a sentient lock-up box and wandered down the hill to the allotment all by itself.

"Good afternoon. Lovely day for a stroll."

"Pardon me, goats. I am a sentient lock-up box. Please show some respect."

Once it reached the allotment, it unpacked itself. Then it built itself. It was really amazing to watch. You should have been there.

"Pardon me, I haven't got my lid on. Could you look the other way?"

"Hello. I'm Shirley, the sentient lock-up box. I'm very hungry."

We decided to feed Shirley some tools, before her hunger drove her to eat us. She was very happy with this.


We fed Shirley the following tools:
1 shovel
1 fork
1 hoe
1 trowel
1 hand fork
1 pair of shears
1 pair of secateurs
1 pair of gloves
2 screwdrivers, which were used to construct Shirley. I know that I just said Shirley constructed herself, but that was really just a joke. It was actually me, I constructed Shirley. You can even see the instructions in the box. I am sorry if you are disappointed, but there is really no such thing as a sentient lock-up box... Or is there?

Shirley has a padlock which requires a combination code to unlock: if you get in touch then I will be happy to give you the code. If you would like to get involved with our efforts at Bath City Farm, then please e-mail me at and I will be happy to help you. We need all sorts of volunteers: if you'd like to help out for a couple of hours doing some weeding, or if you'd like to grow food in one of our allotments, or if you'd like to give Shirley a colourful paint job, then please get in touch. 

Thank you to Anna Boneham and all at Growing Together for supporting the new allotment at Bath City Farm. If you would like to know more about Growing Together, then follow the link here.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

There's more than one way to skin a cat...

And there's more than one way to acquire a potato.
One way to acquire a potato is to get some money, go to a shop, and buy a potato. This is very simple, if rather dull. Another way to acquire a potato is to plant a seed potato in the ground, wait for a couple of months, and then dig in the place you planted the seed. This is also very simple, but much more exciting, as demonstrated by this picture:
The really incredible thing, is that where you planted one seed potato there are now lots of full-grown potatoes. Here's Emma with a stack of spuds and a lovely smile:
Once we had taken the potatoes from the ground, we couldn't wait to eat them. With the rustic expertise of Chris Leigh at hand, we didn't have to wait for long! He gave them a rinse, wrapped them in tin foil, and popped them in some hot ashes:
 After about half an hour he fetched them out of the fire (using a trowel), and we ate them. Here's Simon tucking into a tasty potato, just half an hour after it had been lounging around in the ground:
 In addition to digging up potatoes and cooking them and eating them, we also spent some time weeding and watering. Most of the plots at Trowbridge House are planted out now, but there's a couple of spaces that we're hoping to give to local residents, so we also spent some time clearing these spaces ready for use. Here's some more photographs from the evening's work:

Emma and Simon contemplating the magic door to another world: possibly Narnia, or maybe the Aniverse where Bucky O'Hare and Dead Eye Duck engage in the never-ending war against the Toad Menace. Does anybody remember the cartoon Bucky O' Hare? Just me?  Never mind.
In this photograph, we see an organised line of Triffids advancing upon the unsuspecting Chris Leigh.

If you'd like to get involved in future work days at the Trowbridge House or at one of our other community allotment spaces, then please get in touch at All the best, your friend, Sam.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Blood, sweat, and companion planting

Hi all! I have just had a very nice evening with Iva Carrdus from Transition Bath, planting up a new plot at Trowbridge House which had been kindly dug and weeded by Emma Fowler and Adam Barnett in previous weeks.
We've planted six more tomato plants, bringing us up to a total of 13 over the entire site. This is an unlucky number: I'm not superstitious, I'm just saying, it's unlucky, I don't want any accidents, I'll be planting more tomato plants soon just in case. We also planted carrots, onions, beetroot, and rocket. Yum!
The interesting thing about the above list, is the combination of carrots and onions. This is an example of a clever new fing I've been learning about called 'companion planting'. Companion planting covers a wide variety of gardening practices, but in this case the deliberate combination of onions and carrots is designed to discourage pests: the insects which like carrots hate onions, and the insects which like onions hate carrots. In this way, the vegetables deal with each others' problems, like a happily married couple, or like two X-men with complimentary powers, so maybe like one can shoot fire but they're falling from a plane or something, but then another one can fly so they catch the one that can shoot fire, and then they can both fly around shooting fire, and maybe they can shoot the plane or whatever. I hope this analogy helps you to understand companion planting.
Anyway, here's some photographs from the work.

This is the lovely, knowledgeable Iva, contemplating a line of freshly-sown carrot seeds.

This is Iva again, she is smiling because I've just told her the world's funniest joke. I cannot publish the world's funniest joke on this or any other blog, becaue it would surely mean the end of humanity, with everybody rolling around laughing while their baths overflow and their toast burns. If you want to hear the world's funniest joke, you must come to the next Trowbridge House working evening on Monday 18th July.

This is a really awful photograph of me, which I've included just to demonstrate that it was dark by the time we finished, because we were just that determined to get the plot planted out!

Thanks for reading, I hope you're all doing well. If you're free on the evening of Monday 18th July and you'd like to come do some gardening, then let me know by e-mailing and I'll ensure there's free biscuits for you all. If I'm in a really good mood, I will even buy you a drink.

Friday, 8 July 2011

New plot at Bath City Farm!

In association with Timebank, we now have the opportunity to use this plot at Bath City Farm:

The plot is roughly 100 square metres, and is located at the bottom of the farm in the fenced off community allotments area; in the picture below, our new site is just to the right of the communal area with the benches.

This is a really exciting opportunity for us to grow on a nice chunk of land, in a convenient location close to both Bath Spa and Oldfield Park. Access is either through the farm's main entrance, or through the kissing gate at the bottom entrance (which is accessible 24/7 with a combination lock). If you'd like to use this site, or just go have a look at it, get in touch at

Big Fat Greek Update

Hello reader. This blog is under new management: my name is Sam Drew, and I'll be updating you with all of the exciting goings-on from Student Community Allotments (SCA). Here's some highlights from the Trowbridge House.

Trowbridge House

This site is coming along really well. In April I lost my vegetable-planting virginity to a Jerusalem Artichoke. Here are some photographs of the process, if you go in for that sort of thing.

This is a hole in the ground.

These are some Jerusalem Artichoke seedlings in the hole in the ground.

This is a hole in the ground that has been filled in. You can no longer see the Jerusalem Artichoke seedlings, because they are now beneath the ground.

We made a new friend called Wilkie, who does some farming out at Westbury. We had a little bonfire. It was nice.

From left to right: Wilkie, Simon, and Chris. Believe it or not, these guys are actually the lead guitarist, vocalist, and bongo player from the popular heavy metal band 'Slipknot'. This is what they look like under their masks.

Shortly after meeting Wilkie, we won Bath Spa university's Environmental Solutions Award. I'm not suggesting that Wilkie is some kind of demi-god bestowing gifts upon unsuspecting gardeners, but it was kind of a coincidence. Anyway, the nice people at the university gave us £500. Here are some of the things we spent the money on:

Goodies we bought with the £500 from Bath Spa, including gloves, a saw, and a very useful portable incinerator.

The portable incinerator proved very useful in getting rid of some of the weeds and small trees that have been hanging around since the very first day when we cleared the site. Here's a few of us using it:

In ascending height order: Rachel Acton-Filton, Carl Stevens, and Adam Barnett.
Some of the stuff we've planted is now at the stage where we can actually take it out of the ground and eat it:

Simon eating the first strawberry. Total air miles: about half an inch.

Two of the sandwiches that I harvested from our sandwich bush. Actually, it was just the lettuce.
And there's loads of other tasty stuff growing:

Some tomatoes taking a well-earned rest.
I think this is a courgette, but it could be a butternut squash. Answers on a postcard, please.
Loads of lettuce. Apparently, if you cut the leaves off the lettuce, then new leaves will grow in its place. It's amazing. It's a bit like that liquid robot thing from Terminator 2, except not like that at all.

So that's it for this update. If you'd like to get involved with growing fruit and vegetables at the Trowbridge House on Coronation Avenue in Bath, then drop me a line at

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Even more

just lovely

In addition to the Trowbridge House garden, we've also been promised this lovely space behind the Victoria Works pub - Huzzah!