The East London Garden Society

The Voice ‐ June 2018

Comment by Geoff

Geoff Juden

Our urban green spaces are always being challenged, mainly by developers wishing to better advantage themselves.

Once more a community garden is under threat along with local buildings and a playground. Although my own feeling is that we need community gardens, it will be the wider community who are being disadvantaged by a lack of appreciation of play and the natural world.

It’s the Canal Club in Bethnal Green which is under threat, so we should all work towards a positive outcome for the community and keep gardens in East London.

The Problem of Intensive Farming

No one, young or old, marches in the street to protest about the impoverishment of our countryside and no one hoists banners crying out against the turning of our green fields into sterile wildlife wastelands. Yet, because of the intensification of agriculture in the past fifty years in Britain, we have destroyed well over half of our biodiversity and populations of birds, butterflies and wild flowers that once gave the landscape such animation and thrilling life.

The fields may still look green in spring, but it is mostly lifeless scenery, apart from the pesticide-saturated crops; it is now ‘green concrete’.

This is a remarkable historical event since it has altered the character of Britain just as profoundly as the other changes of the past half‐century. In the past decade, specialists in conservation have come to understand the magnitude of the loss, but for the public at large, and indeed for most politicians, it is simply not on their radar, so we are faced with a nationwide unawareness of what is obvious.

We in Britain have wiped out half our wildlife, yet we are not alone. The French woke up in a dramatic way to the fact that their farmland birds, skylarks, partridges and meadow pipits, were rapidly disappearing. Le Monde, the soberest of national journals, splashed the fact across the top of its front page.

Intensive farming is the problem. Three generations of making agriculture more industrial have given Europe cheap food on a mammoth scale, but a terrible environmental price has been paid and only now are we are understanding the implications. The heart of the matter is the universal pesticide in use. We benefit from farming solely based on poison, which has exterminated more and more of the insects at the base of countless food chains in the natural world. We need to do something about this before it's too late. Back to top

Weeds Indicate a Soil’s Health

Weeds can be a headache, but they can also be very helpful if we know a few basic principles. Weeds give us clues to the health of our soil in lawns, landscapes, gardens and pastures.

What exactly is a weed? By one definition, a weed is a plant out of place. Merriam‐Webster defines a weed as “a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth; especially one that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants”.

A variety of plants, including many classified as weeds such as Field Horsetail, will help give the soil the nutrients it needs. Back to top

Grow a Lemon Tree

A productive lemon tree can be grown inside your home.

They are beautiful in appearance and emit a pleasant, refreshing fragrance.

To grow your own lemon tree, you'll need:

  • An organic lemon (non‐organic lemons often contain non‐germinating seeds).
  • Fertile potting soil, preferably containing peat, vermiculite, perlite, and natural fertilizers.
  • A planting pot that is six inches wide and six inches deep.
  • A seedling pot that is about 24 inches wide by 12 inches deep.
  • A sunny, indoor growing location and possibly a grow lamp.

Follow these steps:

  • Moisten the potting soil so that it is damp all the way through, but not soaked.
  • Fill the smaller pot with soil, all the way up to an inch below the rim.
  • Cut open your lemon and remove a seed. Remove all of the pulp from its surface.
  • Plant the seed about half an inch deep in the middle of the pot. (The seed must still be moist when it is buried into the soil.)
  • Gently spray the soil that is directly above the seed with water.
  • Cover the pot with clear plastic wrap, seal the edges with a rubber band, and poke small holes in the top with a sharp object.
  • Place the pot in a warm, sunny location.
  • Occasionally spray on more water to avoid the soil drying out, but do not cause water to puddle.
  • After about two weeks, when the sprouting emerges, remove the plastic covering. Should you require additional light for your lemon plant, use a grow light.
  • Take care of the young plant by keeping the soil damp and making sure it gets at least eight full hours of light per day, giving it moderate doses of organic fertilizer.
  • Protect your new lemon tree by watching over the plant to ensure it’s not attacked. Prune brown, dead leaves when necessary.
  • When the plant outgrows its small pot, place it in the larger pot. Note that younger plants need more water than older plants.

Eventually, your hard work will pay off with a fruit‐bearing tree and you will have grown an excellent addition to your home decor. Back to top

The Strawberry

The first garden strawberry was grown in Brittany, France, during the late 18th century. Prior to this, wild strawberries and cultivated selections from wild strawberry species were the common source of the fruit.

The strawberry fruit was mentioned in ancient Roman literature in reference to its medicinal use. The French began taking the strawberry from the forest to their gardens for harvest in the 14th century. Charles V, France’s king from 1364 to 1380, had 1,200 strawberry plants in his royal garden. In the early 15th century western European monks were using the wild strawberry in their illuminated manuscripts.

The strawberry is found in Italian, Flemish, and German art, and in English miniatures. The entire strawberry plant was used to treat depressive illnesses.

By the 16th century, references of cultivation of the strawberry became more common. People began using it for its supposed medicinal properties and botanists began naming the different species. In England the demand for regular strawberry farming had increased by the mid‐16th century.

The combination of strawberries and cream was created by Thomas Wolsey in the court of King Henry VIII. Instructions for growing and harvesting strawberries showed up in writing in 1578. Back to top

Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Fruit Salad

Ingredients for the Dressing

  • ¼ cup of honey
  • ¼ cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
  • The zest of 1 lemon

Ingredients for the Salad

  • 1 lb of strawberries hulled and quartered
  • 6 oz of blueberries
  • 6 oz of raspberries
  • 3 kiwis peeled and sliced
  • 1 orange peeled and wedges cut in half
  • 2 apples peeled and chopped
  • 1 mango peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups of grapes

In a small bowl whisk together honey, orange juice, and lemon zest. Add fruit to a large bowl and pour over dressing, tossing gently to combine. Chill until ready to serve Back to top



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