Here at East End Gardener, we’re big fans of Spitalfields City Farm – they’ve been putting on the truly excellent Oxford and Cambridge Goat Race and they’re home to more animals than you can shake a stick at (and you can pet them, too).
To learn more about one of London’s best community farms, I interviewed Mhairi Weir, its manager. In this audio slideshow, she talks about the history of the farm, her job, and even her favourite animal.
Here’s some exclusive news courtesy of Mhairi: the farm’s just gotten funding for a community garden and they’ll be looking for volunteers in the next four weeks. Get in touch and you could be helping out on east London’s latest cooperative, growing everything from veggies to fruit.
To get involved with the farm, you can sign up here.
By Zing Tsjeng
Eastend Gardener delves further into the beekeeping world and meets Alessia Bolis, expert beekeeper who runs courses at Hackney City Farm.
We also attend one of the classes to see what the course is all about and find out some top bee facts from people who attended the course.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the class email Alessia at beecome[at]hotmail.com. The next Introduction to Beekeeping course starts on 9th May and runs every Wednesday till 4th July at 7pm at Hackney City Farm. The fee is £110 per person and concessions are available for residents of Hackney on benefits and people involved in full time study. To find out more information visit the Hackney City Farm website.
By Krystena Petrakas
Hackney-based gardener Lucy Conochie runs her own business, Peachy Gardening services. In this post Lucy tells us her story and offers some buds of wisdom for fellow inner-city gardeners.
I started out with a fork, spade and some secateurs offering my gardening services to friends and built up the business from there. I set up in 2006, working on both my art and gardening part-time, and the company has sustained itself.
Most of Lucy’s clients have terrace house gardens
Being based in east London, most clients have terrace house back gardens all of a similar size. My advice to people with a small space is, don’t try and have everything in a small garden. It’s much better to choose a plant that you would like to see repeated then try and have one of everything in your garden. Also, always plant things in odd numbers because odd numbers are organic. Planting in threes and fives is the general rule of thumb.
Bees are in trouble. The number of bees in Britain is falling dramatically and three bumblebee species are already extinct.
Many factors are causing the declining population, from having less habitats, to climate change and even certain pesticides can harm bees. Many bee homes have been destroyed as development continues around the UK and bees are left nowhere to lay their eggs.
Tash and I are doing our bit to encourage bee activity and making our Eastend garden bee-friendly by making our own solitary bee home. We hope you follow in our steps and help the bee population.
Please see our video on how to make your own solitary bee home.
And here’s what went wrong…
By Krystena Petrakas and Natasha Wynarczyk
Bees are an essential part of the food chain, pollinating 90% of the world’s commercial foodstuffs, including most fruit, vegetables and nuts. Coffee and cotton are also dependent on pollination by bees.
But there has been a sharp, and alarming, decline in the number of bees over the past few decades. The number of bees in the country has fallen by 70% and three out of the 25 current species of UK bee are completely extinct, according to figures by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in the UK. Scientists blame this on various factors, which include disease, the expansion of cities and the use of pesticides and a lack of genetic diversity in bee populations.
If this trend continues, it will have a serious effect on both the UK economy and on the provision of food. With the world’s population growing day by day it’s important that we do all we can to reverse this before it becomes too late and most products disappear from the supermarket shelves.
Wildflower expert and Telegraph columnist Sarah Raven has launched a three-part television series, Bees, Butterflies and Blooms. She is on a mission to get Britain planting wildflowers and insect-friendly plants. We’ve helpfully included a list below, taken from Bumblebee Conservation.
The Telegraph has also published a slideshow of tips on what you can do to maximize bee activity in your gardens.
This campaign is really important and East End Gardener are proud to support it!
Bees, Butterflies and Blooms is on BBC2 at 8pm on Wednesdays. You can catch up on BBC iPlayer here.
Follow Sarah Raven on Twitter
By Natasha Wynarczyk. Photo by mf31 under a CC licence. Bee-friendly plants list from bumblebeeconservation.org
On Sunday I tried to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch but the number of birds frequenting my garden was frankly negligible. I want more feathered friends in my tiny patch of wild, so I’ve decided to bribe them with food.
Birds really need extra nutrients and fat supplies to see them through the winter months. You can help them out, and be rewarded with a lively backyard, by making a quick and easy birdcake using kitchen scraps.
Here I am coming over all Blue Peter with a here’s-one-I-made-earlier birdcake recipe. And for more information on foods that are safe for birds, check out this handy guide from the RSPB.
By Hannah Bass.
Blue Tits are beautifully coloured birds found throughout Britain
If you’re planning pottering about in the garden this weekend, or going for a coffee and stroll in the park, then you’d be in the perfect place to get involved with RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.
East End Gardener is showing its support by joining in the annual event; all you need is a pen, some paper and an hour to spend either tomorrow or Sunday in your garden or at your local park. The idea is to note down the highest number of each bird species you see on the ground.
If you can’t tell a Greenfinch from a Jackdaw have no fear, you can also ask questions or share tips on the Big Garden Birdwatch community group. To make this easier there is a birdwatch counting sheet you can download and print off from the bottom of this blog post. For iPhone users you can also download a new handy bird guide app – lovebirds.
The RSPB has been running this event for 30 years, helping to create a snapshot how many and what type of bird there are in each region. Sadly, the number of birds that grace our gardens and parks are dropping in dramatic numbers; we’ve lost more than half our house sparrows and almost three-quarters of our starlings.
On the bright side, these surveys help to spot the problem areas and help take the first step towards protecting the UK’s wildlife.
Birdwatch Counting Sheet
By Krystena Petrakas. Photo by Sergey Yeliseev under a CC license