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Edible Gardens Open Day and Harvest Festival

A big thank you to everyone who visited us last Saturday for the Edible Gardens Open Day and Harvest Festival – it was lovely to meet you all on such a beautiful late summer afternoon!  Here are a few photos from the day (more photos below)….

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We’ve won an award!

As you can see from the photo, we’ve won a Green Flag Community Award! The Green Flag Award website explains that this is:

a national award that recognises high quality green spaces in the UK that are managed by voluntary and community groups. The Award is part of the Green Flag Award® scheme, the national standard for quality parks and green spaces.

For more information on the Green Flag Award scheme see here – and to see our Award Winner’s profile, see here.

Some thoughts on the Sycamore tree

Some thoughts on the Sycamore tree and other invasive species:

Invaders must die:

Mention the word sycamore to almost any conservationist or woodland manager and you will find they have a very low opinion of this tree. They will tell you how rampant it is, swamping our native species with its rocket-like growth and unstoppable breeding, and that we need to cut down as many as possible and replace them with oak and beech. Mention something like Himalayan Balsam or Japanese Knotweed and you will get a similar response; it must be eradicated! “Balsam bashing” – waking the poor plants with sticks before they go to seed – has become a popular activity among conservation groups all over the country. Ecologists talk about the urgency of these issues in terms which suggest that if we don’t control these species they will completely take over, and we’ll all be living in a jungle of Japanese Knotweed, even though a recent report put the cost of eradicating the stuff in the UK at around £1.6 billion.

I have previously tended to go along with this way of thinking, believing that the best thing for Britain’s ecology is to return to the relatively balanced state it was in about a thousand years ago, and for that state to be guarded fiercely against floral invasion. However, having experienced living in woodland and wasteland populated by these species for the last few years I have come to see a more complex picture. The fact is time doesn’t go backwards in ecology. There is no way that things will ever return to the way they were. The question is: where is our ecosystem going?

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How to… build a stackable raised bed on a budget

These raised beds are cheap and simple to make and effective to use; we have a number of them of varying sizes at Syon Lane. They are particularly useful if your soil or ground is not ideal for the plants you wish to grow. All you need is a pallet (in this case, one 1.85 metres square. It can help to have a spare pallet to hand too, in case any of the planks in the first one splinter beyond use as you dismantle it), a hammer, a saw (and a drill, if needed), manure, topsoil, compost – and, of course, whatever plants or seeds you’d like to grow in your raised bed! Here’s how our volunteer Sam did it:

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Growing Experiment: Comparison of sowing methods – seed-balls/simple broadcasting

Spring-Autumn 2011 – Syon Lane Community Allotment

Seed-balling is a technique which is supposed to have been first developed by Native Americans, but has been brought into use in Japan by farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka. It involves rolling seeds in a ball of clay and compost before sowing. The supposed benefits of seed-balls are that they a) don’t require any disturbance of the soil, b) protect the seed from birds and rodents, and c) give the seed an ideal place to sprout. This article is a very basic first attempt at assessing the value of seed-balling as a method of growing certain food crops in the UK and other cold-temperate climates. The crops we tested were Parsnip, Leek, Radish and Barley.


Seed-ball making – The seeds were thoroughly mixed in with a 50/50 wet clay and compost mixture and then each ball was rolled by hand. The diameter of the balls measured between 1cm and 3cm. The Fukuoka method of making rice seed-balls differs from this in that he uses dry clay powder and mixes it all in a cement mixer, gradually adding water. There is no need to hand roll in his method, as the clay powder will naturally forms balls around the rice grains is the cement mixer turns. However, given the small scale of our experiment (and the lack of a cement mixer), we opted for hand rolling, which proved to be highly productive with a group of 6-8 people. The seed-balls were then dried for several weeks in the greenhouse to harden off the clay, making them impenetrable to animals.

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To Make the Wasteland Grow: New eco-village this summer

This coming Saturday, 9th June, sees the beginning of an exciting new eco-village project – which starts with a walk from here at Syon Lane all the way to Windsor, camping for one night en route. The aim of the project is simple, and reflects that of the original 17th century Diggers, as this more modern group describe on their website:

Our aim is to start a community on a piece of disused land on the Crown Estate.

We plan to grow our own food, make shelters and live sustainably: to show an alternative to our system of crisis. We call for the right for everyone to be able to use the disused land to live on, free the yoke of debt and rent.

If you share our vision, and you are willing to work to achieve it, we welcome you to join us.

Interested? Here’s all the information you’ll need:

When and where?

The walkers will be gathering at Syon Lane Community Allotment at 11am on Saturday 9th June before moving off at 1pm sharp.

For details of how to get to Syon Lane (including a map), see here.

If you’d prefer to meet up with the walkers at Windsor – or at any point along the route – call or text the numbers below (see ‘How can I find out more?’) on the day for up-to-date information.

What to bring?

Camping equipment

Warm clothing

Mug, bowl, spoon


Seeds/useful equipment (if you have any)

Also see here for the full eco-village wishlist – it would be great if you could help out with any of these items!

How can I find out more?

Visit the website, the Facebook events page or London Indymedia.

Follow @freetheland on Twitter (and @SyonLane too!)


Call or text 07963 475 195 / 07905 283 114


How to… build a Hazel pole polytunnel

Polytunnels are great pieces of kit for the modern gardener, but they needn’t cost the earth – indeed they needn’t cost anything! They will allow you to extend your growing season by several months and grow tastier tomatoes and cucumbers in the summer, and can be built to any size you want. All they really consist of is a simple frame and some transparent plastic. You can buy rolls of transparent plastic quite cheaply from a DIY store or you can look around your local neighbourhood for bits of it in skips.

Here’s how to build a polytunnel in four simple steps:

Step One: Coppicing Hazel poles:

You can find Hazel trees in pretty much any park or woodland in Britain. They usually grow in clumps of narrow poles which can be cut during autumn and winter when there are no leaves on the tree. It is best to cut less than half the poles from each tree, giving it the chance to recover easily next spring. To make a polytunnel which is about 3 metres by 4 metres you will need to collect about 12 poles, each one around 4-6 metres long.

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