Shaheda here from Tower Hamlets Food Growing Network. I hope you are all truly well and looking after each other as best you can.
No doubt some of you have a long list of things you could be doing, and that’s no surprise. Co-working amongst your family, friends, housemates, children and even pets is no mean feat! Take a moment to thank YOURSELF and feel proud of your achievements thus far and beyond. Whilst your house turns into an office, your home into a school, and on top, you are managing your usual everyday household tasks, you might ask yourself which activity is going to give you some respite from the daily grind.
In these ‘unprecedented’ times, (the new buzz word for 2020) my pleasure was re-discovering my balcony. I went out on to my balcony to take a breather, after reading and watching everything in sight about Covid-19 and immediately, I felt relief. Not just due to the fact that fresh air had cleared my head, but at the prospect my balcony was going to be my saving grace for the next few weeks, or even months.
My committed perennials, Osteospermum, commonly known as the African Daisy, which I’ve now had for nearly three years, are blooming. I realised I could tend to them, get rid of dead leaves, top up with some fresh compost, and water them. There was new growth on the woody stems, so a mini prune and tidy up was just what they needed. There was a difference overnight and they looked refreshed and lively! I felt rewarded for my efforts.
Last year, I put in some random bulbs into my plant pots, left over from projects and now, they stand tall and happy. The daffodils were out early, with a couple of tulips waiting to flower. There’s a few crocuses coming through I think, and in one of the big pots I threw in a Bryophyllum daigremontianum native to Madagascar commonly known as mother of thousands or alligator plant. Due to their invasive nature, and since I have so many of them inside the house, I wanted to see if they survived outdoors, and they did unsurprisingly. Though, the one I have on the balcony looks quite different to the ones in the house, less delicate and hardier with thicker leaves, resembling the shape of an alligator’s mouth. You can definitely see why it’s called the alligator plant.
There is also a random bean plant that’s coming up, again a lovely surprise. My salvia plants, which I’ve had since last year, revived after dying back completely. I can’t wait for them to flower and add a bit of dainty flair to my balcony. I bought a whole tray of discounted sad looking Viola plants in the supermarket, which were destined for the rubbish bins, for £1.20 and they are now thriving. The two-tone colours are a real spectacle and a pleasure to look at.
My favourite flower at the moment on my balcony is the little pink ones you see in the photo. I haven’t quite settled on identifying what they are, so if you know, please do get in touch and put me at ease. The plant died back almost completely, like it had been burnt, so I had no hope of it coming back to life. It was the first plant I stared at and photobombed for days. It was my little pot of hope.
I really didn’t know what to expect, what will grow or survive. It’s all a bit of a trial and error, and that’s what I think makes it more fun! I also use this app called Plantnet, which some of you might be familiar with. You take a picture of your plant/flower and it tries to match it with a similar plant/flower that looks the same. The app provides you with the name or species it belongs to. It’s not always as accurate as I would like it to be, but it gives you some idea and a good starting point to continue your research far and wide.
The weather is definitely more spring like. So if, like me, you want to get busy growing or looking after your gardens, balconies or growing spaces, please do! If you want to share your stories, post some pictures or just write in to tell us what you are doing garden or food related, do get in touch and we would be very happy to hear from you here at Wen.
I will be doing another post very soon showing you how to sow seeds and grow plants on your balcony. I will take into account that we all may be limited with resources at the moment. So, let’s see what creative ideas we can come up with. Watch this space for more growing shares and stories!
During these unprecedented times, (whoops) Wen would like to stand with you in solidarity and support you in every way we can to stay positive, healthy and well.
All the very best wishes to you and your community.
Shaheda, Garden Outreach Lead