PLANTING UP AND SPREADING THE WORD – An account of Hackney street planting by Diana Jackson

 
“I don’t believe it!”
 

I look up from my after-work watering of the tree pit outside my house, slightly startled, to see a black cab has pulled over on the other side of the street.
 
“Are you really doing that?”
 
The face is friendly, but his tone is almost accusatory … so far I’ve only had friendly “hello”s and “you’re doing a good job there, love”s from passers by … but maybe some people just think we’re mad?
 
“Erm … yes!”
“And have you actually planted flowers in there?”
“Err… yes!”
 
“I thought the council did that?”
 
“Oh, no, they don’t really have the funds for planting little spaces like this – so a group of us from the area are doing it instead”
 
My taxi driver breaks into a broad smile.
 
“Well I think that’s brilliant.  Really great.  Everybody should do that.  In fact, there’s a weedy bank in front of my house: when I get home I’m going to give it some attention.”
 
************
One of the lovely things about participating in the Chelsea fringe has been the reaction from people passing by “my” two little tree pits.  They aren’t very showy, or very big, but neighbours and passers by seem genuinely pleased to see them looking greener and tidier than they were before.
 
Luckily I had a pretty good starting point, as the lady who used to live in my house had planted these tree pits a few years ago, and some of the plants she put in are still doing well.  However, with the passage of time others have disappeared, and dandelions, groundsel, grass and chickweed, along with a fair amount of litter and last year’s dried up nasturtium stems, have left the plots looking a bit sad…
 

 
As I knew these tree pits had been planted before, I took the view that anything that looked reasonably happy and healthy and not an obvious weed could stay for the time being, and set to work clearing out the weeds and rubbish and mixing in some fresh compost with the top layer of soil.  I have planted up the gaps with cheap plants that I hope will be fairly resilient to the challenges of feet, prams, dogs, lack of rain, foxes, cats and kids: thyme, lobelia, calibrachoa (like a mini petunia), arabis and lysimachia (Creeping Jenny).   Hopefully with some warmth to add to our recent wet they will quickly flesh out – but already the pavement looks a bit more loved than before:
 

 
Now they just need watering while they establish, a bit of sunshine, and the occasional tidy.
 
Best of all, as a reward for my efforts, I get all the weed leaves to add to my compost bin:
 

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Great stuff, namesake!

    Round my way, the neighbours are rallying to help with various bits and pieces – mending my donated broom, fixing the squeak in my borrowed wheelbarrow, giving me tea and cold drinks – and offering lots of moral support.

    The difficulty is getting enough otherwise throwaway grey water onto both the planted beds and the now-composted tree pits awaiting planting. If anyone reading this is within bucket-bearing staggering distance of the Hertford Road/Stamford Road junction, please give our new street garden the use of your grey water instead of pulling the plug on it.

    Always water around, not on, the plants in any already-planted beds and tree pits you’re supporting – soap kills bees and watering a plant directly can dislodge anything newly-planted.

    Reply

  2. Posted by courtyardgardener on May 28, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Thanks fellow-Diana! Glad your neighbours are helping out. I hope you’re finding some grey water for your tree pits … mine seem to be loving the heat, but they do need more watering in this gorgeous weather. And thanks Miranda for putting the blog entry up.

    Reply

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