The singing wheelbarrow…. – Diana Weir

… was just about the last straw in a compost collection run that had proved strangely accident-prone (much like this post) after the smooth teamwork of the previous one achieved with the experienced help of three of De Beauvoir Square’s finest, who’d arrived with two cars and another spade when all I’d hoped for had been Kirsty and her car. Two Boldings, one Hauer and lots of supermarket shopping later, we had 16 sacks of compost for me to spread over the two huge corner beds at the Hertford Road/Stamford Road junction. So – with more help from Kirsty to do the planting the following afternoon, phase I worked out neatly, just before the launch of Chelsea Fringe on 19th May.

Phase II proved rather less easy but, with the help of the wonky borrowed wheelbarrow – which sang like a cageful of rather raucous canaries but at least saved me having to warn passers-by verbally of the hazard approaching them – another 15 sacks full of free municipal compost reached home last Tuesday, this time principally due to my next-door neighbour’s son and the family car. Just as the heatwave took hold, I spent three hours digging, carting and spreading compost and topsoil on the seven tree pits flanking the odd-shaped pedestrianised area at the junction and laying out clay soil to dry in the sun. Finally, as I was about to return the barrow, the wonderful Gaby reappeared, this time with her WD40 can (the previous apparition had proffered instantly-addictive San Pellegrino l’Aranciata), and cured the squeak before I had to brave any more silly remarks on the streets of Dalston.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, I collapsed rather after that marathon session. Barbara Barnett, our inspiration for this project, bade me sternly to “take it easy”, so I spent afternoons in my own garden for a change and even finished the first novel I’d read in ten days. Then a friend offered to help with the Blue Peter stage of phase II, so I scrounged lots of thick cardboard cartons and spent Sunday morning cutting them up into six-inch edging strips – to keep the piled compost from subsiding all over the street.

The help, however, sadly dematerialised – duty called her home again – so I’ve decided to follow Miranda’s excellent example and appeal for more neighbours to help get this new street garden finished before the Jubilee street party there next Monday. All helpers who haven’t already been invited elsewhere will, of course, be very welcome to join us and enjoy the new amenity which they’ve helped to create….

You’ll perhaps have noticed in passing the clay soil which I’ve laid out to dry, on the only plastic sheets I possess, out by the already-planted corner beds. Now that it’s dried out, it needs crushing into crumbs to make it useful as a binding agent to add to the compost – so anyone with heavy boots, please jump on it whenever you feel the need to let off some steam! I’m told that bashing it with a heavy spade (or equivalent) would work too…. Then we can mix that pulverised clay into the compost in these seven tree pits and lay out the contents of the other four bags I put out there, to dry etc etc. – ready for the next lot of tree pits that anyone tackles nearby.

There’s more topsoil on offer but it’s over in Queensbridge Road – too far for one woman and any wheelbarrow, let alone I’m told that it’s extremely heavy. So we need at least one additional, strong person, plus a car, to fetch that. Volunteers, please…. just ask me for details of exactly where to collect it from.

I’ve prepared but not yet installed the cardboard edgings which we need to keep the compost etc in place properly – so anyone who fancies doing a bit of Blue Peter stuff with me, fitting, fixing in place and taping them together, would be very welcome now that the heat is abating slightly. Bring rubber gloves, kitchen scissors and any parcel tape you have around for this job.

We need to soak the compost etc in each tree pit before planting or the plants will have no chance of taking root, so please will anyone who lives within staggering distance of this junction get out your watering-cans, buckets etc and bring along all the bathwater which you might otherwise let go down the drain, as soon as you see the cardboard edgings in place on any of the tree pits. Or just add it to the already planted beds meantime – just water around, not on the plants. Those beds can do with all the water that they can get and I also have some sprouting summer bulbs and seeds to add to them when I’ve a spare moment and the soil looks damp enough.

Then comes the really fun bit: I have a lot of donated plants in the back garden to plant out as soon as that preparation is all done. I’m promised that we can also glean more bare-rooted ones from Barbara’s garden but that’s only viable when the tree pits are already plantable. If anyone else has any further, appropriate plants available in your own gardens, please put those aside, pot them up separately and be ready to add them to the existing collection of donations when we’re about ready to plant – then we can try to ensure that each tree pit gets its fair share of whatever’s available.

It’s time to get busy out in Hertford Road! Do let me know when and what you can do to help, please – via .


One response to this post.

  1. Illustrations, please, Miranda…


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