There are lots of other easy projects to help increase our insect biodiversity in our gardens and balconies. Please post your ideas, progress and photos/videos of your project progresses on our Facebook group! Click on these three wonderful web-guides to discover inspiration (especially perfect to give children something to do!!) :
The Wildlife Trusts: www.wildlifetrusts.org/actions/how-create-mini-pond
Royal Society for the Portection of Birds (RSPB):
Wild About Gardens:
And there's a new movie coming out soon to inspire us all, it's a remake of the 1994 film The Secret Garden
Most kids don't seem to like fruit & veg - they get really picky from a young age. Ever wondered why?
Well, the science suggests that it's an evolutionary survival strategy. Our ancestors millions of years ago needed to learn what was edible and what was poisonous. Still today we are surrounded by a lot of toxic plants in the wild. So early humans evolved a special gene that makes the toxins in these plants taste bitter. This gene is strong in children to trigger an aversion to eating any old leaf or tuber. For children, vegetables have a very bitter taste, but this diminishes as they grow older and the evolutionary gene starts to say "ok, I think I'm learning what isn't dangerous to it!" As we grow up, we lose half of our taste receptors by the time we reach our 20's, and so the veggiest start to taste less bitter over time, and we gradually develop a taste for what we really love to eat.
So no need to tell kids off or feel frustrated. It's evolution! But what we can do is what the evolution also intended - for adults to encourage children gently, making it fun and creating good memories about highly edible and nutritious "good food".
The other problem, of course, was when humans created junk food :) Pretty much everything is packed with sugars, and sugars are addictive. No wonder children prefer Heinz tomato ketchup than fresh tomatoes or fizzy drinks instead of a homemade fruit milkshake (and the list goes on!)
One extraordinary way this was made a brilliant example of, was with our good old national treasure - Jamie Oliver. Remember when he did his big School Meals project in 2005? And in 2008, Jamie returned in a big drive to get kids to grow veg in schools. But somehow so many schools just don't do it. Teachers are underpaid, overworked. Our government always cuts funding to everything.
But perhaps now is a good time, as we started this wonderful community project to make our streets green and flowery, filling our homes with free cut-flowers, and growing our own fruit & veg in our little gardens, to reach out to our neighbours with children and offer them seeds & seedlings? And help parents collect pots to plant up, making gifts if they are busy working.
If you are family reading this, come on board and lets all have fun together! There are lots of things for your children to learn, they can even draw pictures of their progress or take photos for you to upload onto our Facebook group.
The key thing Jamie's experiment with his school veg-growing showed was that when kids feel they have ownership over a project, when parents trust them (with something safe, which gardening is), then they respond with tonnes of enthusiasm and happiness.
And with Spring and Summer coming, this is the perfect way to spend time out in the garden with the kids and help them take ownership of your Edible Kitchen Garden! This website is made to be child-friendly, so feel free to let them read all my posts if that helps them to feel part of our Big Jericho Community Science Project!
So join our Facebook group and get your kids super excited about growing AND EATING!! the fruit & veg that we'll encourage them to grow!! I'll be guiding anyone who needs advice & tips, so don't feel this is a lot of work. It's not, it's super easy! We'll be able to upload fun safe videos and info for kids to read for themselves about fruit and veg. And as the Jericho Kids 'n Green Club, parents will be able to chat on the Facebook page and share lots of fun info and resources.
Take a look at Jamie's website about food for kids as our starting point!
Even the tiniest garden or balcony can be jam-packed with delicious edible food.
As scientists, we have long known that gardening - the "human-plant interaction" has incredible health benefits - physical and mental. Watering plants, caring for seedlings, picking and eating them...all these things create positive chemical changes in our brains and bodies (what we call "neurological and bio-physiological" !) Spending time with plants, growing and harvesting them is part of our evolutionary makeup. So it's really sad when you stop to think about how divorced our modern, busy lives have become from this evolutionary connection to our own food. But, now is the time to change things, and gradually learn that we can rely less on supermarkets pumping what they think we want, to growing what we really want (and spending pennies instead of pounds!) Now is the time to gradually produce our own food, gain confidence and experience the incredible joy of being able to pop into the garden or balcony and pick what you want to cook.
Don't be phased if you have a balcony or small courtyard - even if it is concreted or paved. You can most definitely grow all sorts of amazing fruit & veg in pots, and I'll guide you through the very easy process. It'll create a lovely ecology in a space that had nothing, give you lots of deliciously edible food, and you'll be surprised how happy it makes you feel!
And if you have a garden, you don't need to dig it all up! Our sciency project here is to use our existing garden ecologies (and create new ecologies on balconies & courtyards). By all means clear small areas of your garden, but the main point is to work with what we have. It's perfectly fine to plant our new fruit and veg into spaces inbetween our other plants. For centuries in the UK we've had "cottage gardens" - these traditionally have always been a mix of fruit, vegetables, flowers and border plants.
So join our dedicated Facebook page and start chatting, seeing my tips and advice being uploaded, and share your tips, photos, and progress with us all too!
From sitting room floor to windowsill to garden or pots...to picking & eating!
It's so easy and you don't need much space, and, you don't have to grow "everything" - just pick the veggies that you love the most and focus on them.
We're so used to buying everything, with supermarkets pumping thousands of different items at us. But actually, you only really need to focus on the fruit and veg that you really like and they will give you the right nutrients and fibre that you need.
And, it's all quite a bit of a con. Our favourite fruit and veg are often the most expensive. I love globe artichokes, but they usually sell for £3-4 each! I also love all the berries, yet they are sold to us in plastic boxes containing just a handful. How many times have I got really annoyed at seeing a plastic punnet holding just 12 raspberries or 6 strawberries...for £2-4 each? All the time ;)
Yet for the average £2 cost of a packet of seeds, we can grow entire artichoke plants that produce week after week. And one raspberry plant is around £2 - you get a heck of a lot of punnets for that!
So let's start getting our own seeds and sharing them or their seedlings with each other!! The main cost is the first year to get us started. After that, most vegetables don't die but keep growing and producing year after year. So the cost of buying seeds reduces pretty quickly.
The pictures above are seeds that I'm growing to start off our Jericho Seedling Club! They'll be bigger in a few weeks and ready to start sharing them out. Some of the seedlings I'm preparing to share are ones that will give you food all year round - like chives, spinach, beans and many more!
Would you like to join me and help grow seeds? If yes, raise your hand and let's organise who will grow what to share & exchange with each other!
There's no need to spend a lot of money - use your money for the seeds and simply upcycle pots, bottles, tins, egg boxes, toilet/kitchen cardboard rolls, rolled up newspaper, plastic food containers...anything that will make a nice little growing pot. So doublecheck your wheelie bins and rescue those items!!
And join me on our Facebook page for lots of tips and advice to get you started.
At first I thought, is there a piece of land that we could have a community orchard on? But one day last summer while on my allotment at Cripley Meadow Allotments (Port Meadow), I had a walk through our small orchard there and, sitting under a massive willow tree looking at the fast growing fruit tree, it suddenly dawned on me!
What if every garden in Jericho had even just one dwarf heritage fruit tree? That would make our beautiful Jericho one big orchard! It would instantly transform our ecology and wildlife biodiversity. And if we all had different heritage varieties of pears, apples, plums, damsons, quinces, peaches etc, we'd also be able to exchange fruit between us.
Having a fruit tree in your garden is sheer bliss! I inherited a pear tree in my garden and it's been such a luxury to be able to pick the fruit during the summer and enjoy eating them fresh, turning them into puddings and experimenting with recipes to preserve them over the cold winter months. I love sitting in the garden under its dappled shade, listening to the leaves rustling in the summer breeze and seeing the birds fluttering in, chirping happily away.
If you have a large garden, a normal sized tree is fine. But in most of our smaller Victorian terraced gardens, having a large tree can cause neighbour disputes from the shade it casts into someone elses garden. That's why dwarf trees are the super solution. Grafted onto dwarf root stocks, they'll grow to a maximum of 6 feet (2 metres), which is the usual height of a boundary wall or fence. It's still tall enough to give you lots of dappled shade if you sit near it, and not bother your neighbour.
Moreover, our small gardens can only really accommodate one large tree. But the beauty about having dwarf fruit trees is that a small garden could have 3 to 4 trees, especially if they were grown up against the walls (what we call "espaliers" - don't worry, I can show how easy it is to tie the branches into the right shape to fan along a wall!) So instead of one large pear tree, you could have 4 smaller trees giving you 4 different types of fruit!
I've also planted 2 dwarf trees - a heritage apple and quince - and am looking forward to the first fruits. Quince is an extraordinary fruit, the fragrance is intensely sweetly scented and if you put one on your kitchen table, it fills the house will its delicious smell. It's also good for making Quince Jam or Jelly - fabulous with cheeses, or a dollop on rice pudding, or just spread on hot toast. I've even see top chefs slice quinces into four and add them to a roast.
Now, there's an important reason why I'm suggesting we only plant heritage dwarf fruit trees for our Big Jericho Rewilding Project. Rather than buy bog-standard fruit trees cheaply from places like Tesco, instead, this is the most amazing chance to rebuild some of our ancient varieties back into our ecosystem. Cheap bog-standard trees just don't help the wildlife biodiversity as much. And they are often weak with little disease resistance. But heritage fruit trees have had a long evolution to strengthen, fight disease and develop their ecosystem connection to wildlife. For example, the blossom on heritage fruit trees will produce far better pollen for bees and other pollinators. They also produce fruit that aren't "bog standard"!! I promise you will discover how amazing it is to pick and eat rare heritage fruit that you can't buy in the supermarkets!! There are so many different varieties of heritage fruit to choose from - apples, pears, plums, damsons, quinces, cherries, peaches and many others.
If you'd like to put one or more heritage dwarf fruit trees in your garden, please post your interest on our Facebook group so I can build up a list of our group from there....Our best option is to build up a group list in order to get a low price for a large order, from a very specialist heritage supplier, Bernwode, in Oxfordshire. I went to visit them 2 months ago and they have the most famous collection of rare fruit trees. If we order a large batch of trees, they will be much lower cost than buying individually, and I'll be able to collect them so you can all avoid the delivery charges. Click on the Bernwode logo to explore their website!
Further away in Kent if you just want to order online on your own, is Brogdale, which also holds a national collection of heritage fruit trees. But remember, buying fruit trees together in bulk means lower prices!
Hello! Are you a keen and experienced gardener? Would you like to join us in offering residents free gardening and rewilding advice when they ask for it? There will be lots of people who haven't any experience at gardening or growing their own food, and many will think it's difficult. So it would be great for keen gardeners to join me, and we share meeting up with residents between us to offer them our free time & advice.
- able-bodied residents will definitely need to do their own digging! We are only offering free growing & garden lay-out advice, helping them to learn what to plant, how, where and when.
- we may also be able to form small teams to help any of our elderly or disabled residents to bring a little plant happiness into their lives! As we know, gardening is a huge creator of much happiness in our lives!
UPDATE: Obviously we can't do much of this face-to-face now with the social-distancing situation, but we can still be highly active via our Facebook page by contributing to discussions, answering questions, helping to motivate others! I'd also be grateful if you could help me to advise those who are asking whether to prepare planting beds or inter-planting. They could be asked to upload images of their gardens, balconies, courtyards, and we can then offer advice on the discussion board of our FB page.
All these empty zones could certainly do with a massive make-over that needn't cost a penny. There are lots of amazing native British plants and planting schemes that offer low-maintenance and high attraction to wildlife. For instance, lavenders, cow parsleys, foxgloves are just a few that insects feed from. We could even add some kitchen garden plants as excellent 'architecture', such as rhubarb's massive leaves and tall silvery globe artichokes. This would be such little cost to the council in the long-run, and once planted, little bother for us, other than the occasional tidy up. In fact, research in other cities shows clearly that 'rewilding' these areas usually costs the council far, far less to maintain ...saving our taxes!!... and generates higher feelings of happiness, better mental health and wellbeing for community residents, workers and visitors.
Another popular idea is with areas that are just boring, unused grassy areas that have simply been forgotten or minimally maintained by the council. Not only do these offer little sanctuary or food or natural habitat to our native fauna. They also carry a regular cost to the council (or private company), having to mow them all the time. But they can easily be turned into mini wildflower meadows so easily!! These meadows can be underplanted with lots of other native bulbs and flowers for winter & spring interest - remember seeing pretty yellow cowslips in your childhood? They've been going gradually extinct. This simple wild meadow idea means the council/organisation doesn't have the high cost of having to regularly mow the grass. The wildflower meadows look after themselves and we'll see so much more wildlife being attracted to it. And if these new mini-meadows are slightly larger places, lovely paths can be cut through them, making it a far more beautiful experience of sitting or walking through them.
Now, the OUP building is historic and quite lovely to my eyes at least! But what a waste of it's long frontage onto Walton Street that it is just green lawn. Imagine that as a beautiful wildflower meadow! What visual pleasure and better mental health it would be for everyone walking past their railings to see lush greenery that supports wildlife and pollinators. Sometimes I wonder also if it might also hold a community bee hive for delicious honey! (honey has very powerful medicinal properties too). And how about a few dwarf heritage fruit trees there too?!
Another type of empty zone are the atypical plants that the council uses as types of thorny hedges in various random places. Replacing these with more native species' hedging would give much more familiar and user-friendly habitat and sources of food for our native wildlife and birds. By doing so, we'll be bringing more of the natural British countryside into our Jericho. Why is it important to bring a bit of country into city? Because using naturally growing species in an urban area creates familiar bridges and stop-over points for birds and insects and other wildlife. And we want to see more birds in Jericho! They'll also eat our slugs and keep our Edible Kitchen Gardens healthy too!
One final area that is an "empty zone" are our Jericho streets - narrow pavements and long rows of terraced houses. This is another easy empty zone to solve! Just click on the "Join a Project" tab above and select "Bloomin' our Streets" to see information on how to add upcylced pots and planters outside front doors and windows to turn our streets green again! While Jericho as a Victorian "urban village" was built to be entirely functional tenement housing for workers at Lucy's Factory, we live so close to the stunning greenery of the canal that we could so easily 'green' our pavement areas and cheer ourselves up with our pretty streets.
If you fancy getting involved with rewilding our "empty zones", please start posting photographs & locations on our Facebook group of empty zones you'd love to see made beautiful and meadow-ish! We can then start planning together how to make them beautiful again, what type of native species planting to choose and how to go about getting them green and lovely!