Ventilating The City

P20160228141103The Museum of London will launch its City Now City Future season soon, and we’ll be part of it!

From May 2017 to April 2018, the season explores key challenges and solutions global cities face today. The season includes a major exhibition, a series of public events, artistic commissions, workshops, discussions, walks and talks. And it includes the Hanwell and Norwood Green Orchard Trail!

We have been invited to participate in the Ventilating the City section. We will be part of a digital interactive table display in the heart of the exhibition, give a talk about our project on 31-August-2017 13:00-14:00, and hope to produce and publicise a self-guided walk through the orchard trail.

Pretty cool, ey?

The Piggeries Report

_mg_9291Today is a good day for a brief update on the Piggeries Orchard. As many of you know, we hit unexpected problems caused by an exceedingly high water table and unexpected water flow through the site, but we are happy to report continued progress and plans for the next steps:

The site has been cleared of brambles, many rocks and heaps of rubbish. The pond has been dug, fencing along the towpath and the path through the site is installed. This is already very popular with walkers and dogs!

Some of the rubble has been used to construct a newt habitat by the pond, and we are waiting to see small amphibians move in. Bird boxes for blue tits and robins have been installed in the trees surrounding the site. A composting area has been constructed (and will disappear from view as the hedges surrounding it grow).

100 metres of edible and prickly hedging plants have been planted along the fence and the back wall, and many already show signs of growth. We recently added a dozen of summer and autumn-fruiting raspberries along the fence by the canal, and a number of gooseberry and black currant bushes for everyone to come along and sample some of that soft fruit deliciousness.

We will seed the meadow and pond borders later in March or April to give a boost to grass and meadow flowers. Many dozens of bulbs of native bluebells and daffodils have been planted around Christmas, and some are beginning to emerge already.

We are short of a fruit tree orchard at this time, however. Thames Water has recently fixed water mains leaks in Studley Grange Road and St Dunstan’s Road, with the almost immediate effect that the water flow through the Piggeries is now back to meet expectations. There is planned water flow due to a slow-releasing surface water storage tank, which we expect to reduce further during the dry months and with continued improvements to surface water drainage from the nearby streets. This will turn the pond into what we originally planned: a seasonal water feature.

For now, we monitor the ground water levels. We missed the 2017 fruit tree planting season on purpose and hope to be able to plant fruit trees in 2018. We are already making designs for plan B to ensure that the Piggeries Orchard will live up to expectations.

Throughout this year, we’ll keep the site pristine, watch the water levels, monitor fauna and flora on site. We will have several activity days to dig out brambles, fight giant hogweed and nettles, and similar activities.

This is your chance to come join the fun. Watch this space for announcements!

(See what I mean? Nothing happens at the Piggeries but here I am, enumerating the improvements already done in an article longer than my arm.)

 

Spring Clean

img_20161103_111918It’s the Great British Spring Clean weekend!

We’ll be planting soft fruit in St. Margaret’s and in the Piggeries today from 11:00, and will join the Friends of Osterley and Clitheroe Locks to help pick litter along the Grand Union Canal Corridor later on.

Join us if you can. We’ll be working along the canal between Osterley Lock and St Margarets (by The Fox) from 11:00, starting at both ends, so you can’t miss us.

Alternatively go and help any other of the many spring clean activities in Ealing. Here’s a list: https://www.ealing.gov.uk/news/article/1607/great_british_spring_clean_comes_to_ealing

 

Canalside Housing Project 

dscn2870_kindlephoto-114942900Have you heard of the new canalside housing project in Hanwell yet?

18 new homes are now available at discounted monthly rates of naught and nothing to couples and young families of tits, robins, finches and other small birds. The new homes are located in several trees surrounding the Osterley Lock, Elthorne Waterside Terrace, Elthorne Waterside (Trumpers Way Entrance), St Margarete’s Open Space and The Piggeries orchards.

Another 13 similar flat-pack homes will be installed across the Hanwell Meadows and beyond the Three Bridges monument soon.

Tree #73 has been moved away to a sunnier location, the hedges at St Margarete’s have been mulched, a bucket or two of bramble roots were dug out.  Not bad for a Saturday morning!

Dormant Season?

img_20170114_113252854_hdrThey call this the dormant season in reference to stagnant plant growth. Of course this does not apply to you, my dear hobby gardeners and fellow orchardists!

Now is the time for winter pruning. Winter pruning is complete in the Hanwell and Norwood Green Orchard Trail for this year, but some of you might have some work left to do around the house, garden or allotment?

Apples, pears, quinces, medlar, figs and mulberry all benefit from winter pruning to improve health, growth and yield, and so do many soft fruit such as autumn-fruiting raspberries, blueberries or currants, and vine. Other shrubs such as fuchsia are also immensely grateful for a haircut this time of the year.

Note, however, that stone fruit such as cherry, plums, apricots and peaches want pruning after bloom, not in winter. Rhododendron and azaleas set next years buds in late summer and are best pruned in early summer, too, right after bloom.

Fine-tuned and optimised pruning is both a science and an art, and we don’t claim to be experts. However, common sense and a sharp pair of secateurs gets you a long way, so why not go ahead? Remove dead wood. Remove broken or infected branches. Remove those rubbing each other, loosen up areas of dense growth by taking our every second or third branch. Remove unruly ones growing out of the trunk too low, especially all those emerging below the grafting joint. Remove vertical water shoots and try to provide air, light, and a sense of shape and order to fruit trees.

Prolific growers such as autumn-fruiting raspberries or vine benefit from a hard cut-back, leaving only a pair of eyes above ground (raspberries) or off the leader (vine).

 

Phenomenal Plant Planting

img_20170204_130546233_hdrOur heartfelt thanks, as ever, to everyone who volunteered and helped enthusiastically in the planting of fruit trees at Osterley Lock and Elthorne Waterside last week!

The group was so enthusiastic, in fact, that more trees than originally planned ended up in the soil at Osterley Lock, and fewer than planned were planted in the Elthorne Waterside terrace behind the “Bambi” statue.

We are happy to report 18 new fruit trees in total, 17 of which were planted at Osterley Lock, including Medlar, Pear, Apple, Plum, Quince and Black Mulberry. We can’t wait to see them come into bloom and fruit!

We are now evaluating and deciding whether to acquire more trees or postpone the filling-in on that terrace.

Trees, Trees, Trees

p20160130131842Why not join us for today’s fruit tree planting?

We’ll be meeting at

Osterley Lock
Today, Saturday February 4th, 2017, at 10:00.

We will be planting over a dozen of mixed varieties fruit trees in the extended Osterley Lock Orchard, and we’ll be repairing the damage caused by vandalism by extending a small group of trees on the canal-side terrace in Elthorne Waterside to a small orchard. Hopefully this will make a better impression on the vandals rather than fuel their fires even more!

Join us if you can. Bring a pair of gardening gloves, a spade or a watering can if you can. Everyone’s welcome!

 

 

 

Fruity Fruity

_mg_9276Never mind the damp conditions surrounding The Piggeries orchard, we are delighted to report a successful planting day this last Saturday.

Over twenty volunteers worked hard, sometimes almost back breaking, to collect rubble all over the site. These stones, bricks and rather large and heavy blocks of concrete now enjoy a second life and form a habitat for newts and other reptiles and amphibians.

The old advertising sign for the adjacent housing development was taken down, dismantled and re-purposed for our first on-site composting and leaf-mulching areas.

Many more brambles were removed all over the site, and last not least, between 400 and 500 fruiting hedge plants were planted along the fence by the towpath and along the back wall. Varieties include Hazel (corylus avellana), Quickthorn (crataegus monogyna), Blackthorn, also known as Sloe (prunus spinosa), Dog Rose (rosa canina), Ramanas Rose (rosa rugosa), Black Elder (sambucus nigra), Cherry Plum (prunus cerasifera myrobalan) and Crabapple (malus evereste).

All along the orchard trail, rabbit guards were reinforced and enlarged to give our young trees that extra bit of protection from hungry rodents.

Our heartfelt thanks go to all helpers on the day, everyone who stopped by or otherwise expressed their support, and of course to the Tree Council, who donated the hedge plants. A surprisingly mild, sunny and impressively productive Saturday!

We plan to add more soft fruit such as gooseberries, redcurrants or raspberries, and we can’t wait to see it all grow.

Watch this site and join us for the next steps at The Piggeries in February or March (planting of soft fruit, sowing of meadow flowers and grass).

Water Drainage Problem

20170115_155644Many people have noticed the recent increased water flow through The Piggeries Orchard into the canal which has caused the towpath to become eroded, wet and muddy.

We thank the many towpath users and neighbours who brought the issue to our attention.

While the increase in water flow appears to coincide with work at the orchard we believe the cause lies in a long-term issue with surface water drainage further uphill. Recently a water mains leak in Studley Grange Road appears to have added to the problem.

We are working with Ealing Council to identify the source of the water and arrange for necessary repairs or improvements to the drainage system responsible . We hope that the Canal and Rivers Trust can then restore the towpath surface to improve it for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Piggeries

img_20161215_140931Join us today for the next big step at The Piggeries: our first official

Piggeries Planting Day

Today, Saturday January 21st, 2017
10:00 to 14:00

We will be planting edible hedging along the fence by the towpath and along the back wall. We will be gathering rubble and construct a newt habitat by the pond, prepare a small area for leaf mulching and composting, and apply general tender love and care.

As you may know already, we will not be planting fruit trees just yet due to the ongoing investigation into the unexpectedly high water table and possible solutions, but we will begin The Piggeries’ transformation from an eyesore to a gem by the canal today.

Please join us if you can.

Wear sensible clothing and shoes, possibly wellies. Bring gardening gloves. A pair of secateurs or a spade might be useful. Human-friendly children and well-behaved dogs are all welcome if under supervision. [map]

Later in spring, we will add more fruiting hedges, sow the wildflower meadow area and sow and plant around the pond. Check this website and our Twitter for further announcements and future opportunities of getting involved.