At the Vegetable Garden in Dulwich Park

To me, having fun often involves getting my hands dirty and doing some meaningful work. So what better place to do just that on a Sunday than in the garden? I found Dulwich Vegetable Garden a couple of months ago, a small community-driven enterprise nestled in a corner of lovely Dulwich Park.

Walk past Rosebery Lodge, and you see an old wooden gate and sign for the DVG. Lord Rosebery opened Dulwich Park in 1890, and this quaint Tudor-style lodge named after him honours his contributions.

Inside, you will see volunteers tinkering with numerous raised plant beds. Although this patch of land can be quite shady, it benefits from its proximity to the Dulwich Riding School, just behind the patch. The horses parading around the arena with students on their backs provide an ample supply of fertiliser for the garden.

Volunteers usually meet twice a week (or once a week during the winter) to tend the land, and that is exactly how I am here this Sunday. Planning is underway, and we discuss which varieties of potatoes to plant this year – the Jazzy potato, Monalisa, and the British Queen are just a few of the funny varieties available. All decisions at the garden are made with input from volunteers and a popular vote. There is also a detailed map on the wall showing the plant beds and the vegetables that will be growing in them in coming months. The master plan.

Although not many vegetables can grow outdoors during the winter, the garden requires year-round care. Today, we are turning over the compost and wheeling in fertiliser from the horses. The compost lays in heaps at the back of the garden, covered with old carpet donated from someone’s renovation project. Heating up the compost this way increases nutrient breakdown and thus its usefulness in the garden.

One patch of the garden is dedicated to berry bushes: gooseberries, blueberries, and raspberries. This patch is fenced all around to deter pigeons later in the season from munching the berries. A volunteer spreads mulch, in the form of loose straw, around the base of the bushes to keep them warm and weed-free.

The wormery is active today, as always. Formed of a stack of plastic trays, it is topped up regularly with vegetable scraps, papers, and cardboard (such as egg cartons). The worms inside chomp on these foods, producing rich compost for the garden. The moisture in the system filters through to the bottom layer and is collected into plastic bottles as organic liquid fertiliser.

After raking the leaves, tidying up, chatting with the volunteers, and having some tea with biscuits, it is time to close down for the day. Time seems to fly when you’re in the garden, but it is extremely rewarding to see the results of your work at the end. Until next time.

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Also published on Medium.

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