Castle Garden in May

I was given a few plants – a nice meaty tomato, and a winter squash – and went to plant them in the garden in Castle Row. Last time I went was in the winter – and it looked a bit dead and unkept. Now it is beautiful and lush:


There are many little patches of good stuff. Strawberries at the front, that Italian herb which I think is marjoram, three stalks of fennel are coming up, the rosemary bush. Many different aromas and colours.

The rest of the cover are non-edible plants native to the Cambridge area. They’re not really a problem, much better than naked soil, and we can pretend we’re doing polyculture. Nothing really dominates, probably because we’ve pulled out lots of alkanet with James before it flowered.

The trees are doing well, I think the optimistic future of this garden are large towering fruit trees, known to every local pear-eating child. This is a hazel:


I am also a fan of these raspberries. They’re flowering, there’s a buzz around them, and in this picture I have managed to snap a particularly good bee:



We’ve planted this last time as well. Very healthy mint!


It still puzzles me what the last gardener wanted to do – the barrel had a heavy porcelain thing on top of the soil, I think it was meant to crowd out the weeds and grow stuff in the gaps but the main result was that the soil was very compacted. The barrel had nothing growing in it and was full of weeds. We’ve removed the thing from the top, emptied the barrel, put the turf upside down, put some soil from the middle above the turf, and planted the mint. Feel free to borrow the upside-down-turf trick as an alternative to weeding, works every time, you just need to start with a garden in a barrel.

The mint took, it’s definitely going to crowd out anything else in the pot – I took the picture before doing anything to the pot, and you can see there wasn’t really anything to weed. Now I can rely on it to be there for years and years. If there’s ever a heatwave that comes and kills a mint plant planted in half-shade over a metre of top quality soil, I will probably have bigger things to worry about.

Castle Garden in the winter

I went to see the garden on Castle Street. It’s not that hidden, but it definitely feels a bit magical to find it. When I was there I also met Ana, living in a house just next to it, who saw the garden keep growing over the years.

the trees have grown to about two metres tall. Ana says the plum tree didn’t bear much fruit this year due to an illness.

One of the neighbours has put in the raspberries three years ago, they have spread out nicely and bear fruit in the summer. I heard of a few more people periodically looking after the garden over the years apart from us, apparently including some guy who was into rewilding and thought it would be the coolest to see what happens with the place without human intervention.

There was apparently also a property developer interested in it, who applied to buy the land from the council and build flats there. He got rejected because there’s a community garden in the space.

This is how it looks like in January:


This guy is a champion in gardens without human intervention. It’s a weed, but flowers blue in the spring, and it currently keeps large patches green quite nicely, so I didn’t pull it out. It’s also interesting that it does so well there: it has one long thick root and a low base, which keeps it really firm in the (quite rocky) soil.



There are also a few herbs going strong in the garden. One (of the Italian ones, I’m sorry dear Internet to be failing you here but I don’t recognise it by name, I don’t use it in my cooking) forms an entire bush, and I have also found a single onion plant.

All in all, a beautiful place that will keep on giving us stuff. We’ll probably come for an event and plant a few more perennials this year, I am also considering some infrastructure for composting, to steadily build up the soil. Ana mentioned she’ll be planting onions in the corner, I’m all for it.

Pre-empting the paving

This space was a small empty lot that had suffered some vandalism and most of the original plants landscaped there had died off. The city council was considering paving over it, but with permission we instead planted it with 3 apple trees, a hazel tree and several herbs and soft fruit plants. It’s now thriving under the watchful eye of some supportive neighbours. A brilliant transformation!