Our club members take part in lots of varied volunteering events where we spend a few hours helping a good cause.
This year we have also decided to take on a focused project so we can devote lots of hours to a specific job to hopefully see big improvements.
We are going to be working with Braywick Heath Nurseries, a local garden centre who offer employment and training to people with disabilities or in need of support.
The plan is to help Braywick tidy up and improve a plot of land on their site that they currently do not have the resources to look after.
The area is used as part of the therapy process for their employees and we are hoping to be able to spruce the place up and keep on top of the weeds!
Being a bank holiday weekend it was a very pleasant surprise to find the sun had come out for our morning at Braywick Heath Nurseries!
Lots of progress has already been made on our plot of land. The potatoes that Jon had chitted in March were now ready for planting.
(Don’t worry I had no idea what chitting is either-see March’s blog for a full explanation!)
The beds in which to plant the spuds had been covered with black polythene earlier on in the year, this meant that when we peeled it back we had a nice weed free bed ready to get planting in!
It was then time for the tape measure to work out how far apart to plant the potatoes. And fortunately someone with greener fingers than me pointed out which way up to plant them - shoots pointing up not down!
Meanwhile the boys got busy with the cement to build foundations for the greenhouse that we’ll erect later on in the year.
After a spot of weeding to tidy up the lavender beds, it was all hands on deck to create a bamboo cane frame for the runner beans to grow up. Fingers crossed our creation is structurally sound to withstand any windy weather we might get!
Then all that remained was to plant the runner beans and head to The Toby for a well earned lunch in the sunshine!
It was hard to believe that 4 months had flashed past since our last session back in November; we had taken an intentional break in December to help out with the Braywick Heath Christmas Fair, but our planned January and February sessions had both been completely washed out by the flooding.
A number of jobs had stacked up for us in the meantime, so it was unfortunate that we were also particularly low on numbers this month as a number of regular members were away for the weekend.
Nevertheless, those that could make it soon got to work with the jobs that we were able to take on, the first of which was to make clever use of the flood water that still filled the greenhouse trench we had excavated last time.
This trench will eventually be filled with concrete to form a stable base for the greenhouse to sit on, and in order to make sure the concrete is level, we needed to hammer guide stakes into the ground to the same height as each other.
The pooled water made the perfect natural spirit level that we could make use of and so Craig quickly excavated the few parts of the trench that had caved in, so that the water was able to flow the whole way around the trench and find its level.
We then set about scavenging wood from the site to form our stakes, which needed to be cut to the right length and then hammered into the soil up to the depth of the water.
This proved to be quite a tricky job in some areas, where the ground was rockier and the soil refused to take the stake, which resulted in a lot more splashing than progress!
Meanwhile Jon helped out with chitting a few bags of potatoes in preparation for planting. We had no idea what this meant either, but chitting simply involves exposing the 'eyes' of the potato to light for a few weeks which encourages them to sprout before planting, and helps to make sure they get off to a great start.
Jon also helped to prepare a couple of beds for Spring planting by covering them with black polythene. This helps to kill off any weeds that have grown during the winter, by depriving them of sunlight, and also raises the temperature of the beds by about 5 degrees, which again gives future plants the best chance to start growing.
So another productive session with a few more jobs ticked off.
Ready for things to start kicking off in the Spring!
It was a very rainy Saturday morning at Braywick!
At this point in the year we weren’t expecting to be able to do too much but we actually found that there were plenty of jobs to go round!
Julia and Jenni got stuck straight in clearing the broad beans whilst Sophie was putting the rhubarb to bed. This involving digging them up which was no easy job and then planting them deeper in the bed and covering with soil to keep them safe from the cold weather.
Meanwhile, Rob, Matt S, Sunny and David were starting on the big task of the day, trying to dig foundations for the greenhouse in clay soil in the rain.
Did I mention the rain?!
It really was miserable weather and the sides of the foundations kept collapsing in and pooling with water – that didn’t stop the boys (joined by Sophie) from digging though!
John, one of the volunteers at Braywick, kindly supplied us with some hot drinks of tea and coffee whilst we took shelter in the poly tunnel for a quick break.
Even though the weather was so grey, you could still really see the impact we’d made on all the beds. The leftover runner beans, pumpkins and marrows had all been cleared, and the lavender bed also looked much better after a good weed.
After a couple of hours work we were all pretty soggy from the rain but also surprised at the difference just that short amount of time can make.
Another productive Saturday at Braywick!
Another great day at Braywick Heath Nurseries. You wouldn’t believe it was October as it was such a warm day that most of us were in T-Shirts!
Today was Braywick Heath’s Autumn fair too, so we arrived to cute bunnies, goats and a donkey (called Marble) smiling at us.
To our surprise the 40 year old green house frame had been put together. This was good news as it meant we could concentrate on the gardening.
We managed to de-weed all the beds and tidy up the whole area. We had to clear the snap peas as they were looking a bit worse for wear and all the green beans were picked too.
The pumpkins had grown to small football sizes so these were picked and given to John to make some scary Halloween pumpkins for the Nursery.
We also managed to remove the remaining gravel from the area. This involved raking the gravel out of the mud and filling bags with it. Then a strong man would be needed to carry the bag to the pile of many gravel filled bags. Matt R also managed to fix the fences around the garden which was a great finishing touch to the garden that day.
At the end of our gardening morning John bought down Marble the donkey for a photo opportunity. Marble was a bit camera shy and kept trying to run away but we finally managed to get a photo. We all took some green beans for our dinner and then went and enjoyed a burger from the BBQ. Yum!!
On Saturday morning 14 September Rotaract Maidenhead had another very productive Saturday morning at Braywick Heath Nurseries. Braywick Heath is a unique social enterprise offering employment and training to people in need of support.
We have been going on a regular basis to help out with various bits and pieces, and we already managed to completely transform the English jungle on this plot of land to a fruitful and reasonably well-maintained garden.
Upon arrival, we noticed that the beans (if you do not know what we are writing about here, have a look at Lara’s magnificent entry of last month) on the bean-fort grew even larger, that the peas are slowly but steadily conquering their assigned plot of land and contemplating invading one of the neighbouring boxes, the wonderful lavender seems to become a very reliable addition to the garden and you do not need a lot of land or work to grow a lot of potatoes. Obviously, weeding remains an important part of the project, but it is nice to see that we are not limiting ourselves to removing weed, we managed to grow quite a bit of healthy food as well over the last months!
In a continued effort to convert the parcel of land into a presentable and useful addition to the grounds at Braywick Heath Nurseries, we managed to remove a mountain of gravel which proved a great success. Helen, Sophie, Craig, Jenni, Sunny, Rob and David, moving mountains of biblical proportions is a very helpful way to spend your Saturday morning, so thanks for that! Apart from the obvious benefits of the task to the overall project, it was also learningful morning for many of us with regards to (reproductive) habits of snails. I cannot tell you everything what has been mentioned that day (because that would not be decent), but Wikipedia can be a great source of information as well.
That many hands make light work (I am not too sure if this is an English saying, but it exists in French and Dutch, and I am confident everybody understands what principle I am referring to) we realised again when plenty of people committed to building the fairytale palace greenhouse. Rob, David, Becky, Jenni, Willemien, Sunny and many others who were able to give a hand to building the greenhouse over the last couple of months were very excited to see the beautiful structure finally standing up! Maybe most princesses do not spend much time gardening, but if they would, it would certainly involve a greenhouse looking like a palace!
We have been able to make a tangible difference at Braywick Heath Nurseries, and Rotaract Maidenhead is looking forward to many more productive days there!
We had another very successful session at Braywick this Saturday and were pleasantly surprised to see our green beans make such big progress within just one month of being planted.
The beans have grown an incredible amount thanks to Willemein and Becky M's trellis, it looks like Jack and his beanstalk may have some tough competition!
The giant pumpkins are also starting to come to life whilst producing some big beautiful yellow flowers swarming with at least 5 bumble bee's inside each one!
We were pleased to see that the rhubarb, potatoes, peas and cabbages were also doing well.
However our main focus and task was to clean up the bedding and plot from unwanted weeds and other debris that have developed.
Sophie, Becky E and Lara detangled the lavender, potatoes and bean trellis that were beginning to become riddled with vine weed.
Meanwhile Willemein and Becky M took to the soil in the other beds such as the cabbages, peas and rhubarb to allow more room for the fruit and vegetables to grow further and clearing them all of pesky weeds.
The weeding was continued by Craig B and Robin who cleared the pumpkin patches but also the land surrounding the beds and in return making the site look very smart, clean and easily accessible for further planting.
Towards the end we all came together to remove any unwanted stones and random objects found in weed free bedding resulting in a very fresh and exciting looking plot.
There is a lot of work still to be done but with the great progress and effort made by all so far, it's been great to see what we have achieved already in such a short space of time!
After a hard mornings work we were kindly offered as much rhubarb and blackberries to take home as we wished, so a few of us will be attempting to make various crumbles over the weekend!
Becky E and Lara continued the hard work at Toby Carvery where they had a roast dinner marathon!
Next time we plan to take on the construction of the 40 year old Greenhouse!
Check out our Flickr stream here to see all of the pictures from the afternoon.
We had a very successful first session at Braywick making lots of visible progress in a number of areas.
The afternoon happened to be the start of a great British summer heat wave and so we were bathed in glorious sunshine as we got to work.
The first job we took on was to weed a group of beds that had become overgrown, with invaders swamping the lavender and potatoes that were supposed to be growing there.
Many hands made quick work of this although Jenni had to scamper off every time one of the creepy-crawly denizens popped its head out to see what was happening to its home!
Becky and Willemien turned their hands to creating a trellis for green beans to climb up later in the year.
Meanwhile, Sunny and Sam spent the afternoon being bamboozled by the assembly instructions for a 40 year old greenhouse which Braywick own but have never had the chance to put together!
The greenhouse may be a job that it takes us all year to complete!
We finished up doing some more weeding around the edge of the polytunnel to open up access to a few more of the beds that had become swamped.
Sophie started watering some of the beds plus a few of our volunteers who needed cooling down after a couple of hours working in the sweltering heat!
We also met BBC Sport and Grandstand legend Steve Rider who is a friend of the enterprise and popped in to say Hello and see what we were up to!
It was a great start to our project and we are looking forward to getting back next month to continue the good work!
Check out our Flickr stream here to see all of the pictures from the afternoon.