Growing radishes amid leaf mulch and dogmess

Learning wild gardening – here’s the first field report from my Berlin urban guerilla garden. There’s beauty in the detail

Radishes amid the dogmess in my urban garden

Radishes amid the dogmess in my urban garden. Laura Eades 2014

Not paradise yet

Since I started an urban garden with my daughter, I’ve mainly picked out dogmesses and fallen tiny pears from the tree we’ve based it beneath, and rebuilt the fence a few times. Just rebuilt it today with added screws and drilling. Scooped another mess out. Scoop a poop whoop whoop! I made something better.

One step forward

Cornflowers bloomed! You literally have to sound the trumpets of Boom in celebration of these tiny victories of beauty over dirt. If you had a microscope you could see the flowers! Sure, dogs scuffed them out again, hindleg kicking. Poor defenceless plants. We have to sure up our defences.

And now there are radishes. AND carrots. There is no way on earth you’d eat them. But me and my daughter can fantasise that Peter Rabbit might be tempted to visit.

A brief history of our garden

My dad reluctantly got armtwisted into going down there one night and putting old floorboards that we scrounged from some Polish builders round the corner. It was funny, cos I practised in German what I had to say to ask if I could take the floorboards, then the guy I spoke to didn’t speak any German either!

When my dad was building it a local resident came out to object. Apparently he said “This is Deutschland!”, but I’m not sure I really get his point. There’s nothing more civilised than a little gardening, right?

We had to borrow a spade and spend a while transferring the gravel chippings that were covering the soil, such as there was, to another treebase down the way. That was quite hard work.

The groundwork

It was a rule for myself not to spend money on the garden.

But we did buy a 12-euro bag of compost to begin with, and two packets of wildflower seeds.

For more compost (you need loads!!) we asked in our local cemetery and they were happy for us to raid their huge compost heap, and there were old emptied-out potplants there as well as grasscuttings and things. That was a labour-intensive time, going with my daughter to get IKEA bags full of soil and pushing the buggy back with her sitting on top of the sacks. Did I mention I had my baby in the sling too?

Once there was an almighty thunder storm. The peals of thunder were so frightening, and the downpour absolute. My daughter ran towards me in the cemetery and tripped as the thunder cracked, like she’d been struck – it was outrageously dramatic. We had to shelter in an icecream shop. She didn’t mind!

Location, location

We chose a plot beneath a tree on the street we walk down every day on the way to my daughter’s kindergarten.

The street is beautiful buildingwise but the messlevel is awful. Unlike many of the streets in our Prenzlauer Berg area, (I’ll post some photos on the Illustrated Guide to Life Facebook page), the lower slope of Immanuelkirchstrasse is a total dog toilet. I wanted to start a revolution there.

I also wanted a tiny incentive to get my daughter down to the kita. It’s one more carrot-not-on-a-stick: “Hey! Shall we see how our garden is doing? Shall we take our gloves? Our drills? (She was given a brilliant replica bosch drill for her birthday).

Planting

My daughter was sick with a tongue virus one day, so we trotted down to the garden to plant a few seeds to distract her. We just scattered a couple of packets of wild-flower seeds. Actually, it was great because her kindergarten friends rounded the corner just in time to help sprinkle them. They are tiny children, I wonder if they even remember!

Later, I picked the seeds from dried up hollyhocks and things – they might grow next year?

The shop next to the garden got excited and planted a few things too. We’ll see if they muck in next year.

We befriended a family with a young boy who live in the street, they always pay our garden a visit.

I hope we’ve started something

I hope people will join in with it. I don’t really want to have to become a major gardening expert. I don’t want the garden to die if I move house. I don’t want to have to feel guilty about it or burdened by it, or like it’s ambitious. It’s just a gentle little experiment.

Watch this space

That’s pretty much all I’m going to do over the winter. Watch the space, try and make sure that nobody resident or council, gravels it over. Let the leaves mulch down. Maintain my little string fence.

I might hang some nuts and a bird feeder. Might hang some Christmas decs in the tree. Might rig up some CCTV and report the fouling hounds. Only kidding. It goes with the territory.

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