Through the gate by Jarman Mansions is our raised beds area.
Twelve raised beds – free for all of us to use for a season.
They are compact and easy to use, and ideal for growing flowers and veg.
There’s usually a waiting list but this season it’s not a long one!
Some of the raised beds are waist-height so easy to reach from a wheelchair or without too much bending.
Some are quite low so ideal for children and families.
Basic gardening tools are in the nearby shed.
And the benches round the space mean you can enjoy the sunshine and have a cuppa with family, friends and neighbours.
There’s priority for households with a disabled adult or child, and for those whose homes haven’t got any outdoor space.
It’s yours to explore and enjoy!
The history of the raised beds
Farrer Huxley, the landscape architects, seem to have included raised beds in their plans from the start, although their shape and layout has altered. In 2013, their plans show five long beds and a compost area. By 2015 they had modified the layout to show 12 beds of different sizes, six large ones and six smaller ones, and they finally constructed seven tall beds and five low ones. Cohousing Woodside argued persuasively that allotments were needed, and these raised beds were built; we may need more.
Around the raised beds area
Above the raised beds, backing on to the gardens of houses in Grand Avenue, is a sunny high-level wildflower bed, tended by residents to ensure that grasses and invasive weeds are kept down while a rich variety of wildflowers attracts pollinators from March to October.
Beyond the raised beds is a sloping bed on the boundary with Tree House School, shaded by holm oaks and cherry trees, also tended by residents, which provides interest and colour from the first primroses throughout the Summer.
Three small apple trees are planted against the wall; they are regularly pruned by a resident and their fruit is shared with other gardeners.
There are a number of benches and the area provides a sunny, sheltered spot for meeting friends. There is a covered structure, similar to the covered walkways at the entrance to the central square – purpose unknown.
As any gardener knows, a tool shed is vital for storing all the paraphernalia that gardeners accumulate – rakes, brooms, spades, forks, trowels, barrow, pots, bags, canes, watering can, pails, etc. Unfortunately no provision was made for a tool shed, and the gardeners have had to requisition the small bicycle shed intended for Levens, which means that Levens cyclists now have to share Jarman’s cycle shed. As well as providing a store for gardening equipment and a table tennis table, the water tap and two extendable hoses are also stored there. All users of the raised beds are welcome to keep their tools there.
There are two water butts, both of which are fed from the green roofs on the sheds, one in the corner by Jarman, and one by the tool shed. They tend to run dry in the summer and gardeners can use the water supply in the tool-shed.
Planting in the raised beds
A variety of crops have been grown in the raised beds – beans – runner, French and broad – cabbages, courgettes, strawberries, rocket, salad, tomatoes, rhubarb, kale, mange-tout peas, herbs …. The low beds suit plants which don’t require too much depth of soil. Some gardeners like to mix flowers with vegetables. There are no rules!
Allocation of beds
So that all residents have a chance to enjoy gardening here, the raised beds are allocated for a period of two years initially. If there isn’t much demand, this period can be extended. Priority is given to households with younger people with disabilities, those without a garden and those who have not had one before. Frances collects names to compile a waiting list in December so that gardeners can start to make plans in February.