In the heart of Croydon, on a derelict building site and tucked away behind some enthusiastically graffittied hoardings there is a community saffron farm. It’s an amazing achievement – crowd-funded and set up by Ally McKinlay. I visited in January to help give away some of its 22,000 corms to gardens and gardeners across the borough and wrote about it here. I was even on t’telly…
In the months since I was last there the site’s changed a lot. There are bee hives, sunflowers, masses of sculptures in the beds and paintings along every available wall. It still feels like an oasis in a sea of glass and concrete. The welcome you get also hasn’t changed – it’s just as wonderfully fuzzily warm.
A delay in building means the farm’s had a stay of execution and been given the opportunity for a second saffron harvest. There is a huge amount of work to do – each of the original corms has split into 3-8 new corms and they need to be sorted and graded before re-potting. At a very rough estimate there are now at least 50,000 there, and a good proportion seem big enough to flower this year.
This weekend is Preparation Weekend – a big push to get the corms out of last year’s pots and to get the site ready for Open House London visitors. Yesterday didn’t feature the best weather. Despite that there was a steady stream of damp but determined volunteers and we unearthed a good few thousand corms of varying size. Given how dry and sandy the compost is, it’s not a difficult job, it’s just vast. Croydon’s voles have started munching on corms in the biggest sacks, digging through from under the pallets to get in and leaving corm shrapnel in their wake. Thankfully there are just too many corms for them to make a serious dent in the crop. The persistent mizzle meant I was pretty drenched by 4pm and I downed gloves and scarpered.
Next weekend focuses on repotting corms, as well as hosting an Open House London event on 18th Sept. De-potting, grading and re-potting all the saffron on site is a huge job and Ally urgently needs help. If you have some time today, or on 17th or 18th September, please do stop by and give him a hand. All details for the Preparation Weekend are here and here for the Big Re-Pot (via Facebook) and it looks like the sun will be blazing away.
Categories: Diary 2016