At the beginning of the month I was helping to survey some planters in the centre of Didcot that Incredible Edible Didcot (a group within Sustainable Didcot) had been given permission to plant with edible herbs as their first Incredible Edible community planting project.

Yesterday was the big day, when Sustainable Didcot and volunteers from the community came together to donate plants, plant up the space with edibles and make signs to let people know what was happening.

Getting ready to start Incredible Edible Didcot's first planting project, outside Cornerstones.

The council had cleared the old planting out of the first tier of planters for us. The old planting wasn’t bad – there were plenty of flowering plants for bees and beneficial insects, including rosemary and lavender, but it was neglected. We knew the soil was rock solid, so we brought peat-free compost to improve it, and plenty of bark chips to mulch the plants and give them some litter protection!

Herbs donated by Sainsbury's.

Most of the plants were donated by the public, but Sainsbury’s Didcot sent up some herbs to get us started. The coriander and basil are off to a new home in Sustainable Didcot’s community allotment – they didn’t quite fit the bill for the planters – but we planted up the chives, mint and parsley alongside the other plants.

The soil preparation phase is hard work. The existing soil is rock hard, but we brought peat-free compost to make it nicer.

The volunteers really got stuck in to the hard work of digging over the soil.

Tibor, a professional gardener from Hungary, planted the first finished bed with lavender, thyme, bay and strawberries.

Tibor (red cap) is from Hungary, and works as a professional gardener here in the UK. He did all of the work for the middle planter himself! After digging, adding compost, planting and watering, and applying the bark chips, this is the result. He chose lavender for the back row, various thymes for the front, and little bay trees for the middle. There’s a pair of strawberries (‘Snow White’, leftover plants from my garden!) at either end, too. You can see that one of the guys from Go Green taxis, who have been kind enough to sponsor this project, is impressed!

Hoping that clumps of chives and rampaging mints will happily coexist in the shady bed :)

The shadier end of tier 1 is now home to chives and garlic chives, and various mints (including apple mints and a chocolate mint).

Lemon balm, parsley and marjoram have taken over the right side of tier 1

The sunnier end now has marjoram and lemon balm, plus some of the parsley – we were given both curly and flat-leaved.

The bay tree at the end of tier 1 has some parsley pals.

A lovely little bay tree in the end planter has some parsley pals.

And then, as we hadn’t run out of plants or enthusiasm, we started to tackle tier 2! This one hadn’t had the previous planting removed, and some of the shrubs were a little reluctant to vacate, but we got there in the end (leaving the rosemary in place).

By lunch time we were clearing up, and it was time to plant the final sign:

The final touch :)

We got a lot of encouraging comments from members of the public during the planting session, with many of them glad to see edibles in the town centre, and others glad some work had been done on the planters. All that remains to be seen now is how well the plants settle in, and whether we can get people into the Incredible Edible spirit of helping themselves to a handful when they’re passing! The ultimate aim is to take over all of the planters in this area for edible plants, so watch this space. Incredible Edible Didcot will be back!

[In the meantime, look out for Sustainable Didcot’s next Freecycle Live event, which takes place outside Sainsbury’s on August 27.]

Incredible Edible Didcot
Incredible Edible Didcot in front of their newly created community herb garden. Photo taken by Jozsef Miholka.