A great way to connect
Islington In Bloom, the borough’s annual gardening competition is now open. As one of last year’s winners, Nicola Baird explains how gardening has helped her turn neighbours into friends.
“Prah Road has entered Islington in Bloom for a few years now,” says Nicola. “We are one of the streets in the Blackstock Triangle – streets who encourage anyone who loves to garden to meet up for fab seed swaps over cakes and a cuppa in spring and autumn.”
Nicola, who writes the popular blog Islington Faces, has lived in the borough for more than 30 years and loves Islington’s diversity and strong community.
“I think everyone in Prah Road knows most people on the street and that means it’s easy to keep an eye out for people – and their children, pets, vehicles etc – and all because we’ve found similar pleasures in looking after plants,” she says.
“It’s such a friendly street and with so many privet hedges and front gardens filled with flowers and veg, it’s rare once spring arrives to walk down the street without stopping to say hello to a neighbour. We’re also really lucky that at the Finsbury Park end of the road a new plum orchard and vegetable beds were put into the gardens of Vaudeville Court.
Nicola was thrilled to win last year’s Islington In Bloom Best Street category. She says: “My neighbour Sai is a fantastic gardener so I’ve been learning from her, and we try to visit the garden centre together occasionally. There are also lots of young families in the street who get involved growing strawberry plants, runner beans, sunflowers and even making bug hotels or decorating bird boxes.
“Plants are a lot of fun – they do their best to grow, even in London! Chatting about plants, sharing info about the next seed swap, sharing out veg gluts in the autumn or turning up at a Blackstock Triangle cake Sunday is such an easy way to connect with neighbours.
“This year my ambition is to be able to eat or use something from my garden in a meal every day of the year – growing a bay tree, plenty of rosemary and chard should make this possible!”
Nicola’s top tip
Let everyone garden in the way that suits them. I’m not a fan of slug pellets but it’s not an issue to fall out over. Probably the most important thing is to give gardens a drink in the early morning, or late evening, when the weather gets super hot. I save my washing up water, but buying a watering can, or if you are lucky enough to have a front garden then installing a water butt to a drainpipe off the roof (or using a dustbin to store water) keeps water bills down and ensures you can give thirsty plants a long drink when they most need it.