Green Stories from The MERL Garden: Spring

Spring is all about preparation for the growing season ahead and making the garden as resilient as possible, whatever the weather may hold! In this latest update from the MERL garden team, Cathy Smith, our Garden Volunteer Coordinator, highlights some of the work that is going on in the garden at this time of year. This is part of ‘Our Green Stories’, a Museums Partnership Reading campaign exploring environmental issues through collections at The MERL and Reading Museum. 

It is thanks to the work of our volunteers and community partners that our garden is such a haven for wildlife and a beautiful place to be for all our visitors.  Find out what they’ve been up to…

The logo for Our Green Stories.

Soil matters 

Whilst not the most comfortable to work in, we are so grateful for the spring showers (or downpours!).  The Wednesday Gardening Volunteers have been busy mulching the damp soil to keep the moisture locked in over drier periods. Cranbury College pupils did a wonderful job helping to chop and bury “green manure” in the raised beds – the more organic matter we can add to our soil, the healthier it will be.  We were amazed at how many earthworms we found in the beds, busily consuming our composts and turning it into nutrients ready for our plants. Great news considering recent reports of declining numbers!

handwritten sign with information about 'mustard caliente' a form of green manure in a raised bed in the garden at The MERL

Busy Bees (and other insects) 

Only now are the volunteers cutting back the grasses and seedheads which are so important as habitats and food sources to birds and insects over winter.  We also have a new habitat!  Our solitary bee hotel is now in place alongside the woodland walk, kindly made and installed for us by Robin Dean, bee expert, of The Red Beehive Company.  This, together with a little bee meadow by the small shed, is one outcome of The Bee Meadow Project, a collaboration between The MERL and The Institute of Education. Volunteers and participants from Launchpad 135 helped to fill the hotel with hollow sticks and stems, tiles and cones for use by solitary bees and other species for breeding and shelter.

Sow What? 

We’ve gone sowing mad!  The Wednesday Volunteers have sown broccoli, leeks, cabbage and lettuce, all of which prefer cool temperatures to germinate or take a long time to grow. The ladies from Alana House have been sowing sweet peas, radishes, turnip, spring onion, garlic and beetroot into their raised bed as well as annual flowers to make their plot not only productive but attract beneficial insects and look colourful too!  

For sale! 

Our plant sales table will be back over the Easter period, from 4th April.  Seed packets containing seed harvested from the garden, will also be on sale in the shop.  

Plants for sale on a table in the MERL garden
Banner showing the icon for Sustainable Development Goal 15 Life on Land, the question 'What can we do?' and Museum Partnership Reading's Our Green Stories logo

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