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Of course we want to grow as much food as possible but we also want it to be a peaceful place to sit and watch the world go by. A nice place to do this is the `shed'. Made mainly out of scrap wood for the princely sum of £30 it's the place to be, lying on the sofa in the veranda out of the rain/sun pretending you are doing some work.

Nettles

The humble stinging nettle is probably one of the most useful plants in the UK. And if you only harvest it a couple of times a season, it will keep on coming up year after year without you having to do a thing.

It supports an amazing diversity of wildlife, acting as the food plant of the Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock, Painted Lady and Comma butterflies as well as home to up to 107 different insects including hoverflies, lacewings, parasitic wasps and ladybirds, which all act as natural pest controllers for the organic gardener.

Freshly cut nettles, especially the young, soft growth, make an excellent compost activator and cut and left to soak in water for a few weeks can be used as a foliar feed around the garden.

It is also one of the first spring greens to appear on the allotment and up until May - after May there is a chemical reaction that make the plants bitter - I harvest the fresh tops of the plant and turn it into a delicious soup that contains vitamins A, B and C, serotonin (the hormone in the brain that makes you happy), iron and other minerals.

To make a soup that will feed about four people, get a good bag of nettle tops using scissors and wearing gloves. Cut up a few potatos and boil in water with a couple of stock cubes. Fry a couple chopped onions or leeks and some garlic and add them to the soup. Add nettles and boil for about another 5 minutes. Liquidize the soup once its all cooked, adding salt, pepper, milk and even cream to taste. Serve with garlic bread, with some chunks of smoked tofu and a sprinkle of chives and parsley. Don't tell people it's nettle soup until after they've eaten it all up!

So Who Funds All This?

All of this work we have done on a ridiculously small budget, at first everyone chipping in what they could afford and, more recently, the odd grant to enable us to buy decent tools, trees, shrubs, herbs, pond lining etc.

One of those people who gave us a grant was Charlie Budd from Brighton and Hove Community Environment Partnership. He wrote "I particularly like the fact that you seem to make very good use of resources, both biological and physical. I know you say that this is because of your 'ridiculously small budget' but it is a good ethos to have, even if you do get hold of money."

   

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