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The Voice - Jan/Feb 2024

Comment by Geoff

Geoff Juden

The East London Garden Society has been at the forefront of the creation of a forest within the redevelopment of The Bishopsgate Goods Yard.

We are now asking those who may have an interest in being a part of this iconic garden in central London, to contact us at

It is up to us all to try and improve our urban environment.

If you value having someone campaign on your behalf to protect the environment and having access to useful articles about gardening and local environmental matters, please make a donation to help us with the cost of maintaining The East London Garden Society.

Easy Way to Make Compost


Soil is the very soul of a productive garden. Look after it, and everything else will fall into place. So, how do you get great soil? Nourish it with the good stuff: garden-made compost!

Ready-to-use compost has a lovely rich, dark colour, and it smells like a forest floor. It might still be a bit lumpy with a few twiggy bits still in there, but don’t worry about that. Adding it to your soil in late autumn means it has all winter to continue breaking down, so that it will be super soft come planting time in spring. But if you want something a bit finer, such as adding to a potting mix, then sifting it through a sieve will leave a finer, crumblier compost.

At this time of year, digging out your mature compost also frees up your compost bin for the influx of all of autumn’s leaves, weeds, old crops, and pruning waste. While the bin is empty this is also a good opportunity to check that it’s still in good shape, and make repairs where needed.

Really effective compost heaps can reach 55ºC or more. A hot heap means the microorganisms responsible for decomposition are doing their thing. To help insulate the heap you can line the walls with sheets of cardboard. This will itself rot down or slip down with time, and that’s fine, but before that happens it helps to get things going, especially at this fresher time of year.

A cubic metre or more is an ideal size for your compost. Larger heaps heat up faster and will slow down less during the winter months, because they’re able to hold onto heat for longer. But that doesn’t mean smaller heaps are no good. They’ll just take a bit longer. Many off-the-shelf compost bins are a great solution for smaller gardens, and will keep things looking tidy too.

If you can, set your compost bin into soil as this will make it easy for worms and all those essential microorganisms to get to work. But anywhere is fine, and you can jumpstart the process by introducing some composting worms and perhaps a few handfuls of mature compost to get what you need more quickly.

Compost is a beautiful thing because it transforms what might be wasted into stunning, nutritious plant food. It’s magical. There’s a lot of discussion and debate about the best compost recipe. Everyone has an opinion, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

There are two types of compost ingredients: browns and greens. Browns have a relatively high carbon content. They consist mainly of drier, woodier ingredients. Fallen, autumn leaves are browns and will tend to get really crispy as they dry out over time. Greens are relatively high in nitrogen and tend to be fresher, greener, wetter ingredients.

Add some old straw and torn up cardboard, and some woodier bits from the top of the old heap that need to continue decomposing. These are all browns.

Alternating this with a layer of greens such as kitchen scraps, some weeds and grass clippings is a good idea. Other compost accelerants or boosters include pet bedding, excrement from herbivorous pets like hamsters, and livestock manures.

What you add will depend on what you have on hand in your garden. Get a good mix of ingredients and aim to balance out your browns and greens. As a rule, you’re aiming for anywhere between one-half to two-thirds browns, to one-half to one-third greens. Sourcing enough browns during the growing season can be tricky, so it’s worth keeping some behind for this reason.

Anything organic will eventually rot down, but in a domestic composting setup there are a few things you want to avoid. These include any animal-derived products, including meat, bones, milk, cheese and so on, as well as cooked food. These could all attract rats and other vermin. Bread, pasta and grains are best avoided too.

Most weeds can go into the heap, with a few exceptions. First, don’t add annual weeds that have produced seeds because unless your heap gets really hot these could survive and then spread around your garden wherever you use your compost.

Second, do not add the roots of perennial weeds. For example, the top, green growth of bindweed can be added, but the white roots may survive the composting process. Similarly, with nettles. Instead, put the roots into a lidded bucket of water and leave them to drown and rot to a sludge over time. This can then be tipped onto the heap or around your plants to give a little boost of nutrients.

Getting a good mix of browns and greens should help to speed up the composting process. Ensure the compost doesn’t get too wet or dry. If it feels a bit dry, especially an issue during the heat of summer, give it a good watering. If it’s a bit gooey or sopping wet when you squeeze it, try adding some more browns and mix them in.

As we head into winter things in can get really wet, depending on the climate, so cover the heap with an old tarpaulin. As a rule it’s worth covering your heap when it’s reliably wet and cool, then uncovering it for the summer months when it tends to be drier.

Another way to hurry things along is to dig out and mix your compost at least once during the whole process. The best time to do this is once your heap is full. Either dig it all out and then restack, or turn the heap from one composting bay into another empty bay. In this way you’ll introduce plenty of fresh oxygen right into the heart of your heap, giving it a new lease of life and re-firing the whole process again.

Mixing like this creates a finer grade of compost faster.

Valerian Root


Valerian root has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. The plant’s scientific name, valeriana officinalis, is derived from the Latin word valere, meaning to be strong or healthy, highlighting its historical association with promoting well-being.

In ancient Greece and Rome, valerian root was highly regarded for its medicinal properties. The Greek physician Dioscorides, in the 1st century AD, mentioned valerian in his renowned herbal text De Materia Medica. He recommended the root for its calming effects and prescribed it as a treatment for insomnia and nervous disorders.

Valerian root was often used to help individuals find relief from anxiety, stress, and restlessness. It was prepared as a herbal infusion or decoction, and the soothing brew was consumed to promote relaxation and tranquillity.

In ancient Rome, the valerian root, known as Valeriana, was also valued for its calming and sedative properties. Valerian root was frequently used to address symptoms of insomnia and was considered a valuable remedy for individuals experiencing sleep disturbances.

In traditional Chinese medicine, valerian root, known as Gong Song or Xi Xin Jiu, has been valued for centuries for its calming and balancing properties. It is considered a cooling herb that helps to clear heat and disperse stagnation within the body’s energetic system.

Practitioners often use valerian root to address imbalances related to the liver and heart meridians, which are associated with emotional well-being and sleep patterns. By helping to calm the Shen (spirit) and harmonise the liver, valerian root is believed to promote relaxation and alleviate sleeplessness.

Valerian root is still used today for its calming and sedative properties. It is promoted for insomnia, anxiety, depression, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopause symptoms, and headaches.

The East London Garden Society 2024


The East London Garden Society has been proactive on two projects, and we plan to carry this through into 2024 and beyond.

The first project is the Great Eastern Parks Route which will be a walking/cycling route through east London, possibly to Purfleet and the Rainham Marshes.

Another route being from Bishopsgate to Ware in Hertfordshire, seeing all that is to be seen of east London’s nature along the way.

Another ambition for The Great Eastern Parks Route is for the area to be digitalised for all to see wherever they may be, showing directions for its nature, together with the historical aspects of east London

The second project is with food waste recycling, since this will soon be required under government legislation. We are working with others to engineer a scheme for a food waste recycling at site, which will save carbon emissions to the urban atmosphere.

It is hoped there will be no cost to residents when this scheme is inaugurated, which will provide a soil enhancer that could be used in our gardens and parks.

I have talked much on these topics over the previous two years but now the changes are soon to be with us. The developers of The Bishopsgate development, are almost ready to begin work, and the new law for food waste recycling will be with us in 2025.

The Wonder of Trees


Just as we humans are composed of many parts, functioning together allowing us to do wondrous things, the anatomy of a tree is just as wondrous, empowering them with super hero qualities.

A tree has the ability to provide an essential of life for all living things on our planet; oxygen, and the power to remove harmful gases like carbon dioxide making the air we breathe healthier.

Here is how it works:

To keep it simple a tree is composed of its leaves, stems, trunk and its roots. When you look at a tree, note that about five percent of the tree is composed of its leaves, 15 percent its stems, 60 percent goes into its trunk and 20 percent is devoted to its roots.

Here is the super hero part. Through a process called photosynthesis, leaves pull in carbon dioxide and water and use the energy of the sun to convert this into chemical compounds such as sugars that feed the tree. But as a by-product of that chemical reaction oxygen is produced and released by the tree. It is claimed that one large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people.

Trees also store carbon dioxide in their fibres helping to clean the air and reduce the negative effects that this CO2 could have had on our environment. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, in one year a mature tree will absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen in exchange.

So, next time you take a deep breath of air give credit to a tree or hug one in thanks for what it gives us; the very air we breathe.

Read More

Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Valerian Tea

Valerian root is a popular herb that has been used for centuries to promote relaxation and sleep. 

The following is a recipe for a valerian root tea.

This tea is perfect for unwinding after a long day and promoting restful sleep.


Finally ...

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