Alex Goodman, new head grower at Purple Patch, shares news from the St Werburghs market garden. We hear from Alex about the launch of Purple Patch’s new season veg boxes on June 6 and find out more about the opportunity to volunteer at this beautiful space.
Purple Patch is a half-acre market garden in St Werburghs, Bristol. With a BS2 postcode we are very much in the city but walking to the patch down Boiling Wells Lane or on the footpath from Muller Road you could fool yourself into thinking you were out in the middle of nowhere! The garden is based on a ‘Bristol Council smallholding’ called Watercress Farm with a footpath running through its centre, and it has been farmed since medieval times. The Purple Patch began as a permaculture project seven years ago when Mary Conway started growing vegetables on the plot. Trees and fruit bushes were planted, a pond built with a grant from Greggs bakery and a polytunnel for salad was put up. Mary started growing salad and veg boxes for collection on foot or bicycle and the patch gradually started taking on more and more space. She created a beautiful permaculture based garden of abundance. In September 2021, Mary passed the Purple Patch baton over to me when she and her family moved to Norfolk.
Winter was busy here on the patch getting stuck into hedge-laying and biochar-making, as well as a steady trickle of salad in the polytunnel for local cafés. It feels like a long time ago now as here we are in May and the plot is exploding with green leaves, insects, birds and flowers. The polytunnel is planted up with summer salad, climbing French beans and cucumbers beginning to ripen. The greenhouse is still full of seedlings waiting to be set out and the plot beds are almost full.
My aim for the season is to continue to offer 20 veg boxes completely grown here on the patch with eight items at an affordable price for as long into the year as possible. On top of this the salad subscription is still going strong with between 12-18 kilos of salad being picked each week for subscribers and local businesses. And… I have cultivated a new patch for cut flowers. I will admit it now, I’m a flower-growing addict and I will not apologise for my compulsive dahlia habit!! With 10 meters of sweet peas beginning to fill the air with their delicious scent, 100 dahlia tubers going into the ground in the next few weeks and plenty of other blooms to compliment them in hand-tied bunches, there is a lot of work to do this month! Friday flowers subscriptions will begin in late June, but you can also find my flowers at Poco Deli in St George and Chaya Veggies on Mina Road, St Werburghs.
I spent today on the brassica patch hoeing the crops. I will be picking for boxes in the following weeks. It’s such a pleasure to see it all coming together. June will have peas, broad beans, cucumbers, kohlrabi, turnips, spinach, chard, spring onions, lettuce and spring green cabbages. Everything is grown under regenerative horticulture practices and without any pesticides or chemicals. The patch is an oasis for nature with baby frogs jumping around in the polytunnel, newts hiding under comfrey leaves and dragonfly larvae hatching in the morning sunshine from the pond. It’s all part of building a resilient food system with low carbon inputs in the city growing fresh healthy food that you can walk down the road to pick up.
There are still some spaces left for the veg box – you can sign up for the month of June to see if it suits you before committing to the whole season via our website at www.purplepatchbristol.com.
If you’d like to visit Purple Patch, watch out for our Summer Fair in August when the farm is open for all to visit the garden and meet the menagerie of animals. Follow us on Instagram or Facebook to find out more.
Perhaps you’re interested in volunteering? You can get your hands dirty on the patch weekly planting and weeding or if you have specific skills you’d like to offer, do get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.