Richard Walker

Seed Guardian, Spitalfields City Farm

Richard Walker. Photo: Sara Heitlinger
Richard Walker. Photo: Sara Heitlinger

I’m a community gardener at Spitalfields City Farm. I’m responsible for a little area of land, 0.167 acre, a community garden. And I run workshops on that land as well as growing vegetables on that land. I grow food because I enjoy it. Because I enjoy eating. Because I don’t like the predominant food chain. To be honest, I’d love to have my own plot, but there are so many benefits to growing on a community garden, like all the skill-sharing. And all the social side of it is massive. So it’s probably something that, you know, you’d like to be isolationist and off growing on your own. But actually if you were, you’d probably be a bit lonely.

My Story

About

Richard Walker, Seed Guardian, Spitalfields City Farm

I’m a community gardener at Spitalfields City Farm. I’m responsible for a little area of land, 0.167 acre, a community garden. And I run workshops on that land as well as growing vegetables on that land.

Why I grow my own food
I grow food because I enjoy it. Because I enjoy eating. Because I don’t like the predominant food chain. To be honest, I’d love to have my own plot, but there’s so many benefits to growing on a community garden, like all the skill-sharing. And all the social side of it is massive. So it’s probably something that, you know, you’d like to be isolationist and off growing on your own. But actually if you were, you’d probably be a bit lonely.

Why I save seeds
I want to have crops that are adapted for my ground. I want to have more productivity for less work. If I’ve got successful germination and plants that are doing really well, then they’ll just end up being more productive. I mean you can get a plant that’s supposed to be really really productive, but it’s not productive if it’s sat on your ground not germinating. So something that I’ve got germinates really well and grows really well, will end up being more productive. And I want to save money.

Connection between growing and my heritage
Well my dad’s side is from Birmingham, English, inner-city, slum people really, and they always grew vegetables. So it’s interesting to know that in that city vegetable growing was a very working class experience. The Irish side were self-sufficient farmers on the west coast. And the last few generations were quite well-to-do, so there was quite a lot of luxurious things grown like currants for making jams. So it wasn’t just subsistence.

Hear from Richard

How I feel when I’m working in the garden
Rage. Bored. Happy. Peaceful. Productive. Overwhelmed. A range of emotions.

Calaloo

Richard's calaloo. Photo: Sara Heitlinger

Info

Like all amaranths, calaloo has edible leaves and seed, and has a huge range of leaf colours, shape and size. Once established, plants are quite drought tolerant. Calaloo grows well even outside in the UK....
More

Why I grow calaloo
The food that I, and a lot of my volunteers cook, involves a lot of leafy greens. Calaloo is a persistent source of leafy greens throughout the summer. It’s quite drought tolerant, and I’m trying to do everything here without mains water. And I just really enjoy the flavour.

Where the seeds came from
It was hybridised here from a Nigerian calaloo and a Jamaican calaloo, so it’s got hints of red from the Jamaican calaloo and hints of green from the Nigerian one. It came from my friend Joan 2 years ago. I should have kept the strains pure but they crossed.

How to grow
It needs to be really warm to germinate, so you would wait till May, June, maybe you’d even get away with July and still get a crop off of it. If you wanted to start them off in modules inside in a warm place, you could do that. Pot it on, then plant it outside when it gets really nice and warm. Or you could sow it directly into well prepared soil. It needs lots of sun.
More

Richard on Calaloo

Orach

Richard's orach. Photo: Sara Heitlinger

Info

Orach is a species of plant in the amaranth family. Native to Asia and Europe, it was commonly grown in Mediterranean regions since ancient times until spinach became the more favoured leaf vegetable. It has...
More

Where the seeds came from
The green orach came from a seed company last year, and I saved them. So they’re from here.

How to grow
Orach will germinate slightly colder than calaloo so you might get away with sowing it in April. Somewhere between March and May really. You could bring it on in modules inside or put it straight in the ground. Doing it first of all inside means that you’ll protect it from the slugs and the snails until they get a bit bigger. And you can start it earlier because you’re moderating the temperature a little bit. Once you get it outside, you’re waiting for it to be about a foot tall. And then you snap the tops off to create a bush.
More

Richard on Orach