With the memory of last summer’s wash-out still all too clearly etched (or should that be water-marked?) on many veg growers’ memories, the good people at Battersea Flower Station garden centre have come up with a cunning wheeze to guarantee a harvest this year. Namely, why not knit your own veg instead?
On Sundays during the festival Battersea Flower Station co-founder Lisa will be running a ‘veg-knit-a-long’ where participants will be shown how to create their own knitted potager. The hour-long workshops will be run twice on the second two Sundays of the Fringe, 11-12am and 2-3pm, with needles, yarn and a pattern/instructions to knit peas in a pod. Acrylic yarn will be used as this is cheap to experiment with and it offers a particularly vibrant range of colours.
Lisa, together with knitting whizz Fran (a keen gardener and allotmenteer who brings some serious veg know-how to his knitting) will be on hand to help with basic knitting techniques for those who need it. A self-confessed novice knitter, Lisa is quick to offer reassurance to fellow newbies, “Absolute beginners can turn up before the workshops for a quick lesson in casting on and the 2 basic knit stitches. If people want to bring along their own needles or favourite wool, then that’s fine too.” Even left-handers (the awkward squad of handicrafting – and as one myself, I know whereof I speak) will be catered for and Lisa recommends trying the continental method of knitting first before you try to learn what’s known as left-handed knitting. She refers lefties to this helpful YouTube link (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuRLFl36tDY).
For those who really want to make their knitted veg patch completely authentic, there will be the option to branch out into fauna as well as flora. Lisa and Fran have knitted a slug (perfect for sticking pins into when your real lettuce have been decimated by marauding slimesters) and say they can certainly help others to recreate something similar. Lisa reports that Fran has made all kinds of things that he’ll bring along as inspiration – “caterpillars, slugs, beetroot, peas in a pod, even a butternut squash. We have a selection of things people can try to make and the idea is that you take your efforts away with you to finish at home.”
Leaving aside dodgy weather and the usual battles with pests and diseases, real veg can take a long time to get going – leeks for example have a long growing season of around 80 days. With a bit of practice, knitted veg can come to fruition much more quickly. Lisa and Fran estimate that, depending on the knitter’s speed and skill level, a simple parsnip might take between 2-5 hours to make, with 20-30 hours for an artichoke, and a leek “somewhere in the middle.”
The Battersea Flower Station knitters are planning on featuring completed veg on their Facebook page in the weeks following the workshops, to show how people are getting along with their creations. So if the Great British Summertime doesn’t deliver a bumper crop this year, at least it looks like the Chelsea Fringe will!