AAA newsletter Archive

May/ JUNE  2011

 

Hello Fellow Allotmenteers & Friends,

It's a tad less rushed this month - but only a tad! As you'll remember the April Newsletter covered April & May, so now it's time for our June edition (is it me or has someone accelerated time?) It seems that this new season is racing away - like fine sand through your fingers. I wish I could say the same about the seedlings and plants. If time is racing the plants are dawdling!

I don't think it's me, but everything seems to be reluctant to germinate and grow on. The germination rates are abysmal this year - especially for things like peas & beans. For the first time in years I've actually had to re-plant some runner beans. They came out, got cold, then scorched by that blasted wind we had and then sulked - turning yellow and refusing to budge. I notice others on the site have done the same. Cold soil, dry cold winds and no rain aren't exactly the recipe for success. When it comes to peas I sowed some sugar snap peas that Meurig (Plot 2) kindly gave me. Sowed (more like buried) them, and then never saw them again! I'm usually quick to blame something like mice, squirrels or blackbirds for things like that happening to peas, but this year I'm sure they just didn't germinate.

Ah well everything will eventually fall into line I'm sure - they always do. Sometimes we forget, that unlike us, plants don't read calendars, so they'll perform when they think it's the right time and not when a red circle on a date on our calendars appears - that's our little weakness!


OUR ALLOTMENTS SITE NEWS

1. Again in this edition of our newsletter I have some more sad news. You'll remember in our last newsletter I mentioned Owain Davies' sad loss. Shortly afterwards Stephen Parry (Plot 14) and his family suffered a huge loss with the news that their 23 year old daughter Emma had passed away. I did circulate a memo about it but I think it merits a further mention here. Please accept our heartfelt sympathies Stephen - let's hope that the escape to the peace & quiet of your allotment and the sharing of time with friends will help you to regain some normality in your life. Finally there's a third member with a similar experience. Denise Smith (Plot 15) has had a niece lose her partner under similar circumstances to Stephen's daughter. Our condolences go out to you as well Denise.

2. Pigeon attack! They come out of the sky like a squadron of Luftwaffe Messerschmitt 109s - God help ANY brassicas that get in their way. Mine did - must have been on their flight path. I'd just transplanted 16' rows of summer cabbage and cauliflowers a couple of days earlier. As I had plenty left over I shared the remainder with a few of my fellow plot-holders BAD MISTAKE over came the Pigeon Luftwaffe and virtually wiped out what I'd planted! You've seen those eerie photos of burnt trees after a bombing raid - just stumps and branches amongst the rubble - that was what my plants looked like - every single one stripped of every leaf. Aaaarrrgggghhh! I've now invested in some netting and I've erected an alkathene hoop frame for it (good stuff alkathene it's just 53p a metre at CCF in Felinfach). Anyway, I'll give them a week to recover (talk about locking stable doors after the horse has bolted!) Failure to see any recovery will mean a second try with salvaged plants. Don't you just hate it when something like that happens?

So if you have newly transplanted brassicas on your plot - act on a word to a wise person from a fool that got caught with his trousers down! Get the netting out pronto Folks!

3. Richard Griffiths (Plot 5) approached me recently with a number of Aberaeron in Bloom competition entry forms. For the first time there is a section there (No 6) specifically for "Best plot/ allotment for producing vegetables and/or fruit". Although it may appear that this is a competition section included solely for our allotment association - it isn't. So it is NOT a competition to see who has the best plot on the Cae Ffynnon Wîn Allotment Site. Any Plot-holders who enter the competition will also be competing with ANY vegetable patch grower in Aberaeron Town - so it is not a fore-gone conclusion that the winner will be one of our members. Here's a preview of the form:

If you are interested please get a form from either myself, Phil Harries our secretary or Richard Griffiths. Alternatively you can download a copy of the form from our server by clicking on the download icon to your right. Print it out, complete it and return it to the address shown on the form. Good Luck!

 

4. It's hardly breaking news anymore, but some of you (especially our readers from wider afield) may not be aware that the polytunnel I designed and built for myself (at great personal effort) was attacked FOUR times in the last three weeks.

On the 17th of May Anne Lewis (Plot 12) phoned me up just before 9.00 in the morning to tell me that she had just been down the allotment site that morning to returned my mantis Tiller that she had borrowed the previous evening. She was bringing it back before going to teach at school that morning. She noticed that someone had pushed canes through the side of the polytunnel and had slashed it with a spade. Nothing was stolen and no other vandalism had taken place on my plot or on any of the others. Here's a view of what someone did on their first visit:

Anne was the last to leave at just before ten the night before - as it was getting dark. So the damage was done between ten and 8.30 the following morning. Police were called and the spade used for the handiwork was taken away by WPC Michelle Evans for fingerprint analysis. We later found out that the culprit had "borrowed" the spade from Lisa Raw Rees (Plot 6's) compost bin. I say "borrowed" because the police haven't returned it yet. I repaired the polythene damage that day.

On the morning of the18th of May I discovered that the vandal had returned to EXPAND on the damage done the night before! Probably spurred on by the fact it had been repaired and that he/ she did not feel they had inflicted enough damage on the first attempt.

Again the police were called and the incident was recorded. This time PC Andrew Jones visited the scene. He seemed to think that the crime was rather strange because the focal point of each attack was purely the polytunnel - as if someone was trying to spite me by damaging something that may be a special possession. Again, nothing else was damaged.

Having repaired the damage once again about a fortnight passed without incident, I thought we'd seen the last of it, until I was woken at 7.30 in the morning with a knock on the door - it was Stephen Parry (Plot 14). He had called in at the allotments site on his way work, to return something he had borrowed earlier (a similar scenario to Anne a couple of weeks earlier). He was very upset at what he had seen and felt he wanted to warn me first - rather than letting me be shocked on discovering the damage myself when I went down there later. This is what confronted me when I did go down:

It seemed that whoever was doing this was either getting bolder, or the triggering for their behaviour was more intense in their mind. WPC Nia Griffiths turned up this time. A 5 square feet piece of polythene  cut out of the wall of the polytunnel and taken away for "chemical & fingerprint analysis" (DNA tests). I'm still waiting for the result. Apparently - so I was told yesterday (June 10th) by PC Carwyn Jones - there's a delay with the results because of the extra work load at the lab which is also being used for the Pembrokeshire murder enquiry that happened earlier last week. Murder trumps polytunnel damage by a spiteful vandal - and quite rightly so. On this third occasion, again, the perpetrator had not bothered to vandalise or damage anything but the polythene, and the damage sustained was in exactly the same spot as the other attacks. If you notice the above picture shows that whoever did it neatly pushed a tray of plants to one side to get at the polythene!

Again I carried out a repair - this time having to replace a large area of polythene. To my dismay the following morning Phil Harries (Plot 7) found it slashed again - this time across the new piece I had inserted. Perhaps someone's developed a polythene ripping fetish!

On a more serious note the police are now pretty convinced that this is not the work of any young teenage vandals or children. It is their belief that it is the work of an adult who is carrying out these "spite" attacks - probably due to jealousy, envy, resentment or even frustration - possibly because of an inferiority complex with a resultant inability to express their feelings towards me on a personal level - therefore resorting to causing injury to the person by damaging something that belongs to them. If that is true then it REALLY saddens me. If this turns out to be the case 9and I hope it isn't), then evidently someone is in serious need of professional psychiatric help and not punishment. Unfortunately we may never find out who it is, unless the police come up with some forensic results, and even then - if their details are not matched on the National Crime Database - they won't be able to do much with their findings.

It is because of the direction of the police's suspicions that they asked me for the contact details of all members. Here's a copy of the e-mail I was sent:

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 2:47 PM
Subject: Damaged Polytunnel

Gwilym,

 Could you please email me the contact details for all the tenants at the allotments in Aberaeron at your convenience.  I have forwarded a press release to the press office in Aberystwyth regarding the incident. 

 Diolch yn fawr

Nia

E-MAIL CONFIDENTIALITY STATEMENT

This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are not necessarily the view of Dyfed-Powys Police. It is intended only for the person or entity named above. If you have received this e-mail in error please notify the originator and erase this e-mail from your system. If you are not the intended recipient or the employer or agent responsible for delivering it to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any use, review, dissemination, distribution or copying of the e-mail is strictly prohibited. This e-mail and any files transmitted within it have been checked for all known viruses. The recipient should still check the e-mail and any attachments for the presence of viruses, as Dyfed-Powys Police accepts no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.

DATGANIAD CYFRINACHEDD E BOST

Nid yw'r e-bost hwn nag unrhyw ffeiliau a drosglwyddir gydag ef o angenrheidrwydd yn adlewyrchu barn Heddlu Dyfed-Powys. Bwriedir yr e-bost ar gyfer y person neu'r sefydliad a enwir uchod. Os derbyniwyd yr e-bost hwn trwy gamgymeriad, dylid hysbysu'r anfonydd a dileu'r e-bost oddi ar eich system os gwelwch yn dda. Os na'i fwriadwyd ar eich cyfer chi ac nid chi yw'r cyflogwr na'r asiant sy'n gyfrifol am roi'r e-bost i'r derbynnydd bwriadedig, fe'ch hysbysir gan hyn na chaniateir i chi ddefnyddio, adolygu, lledaenu, dosbarthu na chopio'r e-bost ar unrhyw gyfrif. Archwiliwyd yr e-bost hwn ac unrhyw ffeiliau a drosglwyddir gydag ef am firws. Serch hynny, dylai'r derbynnydd hefyd archwilio'r e-bost a'r ffeiliau sydd ynghlwm am firws oherwydd nid yw Heddlu Dyfed Powys yn derbyn cyfrifoldeb am unrhyw ddifrod a achosir gan unrhyw firws a drosglwyddir trwy gyfrwng yr e-bost hwn.

Dyfed Powys Police – the lowest levels of recorded crime and highest total detection rate across the whole of England and Wales.

Heddlu Dyfed Powys – y lefelau isaf o droseddau a recordiwyd a’r gyfradd ddatrys uchelaf ar draws Cymru a Lloegr gyfan.


I obviously responded to this request as I was asked to. I now hear on the grapevine that one of our members was very upset at being contacted by the police regarding this crime. I'm sorry about that, but as far as I am aware, the police officers involved in this case have contacted ALL members during the course of their investigation - so no one is yet being singled out for special attention.

So for me it's now a case of getting more polythene repair tape in (it's not cheap stuff to buy - at this rate it'll cost me more than it did to erect the whole tunnel!). I'm also keeping my fingers crossed that this sad person - whoever it is - gets treatment or gets tired of going to this immature effort - for their own sake - because I will easily repair any damage that's done. To date it's just an irritant that causes a slight inconvenience.

So if someone wants to vent their pent-up frustration on me, for whatever twisted reason they have in their head for doing so, they'll have to do a lot better than the feeble attempts we've seen to date.


Enough of this tedious negativity - let's move on to happier subjects!

OTHER NEWS

Reward offered for new plants

T&M - 8 June 2011

If you've discovered an unusual plant in your garden, whether you've bred it yourself or come across it by accident, you could win £500.

Plant company Thompson & Morgan (one of our web-site sponsors) is offering the reward to any gardener who discovers or creates a new plant that makes it into their range.

The company breeds hundreds of new plants each year but says it is always on the lookout for new and exciting additions to the range. Several plants have already made it into their catalogue from discoveries made by amateur gardeners: they include the mahogany-striped Tagetes patula 'Mr Majestic', spotted by a customer among other marigolds in the garden; and Tomato 'Sungella', a cross between 'Sungold' and a larger tomato variety made by a keen vegetable grower.

'Customers often don't realise they have a new or different plant in their garden, but simple observation can reap rewards,' said Michael Perry, of Thompson & Morgan.

The company has produced a leaflet telling gardeners how to find or create new plants in their gardens, from selecting particularly vigorous or different individuals in a batch of plants, to cross-pollinating and propagating from cuttings.


Land freed for 1,000 allotments

The National Trust is releasing enough land for up to 1,000 allotments, on some of the most famous country estates in Britain.

The land will be available for individuals or community groups in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The release will be organised through the Landshare website, which matches growers with available land. The Trust says there are now 100,000 people on waiting lists for allotments around the country.

Not long ago allotment gardening was a deeply unfashionable pursuit, with many plots abandoned, and few people willing to take them on. However, increasing consumer interest in where food comes from, combined with concerns about food miles and sustainability, has led to an allotment renaissance.

The Landshare website (we have a link to it on the main page of our web-site - look for the logo below) was set up by television chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to "match-make" would-be growers and those with land available. The 1,000 growing spaces will be created by 2012 and the scheme is being backed by celebrity gardener Monty Don.

Monty Don believes more people should have their own allotment

All politicians should have an allotment, and if they don't keep it up properly they should lose their jobs and I promise you the country would be better run

Monty Don, celebrity gardener

He said: "I'm so passionate about the importance of this, it's what we have to do. "Allotments connect ordinary people to the beauty and richness of growing things. In an age of deceit and spin and collapse there is absolute integrity about growing food.

The Trust's plots will be available at around 40 different locations, varying in size from smaller areas for new growers, to larger plots suited to community growing schemes. Many Trust properties also have experienced gardening volunteers who are ready to give advice. It has been estimated these new growing spaces could produce around 50,000 sacks of potatoes a year - or mixed produce worth £1.5m.

The Trust's director general Fiona Reynolds said the scheme tapped into the current mood of the public. She said: "There's something in the air. More and more people want to grow their own fruit and vegetables. "This isn't just about saving money - it's really satisfying to sow seeds and harvest the fruit and veg of your labour."

So say all of us too!  I believe Llanerchaeron is a National Trust property (correct me if I'm wrong). If so perhaps we could have more growing space on our own doorstep - watch this space!


We're In a Drought - It's Official!

Parts of the UK are officially in a drought following the dry spring, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has said.

Areas of East Anglia are IN drought, with parts of the Midlands, South West England, South East England and parts of Wales in a "near-drought" state. In the drought-affected areas, Anglian Water and Cambridge Water say there is no threat to public water supplies. But Severn Trent Water says there may be restrictions if rainfall stays low. Thames Water, which serves London and the Thames Valley, has reassured its customers that hosepipe bans are unlikely this year.

The British Retail Consortium said the dry weather had created "another unwelcome upward pressure on food prices". Both the South East and central-southern region of England have had their driest spring on record.

Across England and Wales as a whole it has been the driest spring since 1990, prompting the Environment Agency to issue advice on how best to reduce water use.

It comes as large areas of northern Europe are facing drought after one of the driest European springs on record.

But not all areas of the UK have suffered from the dry weather. Scotland has had 20% more rain than usual for spring, while snow flurries were reported at the summit of Mount Snowdon in north Wales yesterday (June 11th).

Hard hats on - it could be a tough summer for us water-wise. Good job we've got our water supply sorted out on the allotment site. As long as no blanket ban is introduced with Welsh Water turning off the supply we will be OK. I'm also told by Phil Harries our secretary (who is an ex Water Board employee) that because we have a metered supply and pay per unit for our water then we are not effected by any hose-pipe or usage ban that comes into operation. Apparently such bans are only legally binding on people who pay for their consumption via their water rates.

For those of you who may fancy getting water from the river - go ahead! You are allowed to take up to 10,000 gallons on a regular basis before you need an extraction licence.

Now here's a way to conserve water . . . . .


MULCHING

(sounds boring but read on . . . )

New gardeners will hear the word "mulch" a lot and will wonder what on earth it is! Strangely enough, although most experienced gardeners know exactly what mulch is, how it works and how to apply it, it seems that the percentage of gardeners that actually go to the effort seems quite low.

So what is a mulch? A mulch is material which covers the ground (that's a sweeping statement isn't it!?) With the intention  of:

  • reducing evaporation,

  • saving water and work,

  • keeping plants from suffering from the effects of dryness

  • protecting the soil from wind, sun and frost (in winter),

  • eliminating most weeds,

  • increasing crop production,

  • increasing beneficial soil organisms,

  • encouraging worm activity

You can probably think up quite a few more benefits from mulching. It sounds like the panacea for all ails on your plot doesn't it? Well not quite - it won't eliminate all major problems, and it won't make the pigeons or slugs go away! In fact some mulches (like old carpets and cardboard) - can actually encourage the slug population by providing shelter for them, and blackbirds just love tugging grass clipping mulch all over the place, but certainly mulch is something that goes a long way to minimizing effort and maximising your crops. I personally  think that some crops should come with a label insisting that you use a mulch to grow them. Fruit trees - more especially soft fruit plants, and all beans and peas scream out for mulch to keep them happy.

 

Things that you can use as a mulch

 

  • Grass clippings (my personal favourite - hence it's position at the top of the list!) It's very high in nitrogen and readily available - have a word with your local grass cutters and neighbours, they usually find it a headache to get rid of the stuff, with most of it landing up in council green bags for collection.

  • Oats and hay, have little nitrogen but contain natural plant growth hormone.

  • Weeds contain minerals and are high in nitrogen, make sure they are not too seeded - also be careful that the more eager perennial roots don't start sprouting when your back is turned in damp and warm weather!

  • Newspaper and cardboard, shredded or laid flat (3-4 layers) and soaked. The ink apparently also contains valuable minerals!

  • Old or scrap carpeting, rug underlay, matting, blankets and quilts. Warning! They create a perfect habitats for slugs! they are also ultra unsightly on your plot.

  • Any agricultural waste. Either crops or animal manure.

  • The contents of your compost bins - unless you're saving it as a sowing/ planting medium

  • Coffee grounds and spent tea leaves/ bags from cafes & restaurants

  • Pine needles for plants who like acid conditions, such as blueberries.

  • Saw dust, but avoid excess quantities as it increases the soil carbon content.

  • Hair is high in nitrogen and a good insulator for the fibrous surface roots.

  • Seashells, ground to chips, also discourages slugs and snails due to their sharp edges.

  • Leaves should be shredded, as they readily pack when wet and make leaf mould, which is more valuable tilled in or composted. Leaves have more nutrients, pound for pound, than manure has.

  • Seaweed is great as it is high in minerals. Use it as it is or washed, and cover it with sawdust or paper (it has a tendency to dry out in stiff lengths if it gets dry)

  • Wooden planks, and anything else that doesn't contain chemicals and provides a protective layer over the soil.

Although there is a subtle distinction between the use of a pure covering materials (like inorganic carpet, planks or even plastic sheeting) and the use of organic - easily handled vegetable or manure type mulches that eventually dissolve or get taken down into your soil thereby improving it. All mulches have a beneficial use - even if it's just weed suppression on an area that needs to be cleared for cultivation.

Method

The idea is to fully cover up the soil around plants (or sometimes bare earth) with a thick layer of organic materials without leaving gaps. By spreading mulches directly on the soil, instead of first converting them to compost, organic materials do double duty - serving as mulch, and as a slow-release of organic fertilizer, soil conditioner, and worm food.

Always leave a space around the stem of perennials to avoid crown rot fungus. This also applies to trees where a space should be kept around the trunk. Avoid rich mulch such as strawy manure around young fruit trees, as it creates succulent growth (high nitrogen content that promotes lush growth sometimes at the expense of less fruit).

Disadvantages

Very few! However, thick mulch over heavy clay on a badly drained soil, may cause acid condition due to lack of air. In winter it also increases the chance of freezing - although frost does help break down a clay environment - especially if it's turned over in autumn for exposure to winter frosts. Maybe it would be a better idea to add sand and lime to those soil conditions and just use a mulch around the plants that grow in it during the season.

So there you have it! GET MULCHING especially as we are now officially in a drought according to Government reports!

 


TEN Vegetables we should ALL be growing - but probably aren't!

Tomatoes, lettuce, and cabbage are pretty common in the average vegetable plot. These crops are like old friends, dependable and well-worth the effort. But every once in a while, it's nice to step outside of our comfort zone. And what better way to do it than to try growing a delicious new vegetable in your garden?

The veggies on this list will diversify your diet as well as extend your growing season. Most are annual, but some are perennial -- and you'll want them in your garden year after year. I'm sure some of you are already growing at least a couple of these, but I hope you find something here that piques your interest.

Here's the first - because it is one of my favourites and I think EVERYONE should grow it - because of it's delicious taste versatility and ease of cultivation.

1. Kohlrabi

That's "pronounced "coal-rabii" not "Cool Rabbi"!! (Apologies to any Jews that may read our newsletter - blame it on my son Teifion who pointed it out to me).

This under-appreciated vegetable is extremely versatile. It's a brassica (a member of the cabbage family) - but looks a bit like a turnip, although what looks like a root is in fact a swollen lower stem of the plant and not the actual root - as with a turnip. Hence the name comes from the German Kohl ("cabbage") plus Rübe ~ Rabi (Swiss German variant) ("turnip"), because the swollen stem resembles the latter.

It's a fantastic veg - one of the big favourites with us as a family. In fact I'm reminded each season not to forget to sow it!

It can be eaten raw or cooked in stews and soups, or as a side dish all its own. It can also be eaten fresh from the allotment plot or stored indoors just as you would store potatoes, in a cool, dry place, though they do shrivel a bit in storage.

Sow seeds directly in the soil after the last spring frost. Give them a spot in full sun with rich, well drained soil. It's a good idea to sow a row every week or so, so that you have fresh kohlrabi until midsummer or so, when the heat makes them less productive.

 

2. Turnips

Turnips are wonderful in soup and broths, mashed like potatoes, or roasted either alone or with other root vegetables. They have a mild flavour that goes well with other vegetables. As a bonus, you can also harvest the greens, which are very nutritious, to eat either raw or cooked.

Sow turnip seed directly in the garden in early spring or late summer. They need full sun and light soil, preferably amended with compost. They also grow well in containers.

 

 

3.Beetroot

Okay, you might already be growing beetroot, but so many people were served disgusting  beetroots as children that they develop a lifelong aversion to them. Garden fresh beetroots are sweet, tender, and versatile. They can be sliced into a salad, turned into soups, or roasted (a favourite with many - although I admit to never having tried them in the oven!) Like turnips, you can also eat the delicious greens raw or cooked.

Beetroots  will grow well in full sun to part shade in soil that is loose and well drained. Sow them all season long, doing several sowings throughout the spring and summer. beetroots are wonderful in containers. Look for 'Boltardy', 'Bull's Blood,' Detroit Globe or 'Chiogga' beetroots - all are absolutely delicious.

Chiogga is an heirloom variety. It's a striking Italian strain guaranteed to provoke comment when used to add both visual appeal and flavour to that (all home-grown) salad. The ball-shaped roots are light red in colour instead of the usual dark red beetroot. However, it's when they are sliced that they reveal their surprise the flesh consists of highly ornamental, contrasting dark pink and white alternating rings - it looks amazing!

My all time favourite way of preparing beetroot is to boil, peel and slice them. Keep the water they were boiled in (as it is rich in the vegetable's colour, juice and flavour). When it's cool add vinegar and sugar (experiment so that you get it the way you like it - some prefer it sharp, others sweet - there is no "correct" level). You will not need all the original fluid so gauge how much to throw away. Now reintroduce the sliced beetroot and put the whole lot in the fridge - absolutely delicious. If you want to keep it longer then place it in an airtight pickling jar. The vinegar & sugar will ensure that it keeps for a few months.

 

4. Swedes

This is one of the easiest vegetables to grow as sowing and looking after the plants is really straightforward. Another reason why we should grow swedes is because they are ready for harvesting when no other crop is available.

We don't  always associate this vegetable with our allotment plot, rather it conjures up images of a farm field and fodder for animals. How wrong we can be! Swedes are perfect for the plot. They are related to turnips, and, in fact,  look just like oversized, yellowish turnips. They are great in soups and stews, roasted, or cooked and mashed like potatoes. Unlike turnips, however, swedes are sown in late spring to harvest in autumn and even into winter. You can store them in damp sand if you have to harvest them before the ground freezes . Give them full sun, light soil that has been enriched with plenty of compost and manure from a previous crop, and keep them well-watered throughout the summer.

They apparently got the name "swede" because it was growers in Sweden that first developed this yellow/ orange fleshed "turnip". In fact Scousers - like my wife - call swede turnip hence she calls "carrot & swede" mash - "carrot & turnip". The debate has gone on for years in our house! Across the pond in America they're called rutabagas - "carrot & rutabaga" mash - now that IS a mouthful!

The swede is a member of the cabbage family, so treat it like a brassica, i.e. lime the soil to "sweeten" it by increasing the pH level - as you would with all brassicas. Also remember that it can also be attacked by brassica pests, like club root and cabbage root fly.

 

5. Seakale

Seakale is one of those vegetables that provides a variety of harvests from just one plant. The main crop seakale is grown for its spring shoots, which are blanched by placing a terracotta pot over the tops of them (see photo on right), then harvested and used in the same way you would use asparagus. Later in the season, the flower buds can be harvested and eaten like broccoli. And the kale-like leaves can also be harvested throughout the season. Of course, like asparagus, the plant doesn't really start producing until the third year, but it is well worth the wait considering everything you get from seakale.

To grow seakale, give it a spot with full sun, rich, well-drained soil, and plenty of room to grow. Feed it with seaweed fertilizer or fish emulsion early in the season, and keep the area around the plant clear of weeds.

 

 

 

 

 

6. Jerusalem Artichoke

The Jerusalem artichoke is a plant originally native to Peru. It was first brought to Europe from Canada where it was a staple food eaten by the indigenous population. Unlike corn and quinoa, staples in the Southern Americas, Jerusalem artichokes are suited to the Canadian climate due to their ability to grow in extremes of temperature (so they're fine to grow in Aberaeron!).  Considering its botanical origins then it is curious that not only is this vegetable not from Jerusalem but it also is no relation to the Globe artichoke! 

Part of vegetables name is attributed to a man called Samuel Champlain, the founder of Quebec, who after tasting the plant wrote in his travel journal it was a root ‘with the taste of artichokes’.  Many think that Samuel Champlain is alone in this comparison.  Personally I find the taste of the two vegetables to be like chalk & cheese!

The second part of the name stems from its botanical links with the sunflower.  Like the sunflower the flower of the artichoke is a girasol, meaning it will turn to face the sun as it moves across from east to west  throughout the day.  It is often thought that the corruption to Jerusalem from girasol could have come from the neighbours of the botanist John Goodyer.  Describing the new plant to them as a "girasol artichoke" it wouldn’t have taken long before the name was changed to something more memorable or perhaps more understandable to the English ear. In Welsh they are sometimes called "tatw tragwyddol" translated that means everlasting potato - an apt description because once established in a bed it is almost impossible to stop them reappearing, as you only need to leave the smallest of tubers in the ground to guarantee a crop again the following year!

Jerusalem artichokes are a very useful food for both diabetics and slimmers alike. This is down to how the plant stores its energy for the next years growth.  The artichokes store their energy in the form of inulin a carbohydrate made up from two fructose units.  This means the body can deal with the energy from it much more effectively than glucose and the carbohydrate low is avoided and along with it the feeling of hunger soon after the meal. It is therefore suitable for those on the GI diet. Artichokes are also high in potassium a mineral important for nerve and muscle function. 

Jerusalem artichokes are particularly useful in maintaining good gut bacteria. This in turn can help those suffering with yeast infections as the inulin they contain is a pro-biotic – this ‘feeds’ bacteria, which can alter the gut pH to a more alkali state in which the Candida cannot survive.

Best of all - they taste wonderful! Try them as "crisps". Use around 3 –4 Artichokes per person.   Half a teaspoon each of Chilli, Coriander and Cumin powder mixed together to form a spice mix (the tip of a teaspoon of chilli does for me - I'm not a lover of over-hot food). You'll also need some rapeseed oil for frying.

Wash the artichokes thoroughly – it may help to soak them in some water for a few minutes first.

Cut the artichokes into small crisp sized pieces using either a very sharp knife or the side of a cheese grater. Heat the oil. As the oil is heating wet the artichoke pieces and coat them in the spice mix. Drop into the hot oil and turn when one side is cooked. Serve with Guacamole or a yoghurt dip - heavenly! Sorry - I got a bit carried away then with Girasol Artichokes!

 

7. Malabar Spinach

If you like spinach, but hate the fact that it's so hard to grow in summer due to its quickness to bolt, you need to grow malabar spinach. It needs to be started indoors from seed because it despises cold weather, but it's worth it if you love spinach and want an alternative for when the temperatures soar. Just when regular spinach is bolting, malabar spinach starts to grow like crazy.

Tip: give malabar spinach full sun, warm weather, and moist soil. Allowing the soil to dry out result in bitter-tasting spinach leaves.

 

 

8. Parsnips

This carrot relative is considered to be a winter vegetable because it doesn't reach the height of its flavour until it's been touched by a few frosts. In fact, you can leave parsnips in the ground all winter, harvesting them until the ground freezes, and then resuming harvesting once the soil thaws in spring.

Start parsnips by direct sowing seed in your garden in an area that gets full sun and has well-drained soil that has been loosened to a depth of at least eight to ten inches. Keep the parsnips well watered throughout the growing season, and harvest after frost.

 

9. Scorzonera (or black salsify)

Scorzonera is a root crop from which the entire plant, from the leaves and flower buds down to the roots, is edible. You can harvest the roots after a few frosts, because, much like parsnips, they taste best after being hit with frost. Sow seed for scorzonera directly in the garden in an area that gets full sun and has light, well drained soil. Scorzonera can pretty much be left to its own devices after it has germinated. It requires very little care other than weeding and the occasional watering during dry conditions.

Salsify and scorzonera are almost invariably linked together in books and seed catalogues although they are actually quite distinct. There is, perhaps, some justification for this in as much as they are the only two commonly listed vegetables in the daisy family, the Asteraceae, that are grown for their roots.

They can also be easily confused when growing as they both have upright, undivided leaves - but those of scorzonera are relatively broad, those of salsify narrow.

The flowers and roots, too, are different. Scorzonera has yellow flowers, while those of salsify are purple. And below ground scorzonera is black skinned (although white inside) with long, more or less parallel sided roots, salsify, however, has pale skinned roots shaped like a very small parsnip.

Scorzonera is easy to grow, although it needs a long growing season. However, it is completely hardy and should be sown as soon as the ground is sufficiently warm and dry in March, to be harvested from October onwards (like parsnips it benefits from being frosted). The roots can be left in the ground until needed. Sow the long, thin seeds in drills 'A-inch (1 cm) deep spacing the rows 8 in (20cm) apart. Thin the young plants to around 4 in (10 cm). On cold, heavy soils the ground should be warmed and dried by covering it with cloches some three weeks before sowing. A deep soil is essential, preferably deeply worked and stone free -although scorzonera does not fork as easily as salsify.

The plant is generally untroubled by pests of disease - a good crop for organic growers! However, early sowings may run to seed in hot dry summers. So, while a March sowing will usually give best results, growers in hot dry areas might be well advised to delay sowing until April. If a really hot, dry summer is predicted a May sowing will normally produce an acceptable crop.

There is little choice of cultivars, 'Black Russian' is the only one commonly available. although some seed merchants have been pushing . The plant does not seem to have attracted the attention of plant breeders - a pity as trouble free vegetables are always needed.

Scorzonera is a wild plant of dry fields and woodland edge habitats across southern Europe, from Portugal into Russia and even Siberia. It appears to have been introduced to Britain in the late 16th century.

In the kitchen the roots are best scrubbed and cooked in their skins. The skins can easily be removed under a cold tap after cooking. If, however, the roots run up to seed do not despair. The young flower buds can be steamed or lightly boiled and served like asparagus. Or, as was recommended by the famous French chef Boulestin, they can be used in omelettes. But do remember to use young flower buds if you are tempted! The leaves can also be used, blanched in early spring (earth them up as the young shoots develop). Steam them and serve them as a snack on buttered toast.

Finally, in mediaeval Britain, young, tender roots were candied - presumably using the same process as you would for candying angelica.

 

10. Celeriac

Celeriac is a hard, round vegetable that is a relative of celery. It is generally used as a flavouring, most often as a substitute for celery, but it is also delicious as the star of the show, grated raw into a salad or sautéed as a side dish.

What I love about celeriac is that you get all of the flavour of celery without all of the work. Celery has to be blanched (the stems have to be buried throughout the season to develop nice, light coloured stalks and keep a delicate flavour) and is rather prone to pests. But celeriac, which also has a rather long growing season, is fairly pest and disease-free. Grow celeriac in full sun to light shade in soil that has been enriched with manure or compost (or both!) The only trick with celeriac is that it needs to be started indoors under lights in late winter in most climates to have a long enough season to mature. On the upside, however, it can usually be left in the ground all winter and dug up as needed, especially if you give it a mulch of autumn leaves or grass clippings.

 

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to a few less-common vegetables that you can grow on your allotment. However whilst not all of them are strangers to many of us, I'm sure there aren't many of us who have grown all of them on a regular basis.

Are you growing any of these (or another uncommon vegetable that I haven't mentioned)? Tell us about it!


DID YOU KNOW?

Fans at Gillingham F. C. were subjected to celery searches in 1996. A craze had started for waving sticks of celery while chanting an obscene song. So anyone caught in possession of the vegetable was threatened with a life ban.

 

"Not a lot of people know that!"


 

OUR WEB-SITE!

 

There's a few little additions and changes that I'd like to tell you about. If you go to the front (main) page of our site you'll notice the addition of a new feature - our Newsletters Archive.

 

Just click on the button to view an archive of all our previous newsletters. You can also subscribe to our Newsletter Mailing List there or if you're so inclined you can request to have your e-mail address removed from our list. To view the page now just click on the button below:

 

 

The other new feature is the "Find a Plant" service. For this service we've piped in the BBC's existing database for this feature - I hope you enjoy it. Again by clicking on the button below you can go there now.

 

 

 

And finally. Whilst talking to a fellow member a few days ago down on our site (we were having a chat about the weather) he mentioned what the web forecast was. I asked if he had linked to the forecast from our site - he hadn't because he evidently did not realise that the feature was available from our web-site. So for all of you who may not realise it, if you DO need to check the weather we have a custom link on our site which will give you a full forecast for the Aberaeron area (or any other area - for those of you reading this elsewhere).

 

Here's the graphic you need to look for and click on from our site's front (main) page.

 

Check it out!

 

 


That's about it I think - a bit long this time, but that's really because I've covered two months worth! I hope to get the next one out to you sometime in July.


If you have any contributions you would like to make to our newsletters then feel free to contact me by clicking on this e-mail address:

 


Until the next time - keep busy, have fun & ENJOY on your plot!

Remembering the golden rule:

"Always treat others like you would wish them to treat you . . . "

 

Kind Regards,

G

 

Gwilym

Aberaeron Allotment Association Chair

AAA and Gardeners Chat-Shed Webmaster

 

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QUOTE:  

"The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies." -- Gertrude Jekyll