January/ February 2013

Hello Fellow Allotmenteers, Gardeners, Friends & Subscribers - wherever you are!

imagePLEASE ACCEPT MY APOLOGIES IF YOU RECEIVE TWO COPIES OF OUR NEWS-LETTER - that'll be because your e-mail address is registered with both our Aeron Vale Allotment Society & Gardeners Chat-Shed web-sites. Consequently  it will have been automatically added to both data-bases. No harm done - if you receive two copies just delete the second one to arrive - or why not send it on to a friend?

I hope you enjoy this latest offering. There's always something of interest for everyone in our News-letters!

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IN GENERAL

HERE WE ARE - THE FIRST NEWSLETTER OF 2013! It's a bit late, but as you more ardent news-letter readers will have noticed, the news-letter is now a bi-monthly offering. It's a bit of a weighty project to produce one every month.

All the cold and wet weather we've had is no help either. With an extremely wet season in 2012, followed by more of the same throughout the winter, it's been impossible to get all the chores of various seasons accomplished. Still Spring is on the way with the days getting noticeably longer. Roll on the equinox, when we'll be invited to play with our clocks once again!

 These two months aren't exactly a hive of activity down on the allotments anyway. Having said that I'm sure some of you readers are by now eyeing up the broad bean, onion and parsnip seed packets, the end of February is traditionally the start of the spring wake-up process on the allotment.

Things will have to get a lot more weather-friendly before I get kick-started into life though! Over the years I've learned the hard way that rushing off too early - before the soil has warmed up - invariably leads to tears because of poor germination and checked growth. E.g. did you know that carrot seeds won't germinate unless the soil temperature is above 7oC and grass needs 11oC to start growing?

Traditionally February is the month to sow parsnips - my advice is DON'T! Why this month has ever been ear-marked for sowing parsnips is beyond me, at least not in our northern climes. Unless you want tears of frustration! It's far better to wait until the end of March at least. I have a nagging feeling that whoever promoted sowing this member of the Umbelliferae family in February in the UK was actually promoting a sick joke!

This is the Umbelliferae family of plants:

Latin name Common name
Genus species  
Apium graveolens celery, celeriac
Anethum graveolens dill
Anthriscus cerefolium chervil
Coriandrum sativum coriander (cilantro)
Daucus carota carrot
Foeniculum vulgare fennel
Pastinaca sativa parsnip
Petroselinum crispum parsley, root parsley

Most of them are notorious for their poor germination rates - especially in cold & wet soil. If your soil is warm enough in February then good luck!

Because of iffy germination rates many in the Umbelliferae group have quite short seed lives, consequently it's a good practice to refresh your seed stock of these plants on an annual basis.

Possibly some confusion may have arisen because some plants (like parsnips) are "cold weather" vegetables. Meaning that they have a long growing season and are often better left to "frost" before being lifted as the sweetness of flavour is enhanced. Because they have a long growing period it really is not critical to get them sown too early. On the other hand, they are best left in the ground until they have been exposed to coldness at the other end of their growing season - usually around February in the FOLLOWING season after they've been sown.


Web-site News

Our Gardeners Chat-Shed web-site has past the 300 registered members mark. These are registered members who have opened a member account with us. Many more unregistered visitors browse the site on a daily basis to check it's contents, read the blogs and generally to glean information from the gardening articles and fact-sheets on there. Registered members can also do more, like chat about gardening subjects, exchange comments on our "Twitter" type service called The Wire and upload photos of their allotments and gardens. The bulk of our members are from the UK, with a strong following from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US, Denmark, France, Sweden & Germany - some are ex pats, others are just interested to meet and make friends with other gardeners from around the world, and to get answers to their gardening problems from like-minded people in the gardening community.


Using Your "Home Grown" Produce

The huge joy of preparing, sowing, growing and harvesting our fresh & healthy allotment/ garden produce is at the heart of the reason why we put in so much hard work into our gardening hobby. However that is only half the story.

It's a sad fact that tons of home grown produce sometimes goes to waste across the world, simply because many of us run out of ideas about what to do with all those fresh & healthy vegetables & fruit we grow so successfully (sometimes!). The grower is not always the person who then has the headache of knowing what to do with the produce - especially in times of gluts!

We've always had a "recipes" section on both the Aeron Vale Allotment Society web-site and the Gardeners Chat-Shed site. However, I've put a little more thought into this section of the sites over these winter months.

Sorting out recipe indexes is more complex than most people realise. E.g. do you categorize them in meal types (e.g. breakfast, dinner/ lunch, tea/dinner & supper). Or do you go for main dishes/ starters & side dishes/ salads/ chutney, relish & pickles/ preserves, jams & jellies/ cakes/ desserts etc. etc. etc. It's mind boggling!

The recipes section started off with five categories, each with it's list of recipes. However I soon discovered that some recipes crossed over from one category to another and it meant that the reader had to go down the list in each category, to find what he/ she wanted, or to see what caught the eye. This, by the way, is how most cookery books do things.

So I sat down & started thinking laterally (outside the cook's kitchen!).

The process of growing food is a seasonal one, you don't normally come home with apples and spring cabbage. You don't normally think up or look up a good recipe and then toddle off to the allotment to fetch the ingredients. Chances are you wouldn't find what you want at all times of the year.

In reality what happens is the allotment grower turns up in the kitchen (after a hard day's slog on the plot) with a big trug full of what's ready to be harvested and eaten at that specific time (often in gluts). The poor cook/partner is left scratching the head about what do do with all this lovely fresh produce!

Then it dawned! What's needed is a list of recipes for specific produce. So when the grower turns up - whether it's with beetroot or broad beans, what the cook needs is a recipe that can be quickly & easily found that uses those specific ingredients either separately or together.

SO our recipe page is in the process of being revamped. As I write this news-letter it's still a "work in progress" but it's getting there! When the new recipes section is completed I'll mail out a memo to everyone to let them know that the new recipes section is up and running (I hope it doesn't overlap into the spring-time sowing frenzy!).


IT'S THAT "CHITTY" TIME OF THE YEAR AGAIN!

Have you got your seed potatoes yet? If you can't find what you're looking for locally (and please DO try to support your local suppliers whenever you can) then why not give JBA Seed Potatoes a look-up?

JBA are one of our society's web-site sponsors and they have a wonderful range of seed potatoes at excellent prices. Established in 1895 as Jamieson Brothers of Annan they've been going strong for 118 years! So they know their spuds. You can order from your armchair off their on-line shop. Just click on the graphic above to have a peek.

A fascinating veg. is our humble spud. It's history is amazing, and we seldom realise the journey it has taken to land up on our plates. It's difficult to visualise life without potatoes isn't it? But up until the late 16th century the potato was the secret food of the South American Indians. It was domesticated by pre-Inca people about 8,000 years ago (they selectively bred the poisonous wild plant until it was safe to eat - I wonder who the guinea pigs were?).

The potato is of course a close relative of the Tomato and the Dahlias. It's not recommended that you eat their leaves either, because like many plants of the Solanaceae family the leaves of potatoes do contain high levels of a certain poison. Potatoes (like tomatoes) contain poison in the stems and leaves – and even in the potato itself if left to turn green (the green is due to a high concentration of the glycoalkaloid poison). Potato poisoning is rare, but it does happen from time to time. Death normally comes after a period of weakness and confusion, followed by a coma. On a humorous note - I know many allotmenteers who get stuck in too quickly at this time of the year with an ensuing period of weakness and confusion, followed by a (sleep) coma!

The majority of cases of death by potato in the last fifty years in the western hemisphere have been the result of eating green potatoes or drinking potato leaf tea. Potatoes are direct relatives of nightshade - the deadly member of their family! This little snippet of information also helps us understand why our tomato plants are so vulnerable to blight. In the blight spore's eyes the tomato leaf is just as inviting as those of it's cousin the potato.

Chitting

How? Why? What Problems?

Across the land regiments of potatoes will be forming sprouts in egg boxes and other containers as the Nation's gardeners get down to chitting.

But what is it? Is it necessary? And what do you do if it all goes wrong?

Commercial growers don't chit their potatoes, but have perfectly good harvests. A potato peeling in a compost bin may happily develop into a healthy plant (annoyingly, and quite often - these "volunteer" spuds, as they are known, appear in the most unlikely of places!). A potato will grow whether you chit it or not. From a personal point of view I'm not obsessive about chitting. If commercial growers, who always want to maximise their crops don't, then I really don't think it's a must for us amateur gardeners.

So why does your common-or-garden gardener have this obsession with chitting? Having said all I have in the last paragraph, there's something very traditional about this happy habit - it's just part of the scene. For me the very process of putting seed potatoes in used egg trays, bringing them into the light and watching them gradually develop stubby little green leaves is a buzz that lifts a gardener's heart at this time of the year. Of course, it also keeps the allotment chat going - "have you started chitting your spuds yet Charlie . . . . ?"

 Nevertheless, there are other arguments for chitting - apart from tradition & "buzz". Chitting is exposing potatoes to light so that they sprout. It gives your potatoes a head start, a bit like germinating your other seeds under protection before planting them out. Potatoes are not hardy (they originate in Peru) and are prone to blight; by chitting them you are giving them a good chance of survival once they are planted. It also gives you a chance to remove any diseased tubers and to reduce the number of sprouts on each tuber to encourage larger potatoes, After all, unlike a commercial grower we have to make every tuber count.

Potatoes will, or course, sprout without exposure to light, but this produces long, white sprouts that break easily. What the gardener wants are short, thick, green or purple sprouts that will promote quicker growth when the tubers are planted. To obtain these your seed potatoes need to be placed in a light, cool place and protected from frost. Cardboard will protect your potatoes from cold which is why egg boxes or trays are ideal. A night covering of straw or newspaper strips will also offer frost protection.

Different varieties sprout at different rates but on average it will take about 4-6 weeks. You should get more than one sprout per potato. To maximise the size of the potatoes in your crop, you can remove all except the two strongest sprouts. Just rub the others off with your thumb. Large seed potatoes can be cut in half, with two sprouts left on each half. Although that procedure can actually be counter productive, as it exposes the tuber to disease and rot in the soil.

Problems

White Shoots

Grow when you leave your potatoes in the dark. Simply rub the white shoots off with your thumb and set your potatoes to chit in a light & cool (but frost free) place. There's no harm done and new, dark shoots will still sprout.

Black Tips

If your shoots have black tips you have them somewhere that is too cold and the shoots are dying off. Before you rub them off, double check - the shoots could be very dark purple. If the tips are black, rub them off and move your potatoes somewhere warmer. No harm has been done and there may still be time for them to sprout. If not, plant them anyway.

Green and/or Mouldy Shoots

If any of your tubers are green, mouldy or very soft they are bad. Remove them immediately to prevent any infection from spreading. Some suppliers will offer replacements but there may be a time limit.

Forgot to Chit?

If you have completely forgotten to chit, but the time is right and the soil is ready for planting, go ahead and plant. You don't have to chit. It's not a complete disaster. Your potatoes will still grow.

Likewise, if any of the above problems occur and it is time to plant, go ahead and plant. Some gardeners get obsessive about potatoes, about chitting and planting. I remain in awe of a simple spud that I can stick in the ground and a few months later have 15-20 spuds just like it. Chit if you can, but if you can't then don't be disheartened or have a nervous break-down over it!.


SOME OF MY OWN ALLOTMENT PLOT NEWS

Getting Ready

Seeds

My trusty seed box (a small wooden drawer, that now has a new lease of life as a seed box - since the item of furniture it used to belong to took a hike to the recycling centre) is out of hiding, for checks on seed stocks and their dates, (who can resist doing that at this time of the year?).

My "wish-list" will be sent to Lajos at Seed Parade in the coming week. I usually try and buy most of my stocks locally, however there are a few things I get from our web-site sponsors & supporters. Seed Parade is one of those sponsors and they supply me with the seeds I use each season. Any varieties that I can't source from  Lajos will be hunted down nearer home.

Some shallot (Golden Gourmet) and onion sets (Autumn Gold) have been sourced, and I'm going to sow some of my onion seeds (Ailsa Craig) in a seed tray in the polytunnel in the next few weeks. The Broad Beans may also get started in there, they'll be planted in saved winter stocks of spent toilet roll tubes. That'll be in the next couple of weeks as well, along with Early Onward peas and possibly some sweet peas. The plan is to have a show of sweet peas along the fence between my plot and the public footpath - they were planned for last year, but rain stopped play so many times, with floods that cover that area, that  the plan got squeezed out of contention. Better fun this year - hopefully!

Without compost, none of this can take place. Last year I got caught out badly with low peat content rubbish that over 70% of my seeds failed to germinate in (some will remember my rant on the subject in a news-letter from last year!).

No such mistake this year. Thank goodness for Jack's Magic - REAL peat based compost -  from Neal at Blondesbury Park Garden Centre in Cardigan. Neal is another web-site sponsor. He's also supplied me with my shallot sets and other bits and pieces this year. There's nothing quite like a friendly & helpful relationship when it comes to these things. When you have people like this that you can deal with who needs a cold indifferent service from a large national garden centre?

Jack's Magic is not the cheapest around, but the extra few pence is more than worth it - if you want proper results.

I'll also be using Jack's Magic for our hanging baskets & tubs again this year. However that's at HQ and not on the lottie. Hopefully that will be a task after a breather from veg seed sowing and planting in the frantic spring. It's never safe to put out the more delicate pretty things in our area before the end of May. Although we live by the sea on the west coast, Jack Frost (there seems to be a lot of "Jack's in this news-letter!) has  a sneaky habit of having one last nip around May.

Before then, it'll be a trip to Alan & Erika at Grannell Nursery. They're another of our web-site sponsors and usually supply me with the plants I need for my baskets & borders.


Potatoes

Last year I decided to give Vales Emerald a go as one of my early (new potato) varieties  - instead of the usual Charlotte. It's a Maris Peer/Charlotte cross, so, with such tried and tested varieties in its pedigree, I was fairly confident that this new First Early was going to be a certain winner.

The proof of the pudding will remain in the eating until this year. Unfortunately Vales Emerald never made it to my collection last year - I missed the boat and failed to get my hands on some decent tubers. However, this year my better half's eagle eyes spotted them for a good price whilst she was passing through Wrexham on one of her pilgrimages to visit family up in Birkenhead.  So one quick phone call later they were snatched up and brought back to base!

I've read some good reviews about Vales Emerald, one reviewer saying "An ideal variety to grow as a ‘baby' potato".  Apparently "each root will yield a high number of round to oval, white skinned, firm, cream fleshed, great tasting tubers". We'll see - watch this space around June/ July, when my personal female food processor and the rest of the family will give me their verdict! That's the most important and critical review of all!

So here's my list of this year's proposed plantings:

First Early:

Vales Emerald - a first timer for me with an excellent write up & heavy yields apparently.

2nd Early:

Salad Blue - another first time experiment for me - if they taste half as good as they look I'll be happy! A real novelty for the table. This variety was first grown in Scotland in the early 1900s. Both skin and flesh are an intense indigo, and much of the colour is retained after cooking. Yet another heritage variety that's just too good to be found amongst the bland supermarket offerings!

  Charlotte - still my all time favourite "new" potato up till now. Few seasons have passed me by without this one.
Maincrop: Ulster Classic - according to Iain Barbour of JBA seed potatoes this is the best tasting potato he has ever tried, he should know - he's tasted a few in his time!
  Pentland Hawk - a large tuber & heavy yielding variety that was very popular a few years ago.
  Amour - a show bench favourite. And last but certainly not least, my personal old favourite -
  Pink Fir Apple - knobbly, ugly and a nightmare to peel but worth every bit of that effort for it's glorious flavour! A true heritage variety that's yet to be equalled - it was originally imported to the UK from France or possibly Germany sometime before 1850. It's still going strong and has an RHS award of garden merit. Not bad for an "old timer"!

That'll be my little lot for 2013 - I'm hoping they don't all get drowned too often - as their brothers & sisters did last year!


OTHER ALLOTMENT & GARDENING NEWS

Horticulture on the Curriculum from Next Year

Gardening will now be taught in schools from September 2014, a move very much welcomed by those of us who were brought up in the good old days of common sense following the second world war! That "common sense" was borne out of the nasty fright we received when we realised that not enough of us knew the basics of growing our own and nearly went on to feel the pangs of starvation during the food blockade during that war - despite the Dig For Victory campaign.

In my grammar school days (in the 60s), there was a subject called "Rural Sciences" that was still taught in secondary schools in Wales. An excellent subject that gave all children a fine grounding in the art of horticulture, and even if you didn't go on to do a degree in horticulture and become something like a head advisor at the Royal horticultural Society (or similar!) Then you at least knew the rudiments of the subject.

The consultation on reform of the National Curriculum states that pupils from Key Stages 1–3 will be taught ‘to cultivate plants for practical purposes such as for food or for decorative displays’ as a key activity in design and technology lessons.

The next challenge, however, will be ensuring that all teachers are prepared for this important addition to the curriculum.

Sarah Cathcart, RHS Head of Education and Learning, says: 'We’ve been campaigning for this for nearly 10 years so we are thrilled that the Government has recognised that there is a need for children to be taught gardening at school. Our research shows the huge range of benefits to pupils, so this is a significant step and one that we are delighted by.'

'We now need to help teachers and school staff get the support they need to teach horticulture to children. More than 16,300 schools are signed up to our Campaign for School Gardening, which gives teachers access to useful resources such as lesson plans and tips for planning and setting up a school garden. We also have a team of RHS Regional Advisors who work directly with schools.

The Food Growing in Schools Taskforce report, which referenced research carried out by the RHS in 2010, highlighted the following benefits for school pupils through gardening at school:

  • Improves academic achievement e.g. gardening enhances scientific understanding, numeracy, literacy and language skills.
  • Builds life and employability skills e.g. food-growing improves financial literacy, builds enterprise and communication skills and helps motivation and behaviour.
  • Improves health and well-being e.g. growing fruit and vegetables leads to a better understanding of food and nutrition and an increased consumption of fresh produce.

Sense at last say I - so there IS a glimmer of hope for the future!


KNOW YOUR PESTS

Carrot Fly (Psila rosae)

Whilst the carrot fly, also known as carrot root fly, won't be a problem in February, you can bet your last pair of little white cotton socks it'll come visiting later on - when you start to thin out your carrot seedlings! So it would be a good idea to read up on this pest right now.

Adults emerge in mid-April to May to begin laying eggs in the soil close to plants. Eggs hatch in 7 to 10 days. The small maggots burrow in roots for 3 to 4 weeks, then pupate. They can have two or three generations per year. The first generation adults are active from mid April to June. Larvae feed on roots starting in May and June with the subsequent second generation adults emerging in August and September. Late second and early third generation adults are active at the same time with the second generation adults lasting into October. Crop damage accumulates over time. A nightmare!

They infect their host plant's roots causing widespread damage to crops. The damage is caused as the fly larvae feed. Signs to check for are leaf discolouration, and holes or tunnels in the carrot. The holes often turn a rusty colour due to a fungal disease called carrot or parsnip canker which commonly infects the damaged area.

Plants affected by carrot flies are (as you might have guessed) the whole carrot family. The main host plant is carrots but they also attack celery, celeriac, parsnips and parsley - our old friends the Umbelliferae family group again! Carrot root fly is a major pest of these plants, and is a very common problem.

Adult carrot flies are part of a group known as stilt-legged-flies. They have long orange legs, a black body and a red/brown head. They're about ¼"  (4mm) long and poor fliers.

The larvae of the carrot fly are the major cause of plant damage. They are maggot-like in appearance, growing to about ½" (10mm) in length and are creamy yellow in colour. Carrot fly pupae are brownish yellow in colour and are found in the soil. Carrot fly larvae often cause widespread damage since they move through the soil feeding on different roots.

Adult carrot flies overwinter below ground and emerge in the spring to mate. The first generation of eggs are laid into the soil surrounding the host plants. A second generation emerges in July and August. It's this generation that over-winters in the soil. Occasionally there can be three generations a year if environmental conditions are favourable.

If carrot or parsnip canker spores are present within the soil, they can often infect the areas where carrot root fly larvae have been feeding. This causes a rust colouration of the affected areas.

The Myths

There's a lot written about carrot root fly, including some myths about the way it can be controlled. Many tips are given about e.g. companion planting. Some organic growers reckon that by sowing onions alongside your carrots, you can fool the fly into not attacking because the onion odour masks the carrot smell. In my experience, to depend on the fly being fooled into not zeroing in on your carrots with onion odour "masking" is highly speculative to say the least! In my own (admittedly not under strict scientific condition) experiments I have found that this method does not work very well - I would not depend on the fly's uncanny carrot scent mechanism being confused by a few dozen onion plants! You can try if you like, but don't tell me I didn't warn you!

Whilst the fly is admittedly not a very good flyer and tends to hog the ground in flight - it will fly above two feet. Some gardeners are convinced that if they sow their carrots more than two feet above ground then they'll be safe from this inept flying pest. I can only quote Medwyn William - the prize veg growing expert - on this one. He grows his show carrots in blue barrels that are twice that distance above ground and even he has problems keeping the dreaded carrot fly away. So don't rely on that method on it's own either! Whilst growing carrots halfway up to the sky will perhaps reduce the risk - the fly will find them, especially if there are no easier hunting grounds nearer the soil for it.

Prevention

Carrot fly are attracted by the scent released from bruised foliage. They mainly take to the wing during the day and in bright sunlight. If you have to weed or thin carrots, do it on a dry evening with no wind when the scent of the carrots will not spread so far. Pull carrots for eating in the evenings too, for the same reason. All thinnings should be removed from the near vicinity as soon as they are taken out of the ground.

Research is being done to develop resistant strains of carrots. If you go down that route then choose those that show at least some degree of resistance, such as Fly Away F1 and Resistafly F1. I don't like using F1 hybrids - on principal. Whether it's my imagination or not, but I also tend to think that "resistance" bred varieties tend not to taste as good as the established varieties. If you breed for resistance then flavour is not usually at the top of your priority list as a plant breeder. The same I find applies to blight "resistant" potatoes. But sometimes "beggars can't be choosers" when it comes to these things!

Put a layer of grass clippings about 2½" (that's about 5cm) deep between the rows of carrots when they reach about 4" high high. This should come right up to the base of the plants. Top up with a further ¼" (1cm) layer at weekly intervals for four weeks. The mulch enables the carrots to make better use of nutrients and water in the soil, it smothers annual weeds, encouraging healthy growing conditions and improves their ability to resist attack. It also makes it more difficult for the female flies to lay their eggs in cracks in the soil. A range of creatures will make their home under the mulch, some of which will be predators of the carrot fly such as ground beetles and centipedes. BUT watch out for slugs and snails which will also thrive in those conditions!

Now For The Good News!

There's a simple and VERY effective way of avoiding problems with this pest. VEGGIEMESH or FLEECE! I call it the "barrier method".

Veggiemesh has replaced the insect netting, Enviromesh, that used to be so popular. The quality is better and the prices are much lower. It is made of exactly the same material, it has exactly the same hole sizes and is available in exactly the same widths, the main difference is the reduced prices.

In my experience the only way to truly protect your carrots & parsnips from carrot fly is to cage them in so that the fly is thwarted from being able to get to them. Don't leave any gaps though!

All you need is some alkathene (blue water pipe) cut into lengths to form hoops. You then cover your rows of carrots with this Veggiemesh "tunnel". Some growers use fleece instead - draped over the crop. That is an inferior way to do it, although it does work well & keeps frost away from tender seedlings. The choice is yours!

Job done - and you can sleep quietly in your beds at night - whilst knowing your carrots & parsnips are tucked up safely in theirs!

More info. on other pests will be published in future issues of our NEWSLETTER.


imageDID YOU KNOW?

A 200 sq ft garden, with a low worm population of only 5 worms/cubic foot, will be provided with over 35 lbs (about a third of a pound per worm) of top-grade fertilizer - by the worms - each garden year.

"Not a lot of people know that!"


SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT

Information

Author

Gordon Thorburn

Publisher

Pen & Sword Books Ltd

Date of Publication

18/02/2010

Language

English

Format

Paperback

In the early hours of the 15th of April 2010 I experienced a coronary thrombosis, immediately followed by what they call a major myocardial infarction (a big heart attack to you and me). This was quickly followed by a team of paramedics barging their way into my house and a red helicopter landing outside. A 60 mile trip in the air ambulance to a specialist cardiac unit in Swansea then ensued. Suffice to say the cardiac team at the hospital saved my life - as I had got there in the nick of time. I am eternally indebted to them all. What followed was a process of slow recovery and rehabilitation. So what on earth has all this got to do with a book about classic allotments?

Unbeknown to me, about a month earlier Pen & Sword Books Ltd. had published Gordon Thorburn's wonderful book called "The Classic Allotment".  On or around the same time as I was experiencing the delights of hospital food in south west Wales, this book quietly dropped through my letter-box at home.  Pen & Sword Books had sent me a free copy, requesting that I write a review on it for them. Normally I would have gladly got on with that task straight away, however with this sudden change in circumstances, the book, one way or another, got put to one side. Along the way it got put in my library, I hadn't read it, and  Pen & Sword Books never got their review, neither did they follow up their original request.

The other day, during a quiet period in the gloomy winter, I was browsing through the books on my shelves, I came across "The Classic Allotment". I couldn't remember buying or reading it, so I started thumbing through. I then discovered the covering letter that Pen & Sword Books had kindly enclosed with it, requesting a review. The whole embarrassing picture came into focus - I don't like letting people down, so I felt duty bound to start reading this book. I assumed it would be another reference-like common-or-garden book on how to prepare and clear-up a bit of disused land, how to build a shed and a dummies guide to sowing, transplanting and harvesting the produce (should the reader's project enthusiasm ever get to that advanced stage). Allotment books usually follow that pattern. Their titles are often prefixed with words like "beginners guide", "expert advice" or the words "month by month". They usually contain exactly the same content just rearranged to suit whoever wrote it and what they think will interest an unwary "beginner" who has just been bitten by the "Grow Your Own" (good life) bug.

As soon as I started reading the first chapter of this book I immediately knew I was on to something special. This is not the froth you usually encounter! Gordon Thorburn doesn't fall into the category of authors who have given up the rat-race, sold their house in suburbia & bought a little cottage in Cornwall, Wales, the Scottish Highlands or a village in deepest Suffolk. In fact I believe Thorburn actually moved away for a period from his native Suffolk to escape from the in-migration of such ones from the cities of the south east of England! Many of the "good life" authors around these days are in fact town & city migrants who move to the country with an amateur's dream of self sufficiency, only to find a few years down the line that they can't finance themselves; then in an effort to generate a bit of income to subsidise their dream & depleting bank accounts, they decide to sit down to write a book on the subject of allotment gardening, whilst their wives compile a few recipes to fill out their books on how to use fresh veg & fruit on a small holding on a wind swept hill-side somewhere in the wilds. A bit sad really.

Anyway, I digress. The Classic Allotment is not a dry read DIY guide. It's rich in the history and origins of the food we grow today and the allotment movement in it's wider context. It's extremely humorous and the author is obviously as well versed in historical knowledge as he is in the knowledge of growing veg. He strikes me as the sort of chap you'd love to spend a few hours in his company on a wet afternoon in a pub to glean real interesting facts about everything to do with gardening and the plants found there. His hostility towards the commercial supermarket scene is also refreshing, as he ridicules the masses for supporting such an insane way to source our everyday grub for sustenance. He does this in such a humorous way that you can't help being won over to his intellectually driven ethos.

This guy is a real author and his style of writing is such that you just get addicted to his book. A "must get" book for any well rounded thinking gardener. It's not just for the muddy wellie mob, it's one that any serious gardener needs by the side of his bed or in the magazine rack by the side of the "throne" in the little boy's room!

If you want to preview the Kindle version of the book at Amazon then just click on the book's cover graphic above, or go to the aeronvale-allotments.org.uk web-site, click the "Books" tab and do a search for "The Classic Allotment". You won't be disappointed I promise!


That's it for another issue friends. If you would like to write something for our NEWS-LETTER then all contributions are gratefully accepted. You can contact me via either of our two web-sites:

aeronvale-allotments.org.uk or gardenerschat-shed.net/

 

Until the next time - keep busy,  but above all, have fun, ENJOY and be nice to your neighbours on your allotment plot or in your veg. garden!

 

Best Wishes,

G

 
 

Gwilym.

Click to visit our AWARD WINNING web-siteCliciwch i fynd i'n GWEFAN WOBRWYOLClick to visit our AWARD WINNING web-siteVisit our Gardeners Social Networking siteVisit our Gardeners Social Networking siteRead My Blog at The Gardeners Chat-Shed

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"Gardening knowledge unshared is gardening knowledge wasted" -- Anon.