SEPTEMBER/ OCTOBER 2013

 

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

IF YOU RECEIVE TWO COPIES OF THE LATEST NEWS-LETTER e-mail alert - 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 - just delete the second one to arrive or forward it to a friend who may have an interest. Simples!

Whilst you, our Gardeners Chat-Shed friends, may be members of your own gardening clubs and allotment groups, you can still share in what we have to offer here by way of gardening tips, news, information and gossip from the "grow your own" community.

There's something for everyone in our News-letter!


IN GENERAL

It's been a wonderful season. In 2013 we've had a summer that actually felt like a proper summer should, it'll go down in the top ten best years in living memory on the lottie. But now it's over.

I always think of autumn as the end of our gardening season. I know that some plants grow in winter and you harvest many crops - especially root crops such as swedes or parsnip, after they've become "frosted". However autumn has that "end of term" feel to it. A time for assessments, comparisons and analysis. You will know by now what you'll never attempt to grow again (in my case horrible bitter tasting purple podded peas that looked fantastic and tasted awful). You'll also know what you tried that blew your socks off - so you'll ALWAYS grow it in the future (Salad Blue potatoes fell in that category for me - although I'm having difficulty sourcing 'seed' potato tubers for next season). By now you've had your feedback from the family (no point asking friends you've given stuff away to - they won't tell you what they really think of your offerings, for fear of upsetting you, or perhaps - more likely - in case future offerings dry up!).

The leaves on trees have changed colour (unless they've disappeared in the gales) as the nights draw in & the temperatures drop. The clocks will now go back an hour, and by 5.30pm you'll be bumping into things in the dark on your lottie! What a depressing thought! The sap is going back down, farmers are cutting their hedges and everything seems to be yawning and getting ready for sleep. The potatoes should all be out of the ground by now, your runner beans are looking their age with toughened pods, or have swollen pods of beans for collecting & drying for your next sowing regime - if you collect your own. All the vigour seems to have gone out of everything else that's still managing to grow on tick-over. Seed pods are full, with the plants having done their job to ensure that the embryos of the next generation have been produced as seeds. It's all a bit like that little period after a hard day, when you've had your bath, put your dressing gown on, curled up with your Horlicks and you're getting ready to go to bed.

Winter is the rest period and it's knocking on the door. Some of us use this time between now & spring to start planning our plots for next year and ordering our seeds early, if not, it's getting nearer that time when you can put your feet up in front of the fire and start writing your "wish lists" for spring. Assuming you're not plagued by a conscience that you haven't tidied your plot up for another year. Or that the autumn sown broad beans or onion sets that you promised yourself you'd get around to planting hasn't been done! We ALL have those moments - that's where the wet weather comes in handy - to blame it for for our little procrastinations! But it's not a sin! The main point of growing veg. is to get enjoyment out of it, not a guilty conscience that makes it a chore (says he whilst carrying a hod full of guilt on his shoulder!!).


SOME OF MY ALLOTMENTS SITE NEWS

Up and down the UK it's the the season of the Annual General Meeting (AGM). Not everywhere of course, but the majority of allotment groups find this time of the year to be an ideal opportunity to get down to their AGM and to make that annual members assessment gleaned from reports from their chair, secretary & treasurer of what's transpired and been achieved over the last year and what's planned for the coming twelve months. It's also possibly the time for the 'musical chairs' game of all change of the personnel at the helm - which usually lands the same players in the same chairs for another period due to the great work they achieve and everyone's appreciation of the conscientious work they put in - pending deaths, retirements, resignations or demonstrations of toys being thrown out of prams! Unless that is you come to our neck of the woods.

We've just discovered that our current chair, the secretary & our treasurer have all gone AWOL in mid term! Nothing wrong with that (after all every one of us have our own little personal crosses to bear and sometimes we have to make decisions based on our own personal pressing circumstances). The problem arises if you throw in the towel without telling all the other members and without calling an Extra Ordinary General Meeting meeting to rearrange things and sort out the mess.

 Our allotment association here, being slightly "different", does things VERY differently. To quoin a phrase, we've had a situation in force where the "lunatics have taken over the asylum" for the last two years, and as anticipated by most of us genuine allotment growers, with past experience, the result is that the asylum has eventually collapsed. Not a surprise really, it never was a case of 'if' but rather 'when' it would happen. Well it has, so all that's left to do is for those of us who seriously care about the allotment movement is to pick  up the pieces and try to salvage what's left to rebuild the walls of our 'asylum'. In the meantime our land owners (Ceredigion County Council) have no point of contact with their land use licence holders - the Aberaeron Allotment Association - no one is authorised to make payments, goodness knows who deals with the bank or is responsible for the members money, and instead of giving the relevant paperwork back to the previous officials no one has been told where our paperwork is!

It's not just a case of unorthodox resignations.  We haven't had any general maintenance done on our site for the last two years, we've not had a properly conducted meeting of our members , when we have had meetings not all members have been informed, no minutes of previous meetings have been read and no notes taken or correspondence read. We haven't had proper independently audited account reports presented to the membership for two years and the official's plots are some of the worst kept on our site - so much for setting examples to others! On top of that some members have gone over their rent payment period & so according to their tenancy agreements they should no longer be members but still hold on to their plots. One member has been taken to court for 'appropriating' another member's property without permission and failing to replace or pay for it - he is now the proud owner of a County Court Judgement, but still remains a member and has a plot on the site. Two new plot holders have come on site - they were verbally told that all they had to do was pay £50 cash to the secretary and just get on with it - instead of the usual £100.00 including a £60.00 bond payable to the treasurer. Neither were given a receipt or tenancy agreement documents. One was parachuted in from the blue whilst not even on the waiting list! Although there is a waiting list and some have been on there for 3 - 4 years. A shambles? Hardly a strong enough word for it. If you want a template of how an allotment group should NOT be run - this is it folks.

Reality

Right - down to reality! Those of us in the minority on our site - who take our plots seriously and conform to the general rules and standards of the allotment community as a whole, have in the main had a very successful year and bumper crops.

The star of the show for me this season? The sweetcorn. Not because it grew exceptionally well and produced lots of cobs (which it did eventually) but the fact that it performed so well after a truly abysmal start.

It got started off with lots of pampering in individual pots in the polytunnel and I was really pleased with it's germination rate and growth progress. When I planted it outside - it just sulked & stayed at about 4" (10cm) high. I know that the problem was that long cold period we had at the end of May and beginning of June. It just stunted & would not budge! In fact it became an embarrassment - so much so that I toyed with the idea of putting it out of it's misery. I was contemplating whether to dig it up and grow something else in the space, because it seemed to be getting nowhere and was a waste of a precious bed. I'm glad I didn't though!

My mate Stephen often muses about the evening we stood in judgement about whether I should proceed with or stay the execution. The decision was finally made after Tig (another allotment mate) joined the deliberation & said she thought I should try some cut off plastic bottles that she had, and suggested I borrowed some off her to put around each plant to give them a bit more protection; so armed with Tig's plastic bottles I decided to give it another week or two - the corn must have been eavesdropping on our conversations and got frightened into life!

The result was that it took off like a rocket with most of the plants reaching over six feet in height and they produced some excellent cobs. Probably one of the best crops I've had in years. The moral of the story is 'never give up'! There's always hope where there's a little patience and faith. To think I might have robbed myself of that gorgeous eating experience if I'd been fool-hardy and impatient enough to put what I thought was a no hope crop in the compost bin. Mind you, over the years I've had the opposite result, where I've thought to myself that a pathetic crop harvest should have been cut short with a trip to the compost bins in late spring!

Summing Up

Moving on. Here's a summary of how I saw things pan out on the crop front this season. Below are a few photos of some of my own produce, (I would dearly love a wider inclusion of other plot-holders produce, but I haven't received any contributions - all readers of this newsletter are warmly invited to contribute anything they think will be of interest or assistance to their fellow growers - just contact me). Space does not allow to include everything but this gives you a snapshot of the successes this year. I've also included a bit of crop variety background & performance notes:

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The Aeron Purple Star runner bean that I've been breeding & developing over the last few years came of age this year. It started off with a cross pollinated Polestar variety that produced rare purple podded runner beans a couple of seasons ago. With careful further cultivation in isolation using saved seeds it has been found to come true, and this year I got some other growers to trial it for me. The result was that the seeds from the original cross (pollinated with separate plants of the same new variety) have all come true. So, in order to share my new variety with others I decided to offer the seeds for free to other amateur growers across the UK. To make known the existence of the new bean I posted some messages on three gardening forums on the Internet - expecting half a dozen or so to take up my offer of free beans to a good home, so that the variety could be established. Imagine my surprise when I got requests from 61 potential growers from all over the UK with a number going to a seed collector in Canada! Over 1,200 seeds are to be sent out in the next few weeks. talk about making a rod for my own back!

You can get more information by visiting:

http://aeronvale-allotments.org.uk/aeronpurplestar

More about this bean further down when I compare it to the benchmark variety - Armstrong - that I grow every year.

The potatoes were well over average this year, in terms of crop quantity, quality and size. A near perfect year for them - especially when compared to last year!

With greatly lowered incidences of blight due to the dry & warm summer we had, early blight did not make an appearance this season, and what little blight that did strike came right at the end of the season so the damage was very minimal. Oh for a summer like this every year!

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Again this year I had a number of potato varieties, including Vales Emerald, Salad Blue, Charlotte, Pink Fir Apple, Ulster Classic, Pentland Hawk & a small number of Amour.

The PFAs and Charlotte I grow every year, the others also performed well this year. The only one that we had a bit of a moan about were the Vales Emerald that displayed that annoying habit - if you're not careful - of disintegrating when boiled. Taste wise they were fine. The other varieties were excellent. Especially the Ulster Classic. Tuber size of the Armour & Pentland Hawk (both main crop) was amazing.

However the big favourite which I had never grown before was the Salad Blue (shown above). Not just because of it's novelty colour attributes but it tastes fantastic. Unfortunately it seems that JBA don't have it available this year. Pity - it was marked down as a 'must grow again' variety.

Brassicas were a a big success. This little juvenile beauty is no exceptions (picked in a thunderstorm - as you can see from the photo!). Later specimens picked when they were more mature had hearts that were two or three times the size of the one pictured opposite.

The only things that have not made it to the same standard are the sprouts, but that's my own fault. All the cabbage plant family I grow under net cloches. Sprouts being so much taller got stuck under there too long and were forcing their way out before I lifted the netting. No not laziness, but a fear of the late flutterings of the cabbage white butterfly that were still active to the end of September/ beginning of October this fine summer. If we get a similar summer next year the answer will be five foot high net tunnels!

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Large cucumbers get wasted in our house as they're often too much for us to get through whilst they're still fresh. So this year I grew (what I thought was) a shorter variety. The couple of plants I grew in the polytunnel were meant to be the 'petite' variety, however, what actually grew were these monsters!

Obviously a foreigner in the camp - or the seed packet labels got mixed up!

A fabulous year for the alliums! For the first time I grew Autumn Gold - a variety that's highly thought of amongst many vegetable growers. Size, quality and taste seems to bear those reviews out. How they store I'll know by the spring.

The shallots are equally good this year. In fact they've been so prolific we're going to have a job getting through them - despite the 'give aways' to friends & extended families!

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Finally, from my crops (I've tried not to bore the reader with snapshots of all my crop) - good ol' faithful. The rhubarb. It's like a faithful old dog that NEVER lets me down - come hell or high water. The weather can chuck what it likes at it and it just ignores it all and simply - without fuss - just grows & grows! I have a real soft spot for it, because it's so reliable and rewards me with masses of crops - for the return of a little bit of muck in early winter. Shown here are the varieties Victoria & Timperly early - both as good as each other.

Mind you it has the advantage over the other crops - it originates in Siberia & grows wild on the banks of the Volga - so it just laughs at our fractionally milder climate!


Comparisons

Runner Beans

Every season I like to make comparisons between different varieties that I've grown. In the case of runner beans, for a long time I've made a point of comparing two separate varieties. The winner is grown again the following year and put up against another variety - like a knock-out competition for veg.!

This started off as an experiment to see which variety works best for me. So the constant variety comparison should eventually turn up with the best I can find (until something new is bred and comes along to beat the previous "champion").

For a long time my best performing variety has been Armstrong. It has a good pedigree. It was originally bred from the famous "Enorma" bean, as of course was the "Stenner" bean. It's often advertised as an "improved strain of Enorma". It's close cousin - the Stenner bean - was bred by Brython Stenner from Cefn Cribwr in south Wales. For many years the Stenner was unbeatable in veg. exhibition shows all over the UK & beyond (and still is the standard bean of choice for the serious competition growers), but unlike other show varieties the Stenner & Armstrong beans are also some of the best for the table. "Taffy" Stenner - as he was called - bred his world famous Stenner runner bean from selective breeding of the Enorma bean strain. Armstrong has been bred from the same gene pool.

This year Armstrong was up against my very own Aeron Purple Star. Here are my findings. Each bean is marked out of a possible 10. Whilst this is not a scientific trial, it does give me a good benchmark of what works best in the soil & climate where I grow my veg. And I HAVE tried to be subjective and honest - despite Aeron Purple Star being the judges daughter!

FEATURE

ARMSTRONG /10

AERON PURPLE STAR /10

COMMENT

Germination

8

8

Nothing to choose between them. It was a good germination year but they both suffered a little after being planted out - but recovered well. Virtually no failures. Both quick to break the surface.

Vigour

9

8.5

As usual Armstrong - once germinated is the first to start climbing when planted out. However the Aeron Purple Stars soon caught up and is no slouch!

Hardiness

8

6.5

The Armstrong had the edge, which showed up when the two were exposed to unseasonal cold spells in late spring. The Aeron Purple Star seemed to suffer slightly more, but soon caught up when the weather got warmer.

Final height achieved

10

12

Both grew well past their 8' poles. All plants had to be stopped by pinching out the tips. The Aeron Purple Star is the tallest kid in the class though! It seemed intent on going on forever.

How prolific

9

9

Nothing to choose between them, both are very prolific

Length of pod

10

8.5

Armstrong had generally longer pods - it's parentage would ensure that, being a descendant of "Enorma". Aeron Purple Star is longer than average but did not achieve Armstrong's often 16 - 18" (32 - 45cm) length in ideal conditions.

Size of beans

8

8.5

Nothing to choose between them really, but the Aeron Purple Stars seemed to mature to full size slightly sooner

Stringlessness

9

8.5

Both are genuinely stringless. Armstrong remains stringless, but some of the Aeron Purple Star started showing slight signs of stringiness on the occasional pod with age. However as the Aeron Purple Star was being grown primarily to build up seed stocks this year it's pods tended to be picked later - so it might have missed out because of that. Armstrong was the main table bean for eating - for obvious reasons - so got picked younger.

Taste

9

9.5

Aeron Purple Star is above average in the taste category, but Armstrong is also in a class of it's own

Length of Cropping period

8.5

9

Armstrong started to show signs of fatigue first. Polestar seemed to go on slightly longer. Both are still producing in October, but the Aeron Purple Star seem to have a bit more left in the tank.

TOTALS

88.5

88.0

Armstrong pipped it - but only by the narrowest of margins (which proves my unbiased nature!) 

Colour of pod: Aeron Purple Star starts off a dark green, as it matures it changes to a maroon colour and finally ends up with dark purple (almost black pods). Armstrong is a medium to dark green, it's pods also darken with maturity but always stay green - like the vast majority of runners. Even the ones with black beans have a green pod (like the Salford Black).

That's what makes the Aeron Purpke Star unique. Unlike French beans that have a whole host of purple podded varieties, there is virtually no runner bean that has purple pods.

 

Potatoes

As with a few other crops, potatoes are usually something that I like to annually compare when it comes to varieties. Like many allotmenteers I usually grow early & maincrop potatoes. There are some that are annual favourites - Charlotte & Pink Fir Apple being two of them. With the others I try to grow a selection that I've either not grown before - or have grown in the past but forgotten how they performed!

Many crops display a level of quality and success that reflects the type of soil and the climate they are produced in. Local variations in climate can have quite a pronounced effect as well. Here in Aberaeron - on the west Wales coast - we have quite a mild micro climate, and compared to other areas both north & south of us, we tend to miss the worst of the weather. In fact, it's noticeably dryer here than it is just five miles down the coast in New Quay & certainly at Aberystwyth about 15 miles north. We're in a little cove that seems to dodge the frost and showers that usually blow from the south west up Cardigan Bay to the north west & visa versa during the winter!

Our soil is not great, it has a clay nature (although clay can be quite fertile), so it's heavy and tends to be water retaining and slow to warm up. However with time and a lot of effort (adding humus and manure) allotment plot soils do greatly improve as they age.

I cultivate potatoes in the traditional way. Trenches are opened up in spring and a liberal amount of the magic ingredient (well rotted farm yard manure) is spread along the length of the potato row trench. A layer of about 2 - 3 inches if soil is used to cover it, so that the seed potatoes are not in direct contact with the manure (especially if it's a bit fresh). Soil is then used to cover the seed potatoes and throughout the growing season the rows are earthed up as the haulms progress in growth.

This season I prepared my usual six rows. they're about forty foot (approx. 13 metres) long. Four earlies, two early maincrop and two maincrop. Some were half rows - before someone picks me up on my maths!

The earlies were Vales Emerald, Ulster Classic & Charlotte, the early main-crops were Pink Fir Apple & Salad Blue, & the true main-crop varieties were Armour & Pentland Hawk. This is how I rate then:

FEATURE

VALES EMERALD

ULSTER CLASSIC

CHARLOTTE

P. F. APPLE

SALAD BLUE

PENTLAND HAWK

ARMOUR

Chitting/ sprouting success

8/10

8/10

9/10

8/10

9/10

9/10

8/10

Vigour

9/10

8/10

8/10

7.5/10

8/10

9/10

8.5/10

Tuber quantity

8/10

8/10

9/10

8.5/10

8.5/10

8.5/10

8.5/10

Size of tubers

8/10

8.5/10

9/10

7.5/10

8/10

9/10

9/10

Blight resistance

6/10

7/10

8/10

8.5/10

9/10

7/10

7/10

Flavour

8/10

9/10

10/10

9.5/10

8.5/10

7.5/10

7/10

Tuber quality

7/10

8/10

8.5/10

7.5/10

8/10

8/10

8/10

Cooking quality

6/10

8.5/10

9.5/10

9.5/10

8.5/10

8/10

8/10

TOTALS

60

65

71

66.5

67.5

66

64

 

So that's how the spuds panned out this season. Top marks to Charlotte (unsurprisingly). in my neck of the woods it's by far one of the best early salad potato that I've grown, so it's always top of the list. Consequently, until I find a variety that surpasses it, then I will continue to grow it.

Salad Blue did particularly well, although it's not that common on allotments. Not a prolific cropper, it tastes nice and it looks terrific (a bonus is that the boffins reckon it has a high level of antioxidants as well).

 

Good ol' Pink Fir Apple comes third. The taste - as usual - was beautiful, with a hint of nuttiness and although it's supposed to be an early maincrop it actually tastes and cooks like an early waxy salad potato. It's right up there with Charlotte for taste, but hasn't got Charlotte's good looks! In fact it's a bit of an ugly duckling and is a pain because of it's lumps & bumps! It's an heirloom variety that was bred around the 1840s - long may it continue to be around! In fact it's making a bit of a come-back apparently, but you'll seldom see it on supermarket shelves.

Pink Fir Apple was originally imported in 1850 and kept solely by British enthusiasts for decades, because of its very fine flavour. The shape of the Pink Fir Apples are long and narrow and famously knobbly, often with side growths. The skin is part pink/part white with yellow flesh. It really is unique.

 

Ulster Classic was well worth growing it was "nice" flavoured but not quite up to the other early - Charlotte. However, if I was a show-bench frequenter I would be very pleased with it. A pretty potato - with uniform shape and a pink flush (not dissimilar to King Edward).

Armour & Pentland Hawk both main-crop varieties produced huge round tubers (perfect for baking). It's a bit unfair to compare their taste with the young new potatoes that are harvested in their youth - horses for courses. Both are worthy of growing again.

Vales Emerald came last. Not solely because of flavour, but it was a mediocre spud. It didn't cook very well but tasted quite nice (in a middle of the road sort of way). I was disappointed with it because I'd had my eye on it for a few seasons but didn't try it until this season. Perhaps my expectations had been elevated a little too high. Apparently it's a Charlotte/ Maris Peer cross I believe - so I would have expected better. The Potato Council describes it as "An outstanding early bulking variety with attractive appearance on the shelf and excellent flavour. With 25% higher yields than existing punnet varieties, Emerald is proving to be extremely popular with growers and retailers alike."  Sorry, I can't agree - not on my plot and in my soil or on my table it isn't! perhaps the key to it's popularity is "attractive appearance on the shelf" & "25% higher yields" and ". . . popular with retailers". Translated that means a favourite with the supermarkets, because it crops well, yields are high, it's uniform & the taste is passable - for them it doesn't need to tick any other boxes.


OTHER ALLOTMENT & GARDENING NEWS

A Bit of Bad News

An allotment holder is desperately trying to find a new home for dozens of rare cockerels after she was told to get them off the land as soon as possible.

For a year, Anita Roberts has used a patch of land at the Romsey and District Allotments site, off Stourbridge Grove, Cambridge, to house adult Brabanters and their chicks, alongside several other male and female birds of different breeds. But now the 60-year-old has been told she can no longer keep male birds on-site to abide by Cambridge City Council rules, and faces an uphill task to relocate her “family”.

Anita, who lives in Riverside, where she cares for her 90-year-old mother Beryl, said: “They say this rule has been around for a long time but it never seems to have been enforced so strictly.

“I think the way I use my allotment is as appropriate as any. I have never had complaints about noise and people seem to like having them around. The birds have their own houses and a solar powered fence which keeps them inside and foxes out.”

The Brabanter is a Dutch breed of chicken originating in the historic region of Brabant, straddling Belgium and the Netherlands. The original form of the Brabanter became extinct in the early 20th century, but was re-created in 1920. They remain very rare, particularly in the UK. Anita, who is a private music teacher, currently has 12 adult Brabanters and 21 chicks, having bought her first eggs last April.

She said: “It is fair to say I am an animal lover. I used to work at Wood Green Animal Shelter and I also have more hens and four cats that I keep at home. “The birds at the allotment are like one big family and need to be together but I have been told I have to move them as soon as possible. “I have to visit them every day and often up to three or four time if any need to be taken to the vet. I am not sure where I am going to go with them now.”

A spokesman for Romsey Town and District Gardening Society, which runs the allotments, said: “This is not a decision by the committee but rather a rule from the council. It applies to all city allotments.” To help Anita, call (01223) 363626.

My Comment: This story highlights how far some "townies" have departed from basic natural environments. It's always a problem when you mix veg. growing chicken keeping "country" minded folk with modern artificial environment town dwellers. Notice Anita Roberts' fellow allotment growers has no problem with her poultry - but the council does. What nicer way to welcome in another day than with a cockerel crowing? Trouble is the ones who complain just see it as another annoying noise. So sad.


Some Good News!

Don't Think "Small" - Sky's The Limit For Allotment Groups

Example - Hornchurch and District Allotments and Gardening Society

The Hornchurch and District Allotments and Gardening Society has been established for over 60 years and was formed to promote gardening interests in and around Hornchurch, as well as the proper cultivation of allotment plots to produce high-quality food locally.

This is a fantastic example of some enterprising work by an an allotment and gardening society, who rather than think small with just one independent site for their immediate members, have set a template for how an "umbrella" group can not only run one site successfully, but can replicate that management model to set-up other allotment sites in the area. The secret to their success is the way they have established a management system that not only runs the sites efficiently and properly, but the key to it all is that they have made sure that the allotments are properly cultivated on each site.

Allotment groups and their members can have a narrow self centred outlook on what they want to accomplish, by focusing just on their own individual plots on one site and just concentrate on producing food for themselves, or they can view their endeavours as a means to expand and promote the 'grow your own fresh food locally' allotment movement as a whole and on a much grander and more enhanced scale. As the old saying goes - 'you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day, or you can teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for a lifetime'. The goal should be to get as many people as possible interested and involved in growing their own food in their own communities.

The Hornchurch and District Allotments and Gardening Society now encompasses 15 sites and has almost 700 members. These sites are dotted all around the wider Hornchurch area. This should be the eventual goal for the Aeron Vale Allotment Society. Like the Hornchurch Society we should aim to help other groups to source land, get funding, set-up the documentation of their group properly and then help to manage it successfully under the umbrella of the 'mother' society. But as with the Hornchurch & District Allotment & Gardening Society ALL allotment plots have to be properly cultivated. That is a primary requirement for success.

Hornchurch have members who are not plot holders, who pay a fee to enjoy the benefits of their trading huts and horticultural supplies. The land on which their sites stand is leased from the London borough of Havering under agreement. They support community projects and have a large marquee at the Havering Show each August where they mount a display of locally-produced vegetables, fruit, plants and flowers. Surplus produce is donated by their members and is made available for purchase then towards the end of the show the display produce is also sold. The  proceeds are donated to Saint Francis Hospice and over the last four years the donations have exceeded £8,000 in total. So the effort of growing and displaying fresh produce not only benefits the growers and others who are not in a position to grow their own, but it raises money for local charities as well.

Members at their Stewart Avenue Upminster site recently hosted BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time.

 

 

Hornchurch and District Allotments and Gardening Society

Where: Various sites in and around Hornchurch

When: Varies depending on the place

Chairman: Maurice Sparkes

Secretary: Janet Dingle

Treasurer: Robert Rand

 

The society is a voluntary organisation and its management committee meets monthly. They are confident the society will see younger members coming forward to take up the the reins as the society grows & progresses. Wonderful!


Warmsworth allotment is pride of community

A small oasis of green wedged behind Sheffield Road in the village of Warmsworth has been used as allotments by residents since 1952.

So cherished is it by today’s 80 plus allotment holders and the wider community that the local parish council had no hesitation in applying for it to be registered as a community asset.

In fact it has become the first successful registration of a community asset in Doncaster.

The grand title now means allotment holders can now sleep a little sounder as it gives the Warmsworth Parish Council a six-month window of opportunity to bid for the site if the freeholders put it on the market.

Founder member of the Warmsworth Allotment Holders Association, 76-year-old Walter Hartshorne said: “I’ve had allotments for over 40 years. When I came to Warmsworth 12 years or so ago, the allotment site was almost totally derelict and full of overgrown weeds and rubbish. The association originally had five committee members, with the three active ones, whose ages added up to 204, clearing some of the plots – and four years later we had it back in some kind or order.

“We had raised and spent about £70,000 on improvements and after that, the plots were just snapped up and for several years now, we’ve had a waiting list. “

Walter, who goes down to his plot two or three times daily, is a keen champion of the benefits of the allotment site to the community and wants to see the site safely in the hands of the parish council and allotments association.

“This is our green gymnasium. We keep fit, make good friends, help each other, have a good laugh, and produce wonderful fresh vegetables and fruit to keep us healthy. We have a beautiful community here.

“There is a fear that we could get evicted at some stage and that would be a tragedy.”

Warmsworth Parish Council’s Dennis Aitchison added: “We have offered to purchase the site from Keylands but they have not yet put it up for sale. We are hopeful that if it does come on the market, we can manage to buy it and its future as allotments will be secure.”


Astley Bridge plot named Bolton's best allotment

HAPPY WINNERS Christine and Bernard Fallon, of Florence Avenue allotments, celebrate winning the New Tenants' trophy.

LITTLE patches of home-grown beauty scooped gongs in Bolton’s annual allotments awards.

The three winners from across the town were presented with their awards by the Mayor of Bolton Cllr Colin Shaw for helping to create an urban oasis.

Fiona Berry, of Florence Avenue allotments, Astley Bridge, picked up the coveted Fairhurst Trophy, which is open to any plotholder with a full-sized allotment.

She said: “It’s fantastic to win this award. It’s taken a lot of hard work, so to see a successful end result is encouraging.”

Bernard Fallon, also of Florence Avenue allotments, picked up the New Tenants Trophy for plotholders who have been tenants for less than 12 months.

He said: “I’m delighted. I spent a fair amount of time maintaining it, but it’s great when you can stand back and admire your work.”

Michael Marsh of Nasmyth Street allotments, Horwich, picked up The Fred Greenhalgh Trophy, which is open to any plotholder with an allotment of less than 167 square metres in size.

He said: “I’m very happy. It’s our first year it just feels fantastic. We put in lots of work and preparation, to the point where our allotment was like a jungle.Ads by Google

“I’d like to make a special mention to my grandson Brandon, who did a superb job on the flowerbeds.”

The allotments were judged in mid-July, and each winner also received a small cash prize to mark their achievements.

In the Fairhurst competition, runner-up spot went to David Urmston of Sapling Road allotments and third prize went to Philip Warren of Florence Avenue allotments. In the Fred Greenhalgh competition, the runner-up spot went to Alan Wood of Nasmyth Street allotments Horwich and third prize went to Harold Carr of Green Lane allotments, Horwich. In the New Tenants competition, the runner-up spot went to Avril Stubbs of Florence Avenue allotments.

My Comment: What a contrast between the mature  forward looking attitude of our friends in Bolton, compared to the rather backward and regressive attitude of our Aberaeron in Bloom organisers here. They withdrew the best allotment or vegetable garden section in our competition for no apparent reason AFTER the judging took place! No reason was given but we assume it has something to do with politics entangled with resentment of envious parties because it would appear that the prizes were about to be awarded to the same growers that had won the competition previously - much to the embarrassment and envy of certain parties. Incredibly sad - especially when you consider what message that sort of behaviour sends out to potential young and new vegetable growers in the area.


ALLOTMENT bosses in Oxford say a tenant has lost the plot – by piling his green space with furniture.

Plot holders at the allotments in Old Marston have demanded that the occupant cleans up by November 1 or quits. Items on the Court Place Farm site in Oxford Road include chairs, tables and children’s toys.

Site secretary Tim Cann said he was alerted to the issue a month ago. He said: “People started to ask what was going on as it made a mockery of the idea of planting and growing vegetables.”

They have given the allotment holder, Ali Rojob, an ultimatum that he has to clean up the mess by November 1 or he will be evicted. And Mr Rojob, of Cardigan Street, is promising to do so. He said: “There’s no reason for it. I was shifting all my things from another plot. It looks very odd but it is not unclean or anything. It just happens that I am new to all of this and didn’t know a lot of things. It can only get better though. I accept that it has got out of hand and will clean it all up before the start of November.”

Mr Cann added: “The fact he acknowledged what everyone was saying gave me hope that he would sort the plot out. But then he started bringing more rubbish and that’s when the problem really came to a head.”

The four-man allotment committee this month agreed the November 1 deadline to remove items or be evicted. “I have never had anything like this before,” Mr Cann said. “We’ve given him a chance, but I think his days are numbered.”

The plot-holder was evicted from Mill Lane allotments last year, Mr Cann said, but he did not know this when he came to Court Place Farm. Mill Lane site manager Bill Agent said: “He was only on the plot for a few weeks last year before he got evicted. “He kept coming every day with a car full of black bags and dumping rubbish on his plot – it certainly didn’t look like he was gardening. “He also had an armchair which he put in his plot and he piled the rubbish on top of that.”

Chairman of the Mill Lane allotments Masha Unkovskaya said: “It was a stupid situation. There was an armchair and numerous boxes, all sorts of rubbish, plastic bags and old Christmas decorations. “It was things people would normally throw away.”

The 15-acre site at Court Place Farm is among 36 owned by the city council and has more than 100 plots. City council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “We are not aware of this but will be investigating the situation.”

My Comment:  It takes all-sorts I suppose! Having said that there does appear to be a bit of confusion amongst many modern 'new' allotment holders that their patch - once occupied - is something that they can do what they like with. They seem to forget that allotment plots are specifically provided to grow food on. We have some on our site that really need a sand-pit to play in rand have picnics around rather than a plot of land to grow vegetables on!


KNOW YOUR PESTS

When we think of a "pest" in our vegetable growing plots we usually imagine slugs, snails, caterpillars, aphids, root flies etc. In fact some of the more devastating pests are often of the fungal variety.

There's certainly good guys and some VERY bad guys in this group. Without the good guys the whole earth would become barren, because they have key functions in the soil's mechanisms, without them the soil becomes useless dirt. We also eat a few - like mushrooms - although some of those are deadly poisonous to us! Then there's the very unwelcome ones, from potato blight, to downy mildew and everything else in between. They tend to be long-lived and are notoriously difficult to control, let alone eradicate. The soil borne spores of many devastating fungi stay put in contaminated soils. Consequently ANYTHING that's been attacked by a bad fungi should be carefully burnt (a good distance away or off the site if possible) and NEVER added to the compost bin. An infected plant may look OK for the compost bin, but spores are microscopic. The main weapon in the war against the "bad guys" is meticulous hygiene and the careful future use of known contaminated areas. Sometimes you have to sacrifice an area for exclusion from growing the same type of plants for many years.

One of the more common fungal pests on a plot especially at this time of the year toward autumn when humidity rises & plants are no longer putting on as much new growth. Deciduous leaves or die-back perennials are very susceptible. Is:

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildews are a group of related fungi which attack a wide range of plants, causing a white, dusty coating on leaves, stems and flowers.

It is a fungal disease of the foliage, stems and occasionally flowers and fruit where a superficial fungal growth covers the surface of the plant.

Very many common edible and ornamental garden plants are affected including apple, blackcurrant, gooseberry, grapes, crucifers, courgettes, marrows, cucumbers, peas, grasses (the powdery mildew fungi are major pathogens of cereal crops), Acanthus, delphiniums, phlox, many ornamentals in the daisy family, Lonicera (honeysuckle), rhododendrons and azaleas, roses and Quercus robur (English oak).

Powdery mildews usually have narrow host ranges comprising of just a few related plants. For example, the powdery mildew affecting peas is a different species from the one attacking apples.

Symptoms

You may see the following symptoms:

  • White, powdery spreading patches of fungus on upper or lower leaf surfaces, flowers and fruit

  • Tissues sometimes become stunted or distorted, such as leaves affected by rose powdery mildew

  • In many cases the infected tissues show little reaction to infection in the early stages, but in a few specific cases, for example on Rhamnus, the infection provokes a strong colour change in the infected parts, which turn dark brown

  • Sometimes the fungal growth is light and difficult to see despite discolouration of the plant tissues, e.g. on the under-surface of rhododendron leaves

Powdery mildew fungi produce microscopic air-borne dispersal spores from the fungal growth on the plant surface. These have an unusually high water content, enabling them to infect under drier conditions than most other fungal pathogens. Powdery mildews therefore tend to be associated with water stress.

The majority of the growth of most powdery mildews is found on the plant surface. The fungus sends feeding structures into the surface cells, greatly reducing the vigour of the plant. The growth of a few powdery mildew species (e.g. that affecting hazel) is found deeper in the plant tissues.

Powdery mildews either spend the winter as dormant infections on green tissues, or as resting structures on fallen leaves which then release spores the following spring.

Non-chemical control

Destroying fallen infected leaves in autumn will reduce the amount of infectious spores next spring. Mulching and watering reduces water stress and helps make plants less prone to infection. Promptly pruning out infected shoots will reduce subsequent infection. Some allotment growers have great faith in spraying the infected areas with milk. The lactic acid apparently changes the pH of the leaf surface, making it a hostile environment for the mildew.

Most powdery mildew fungi have a host range restricted to a relatively few, related plants, but these can include wild relatives which can be sources of infection, e.g. wild crab apples may be sources of infection for apple orchards.

Seed producers sometimes offer powdery mildew-resistant cultivars of both vegetables and ornamental plants, check catalogues for details.

 

More info. on other pests will be published in future issues of our NEWS-LETTER.


imageDID YOU KNOW?

There are at least 10,000 varieties of tomatoes, from small cherry ones to Ponderosa, which can weigh over three pounds.

The tomato – first grew as wild, cherry-sized berries in the South American Andes. Tomatoes are the fruit of a vine that’s native to South America. The tomato as we know it today was developed in Mexico.

Tomatoes are the world’s most popular fruit! More than 60 million tons are produced every year. That’s 16 million tons more than the No.2 most bpopular fruit — the banana.

Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that is abundant in tomatoes and tomato products, is widely thought to help in the prevention of a variety of maladies.

Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C. One medium tomato provides 40% of the recommended daily amount! "

Not a lot of people know that!"


SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT

Bio Char

Have you heard of it? Not many people have outside of scientific and professional horticultural circles. It certainly has some very exciting things being written about it and the trials and experiments done with it is making a lot of people very excited about it's potential.

Surprisingly, a lot of this experimentation and the collecting of data about it's effects on the soil and therefore crop growth enhancement is being carried out amongst small allotment growers and gardeners like you and me. If you click on the "Big Biochar Experiment" logo on the left you can find out more from the people who are conducting this 'big' experiment.

 

 

So What is biochar?

It is a Zero Waste Solution — Biochar is a fine-grained charcoal made by pyrolysis. Pyrolysis means heating biomass (wood, manure, crop residues, solid waste, etc..) with limited to no oxygen in a specially designed furnace that captures all emissions, gasses and oils for reuse as energy.

An Ancient Soil Conditioner — Biochar has been used in agriculture for more than 2,500 years. Biochar is now being reintroduced to modern horticulture as a safe, sustainable soil amendment.

Increased Nutrient and Water Retention — Biochar outshines all other organic soil material in its ability to attract and retain water and nutrients, as well as hold phosphorous and agrochemicals. So plants are healthier and fertilizers leach less into surface- or groundwater.

Persistence — Biochar is relatively inert; therefore, far more persistent in soil than any other organic soil additive.  Because biochar persists 100’s to 1000’s of years, all its benefits of nutrient and water retention and overall soil porosity last unlike common fertilizers and conditioners.

Less Fertilizer Needed — When added to soil, biochar improves plant growth and crop yields while it reduces the total fertilizer needs. Nitrous oxide (NO) released from certain fertilizers is 310 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. Biochar-conditioned soils have 50-80% reductions in NO emissions.

Biochar is a solid material obtained from the carbonisation of biomass. Biochar may be added to soils with the intention to improve soil functions and to reduce emissions from biomass that would otherwise naturally degrade to greenhouse gases. Biochar also has appreciable carbon sequestration value. These properties are measurable and verifiable in a characterisation scheme, or in a carbon emission offset protocol.

The wisdom of Ancient Amazonians

Scientists recently discovered that the ancient Amazonian tribes used to mix biochar in their soil. Thousands of years later, the soil they left behind (Terra Preta) still stands out as pockets of extremely fertile soils in the otherwise relatively infertile soils of the Amazon rainforest.

This 2,000 year-old practice converts agricultural waste into a soil enhancer that can hold carbon, boost food security, and increase soil biodiversity, and discourage deforestation. The process creates a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water.

Biochar is found in soils around the world as a result of vegetation fires and historic soil management practices. Intensive study of Biochar-rich dark earths in the Amazon (terra preta), has led to a wider appreciation of Biochar’s unique properties as a soil enhancer.

Biochar can be an important tool to increase food security and cropland diversity in areas with severely depleted soils, scarce organic resources, and inadequate water and chemical fertilizer supplies.

Biochar also improves water quality and quantity by increasing soil retention of nutrients and agrochemicals for plant and crop utilization. More nutrients stay in the soil instead of leaching into groundwater and causing pollution.

Recent trials have shown that adding Biochar to soils shows increased plant yields and improved root development due to a combination of

  • raised soil pH;

  • increased nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, fungal and microbial content;

  • decreased aluminium availability;

  • increased cation exchange capacity and greater water-holding capacity.

Biochar therefore appears to act as a soil conditioner that enhances plant growth by supplying and retaining nutrients, increasing the habitability of soil for important micro-organisms and by retaining more water.

 


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/

If you have any friends or gardening acquaintances who you think would like our news-letter and would benefit from it then by all means point them towards our news-letter archive on the web-site where they can also subscribe on-line to receive the publication by e-mail - it's FREE!

 

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Until the next time - keep busy, keep tidying up your plots before you put them to bed, but above all have fun & ENJOY 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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