Here in the
UK, you can't do much on the
allotment in December (in any year) can you? It's a 2 month. It's too wet,
too frosty or just too flaming
dark! This last year it's been a too season from
start to finish. It's been one to forget for most of us gardeners!
I'll remember it as a waiting year. It seems that we've waited all
year for some good weather - it never arrived! Spring came, and it
rained with floods, then summer came & we had more floods, autumn
brought yet more floods & now we're in winter, and guess what? It's
STILL raining & flooding! What a total disaster. The worst I can
remember in my forty years of gardening, and the generation before
me say the same thing. A real record breaker - for all the wrong
just a hiccup when it comes to our small scale food production
in the garden. The weather has hit the commercial growers in a
big way, not just in the UK but globally. For varying reasons
crops have failed on a global scale.
in America has meant that grain is in short supply. The
United States is, by far,
the largest producer of grain
in the world. What is deeply worrying about US crop
failures within a global context is that they supply the world
with around 40% of its total food supply.
Corn (including wheat, maize
& soybean) is grown on over 400,000
U.S. farms. The key
mid-west growing area has been hit this year by the worst
drought in 56 years. The department of agriculture over there
has said that half of the nation's grain crop was rated poor to
very poor. The first seven months of 2012 were the warmest on
record for the US; temperatures in July broke a record high that
was set in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. When America sneezes we
catch a cold over here. Look out for a whopping rise in the
price of bread from here on!
here in the UK crop failures this year have been very high - due
to the opposite cause - rain & floods. Potatoes especially have
also been hit by more blight than usual, due to the unseasonal
weather providing an ideal breeding ground for it. Heavy
rainfall in the UK has also led to the failure of much of our
tree based fruit crops, and wheat has also suffered. Cue high
prices in the shops for potatoes (along with bread, it's the
main source of carbohydrates in our food, a "bulk" & staple part
of our diet). But it doesn't end there. It seems that with the
shortage of potatoes for consumption, the available supply of
seed potatoes for next year's planting is also drastically
reduced. When I spoke to Ian Barbour (from
Seed Potatoes - one of our web-site sponsors) a month or two
ago, he told me that many of the varieties they usually supply
are simply not available for next season, because they've failed
to get the potatoes out of the fields due to the water. He tells
me that their family business, established by the Jamieson
Brothers (Arran) has not experienced such a poor season in all
the decades that they've been producing potatoes.
However, looking on the
brighter side of things, it's just a few days to the shortest day!
"Bring it on" say I! After the 21st (the winter solstice) we'll see the sun
getting a tiny bit stronger by the day. The Old Welsh Folk had
a saying "Bydd y dydd wedi ymestyn cam ceiliog erbyn dydd Calan"
Our Celtic Catalonian cousins have the same saying "Per
Cap d'Any el dia s'allarga un pam" - roughly translated it means the
day will have lengthened the stride of a cockerel by New Year's Day.
A nice thought to help melt away the winter blues!
December is a
nothing month in the garden isn't it? Unless you have a
shed or a polytunnel to build (or hide in) or some fruit trees to
plant, and even then it's a challenge at this time of the year. Now,
come January, things will change slightly and the hares amongst us
will start eyeing up some seed packets to start things off early.
I'm not much of a fan of that - so early in the year, but for those
who do, it gets the urge going again for their spring flurry of
Winter is the rest period.
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 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 bean 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 our little procrastinations! But it's not a sin! The
main point of growing veg. is to get enjoyment out of it.
OF OUR OWN ALLOTMENTS SITE NEWS
Not a lot to
report really from around the Aberaeron Allotment
Association site at Cae Ffynnon Wîn. This site also
has some of us
Aeron Vale Allotment Society members
with plots on it. It has NOT been a buzzing hive of
activity this year. In fact it looks semi deserted.
It's a classic example of a phase that many young
allotment sites go through. Nevertheless I'm glad to
say that the six plots on the site occupied by the
Aeron Vale Allotment Society members are in an
acceptable state of maintenance, and are all
cultivated on the site. We'll have to see what 2013
brings - let's hope the weather won't be used as the
standard excuse for a lack of activity this coming
been almost impossible to get a day to pick anything. If it's
not too cold & wet to go on the lottie, then the ground has been
water-logged and it's impossible to get anything out of it.
Turning the soil over for winter has also been out of the
question due to the autumn weather. However, the odd day does
present itself. Here's a photo of my beloved picking some
beetroot on the 8th of this month. Amazingly I've had quite good
success with beetroot this year - despite the weather.
with other crops. The two sixteen foot green-meshed mini tunnels in the
background have brassicas in them. On at least half a dozen
occasions (I've actually lost count by now) they've been totally
covered by flood water. They don't like it. Consequently they've
stunted, drowned or have just bolted - presumably because they
fear for their lives in this weather and have decided to use
what little energy they have left to produce seed so that
another generation can carry forward their genes. Sadly for them,
that won't happen either. My mate Graham who keeps chickens is
"harvesting" them for his fowls - I hope they enjoy them - I
certainly didn't! A "wash-out"!
OTHER ALLOTMENT &
Are Fruit Trees "Productive Crops"?
gardener who planted fruit trees on his
allotment instead of vegetables is
facing eviction from his plot, because
his efforts broke regulations on
Rock, 60, argued that by growing 11 pear, plum, apple, cherry
and apricot trees he was putting his plot to good use, but
council rules brought in this year say that three quarters of
the land must be used for “productive crops” such as vegetables.
an author who lives in a tower block flat in Hastings, East
Sussex, said he had originally planted potatoes, leeks and
onions, but produced so much it was going to waste.
decided to turn the land over to fruit trees instead, intending
to make jam for his pensioner neighbours.
presented with the new rules Mr Rock refused to agree to them,
and took Hastings borough council to court when it threatened to
evict him. He lost his case, but has said he will continue his
fight and will go to the European Court of Human Rights if
necessary. Not a cheap option!
hearing in Hastings County Court, Mr Rock told a district judge
that the contract he signed in October 2007 “contained no detail
on the definition of cultivation and what could not be grown on
opinion Councils tend to have skewed views on what is
"productive crops", fruit trees are obviously productive food
crops. There are also incidences where councils refuse to allow
plot-holders the right to keep bees, because their agreements
state that there should be no "livestock" kept on a site. Both
are very ambiguous arguments to say th least! Perhaps they
should revisit the wording.
much as I sympathise with our fellow allotment lover, I think
it's only fair to ask him not to make his whole plot over to
fruit trees. Whilst it's fine for him, whilst he has the plot,
(and sad to say he will not live forever), who is going to take
over his "orchard" after his day? The odd fruit tree is fine,
but as trees establish they become permanent. It's fair to ask
him only to use no more than 25% for fruit tree propagation -
enough for most people's use. Furthermore they should be of the
dwarfing or semi-dwarfing varieties so that their size will not
cause a nuisance to others, and can be dug up a lot easier. We
do tend to be a country dominated by the freedom of the
individual rather than fairness to the community. Sorry friend -
I'm not with you on this one!
Still & Look Straight Ahead Please Mr Marrow!
Police caught two
allotment thieves after holding a bizarre identity parade - of
The "gang" of
allotment thieves were arrested after the stolen items were
included in an identity parade - of VEGETABLES.
Miller, 44, and Steven Randall, 46, were caught carrying a bag
of stolen fruit and veg at allotments in Brampton, Cambs.
evidence against the duo police lined up the food on the
roadside and asked allotment holders to identify their stolen
vegetables. They instantly spotted their crops, including a
marrow with a distinctive stripe, rhubarb, leeks and cabbages.
The two offenders were left looking red-faced as beetroot when
they were ordered to pay £20 of compensation and £85 costs at
Huntingdon Magistrates' Court.
and Randall, who were both on benefits, were said to be living
"in extreme poverty" and stole the vegetables to feed their
families. Both men were granted a conditional discharge.
Prosecutor Penny Cannon said police spotted them run across the
road into the allotment and when they stopped and searched them
found stolen produce. She said: "Police carried out a unique
investigation by photographing the fruit and vegetables and then
putting them on the verge, asking people if they could recognise
or identify the vegetables.
the plots had also been damaged on the same night, the court
heard. Kevin Warboys, defending said Randall had not worked
since a serious road accident 20 years ago and Miller cannot
work due to an ankle injury. He said: "This may seem trivial but
it is not about value, it is about the disruption to the people
who grew the vegetables. "It is about the disruption and upset
for the people which, on reflection, they both regret. "They are
day to day grinding along in extreme poverty." Mr Warboys said
they stole the vegetables to feed their families and had nothing
to do with the damage.
after the case, parish clerk Janet Innes-Clark said: "The police
apprehended them and asked me if I would put up a notice because
they needed to identify the evidence. They asked if any of our
allotment holders could identify the vegetables and for them to
contact us, which they did. "They put the vegetables out on a
patch of grass in front of the allotments and I think there were
two or three marrows, a butternut squash, leeks and a couple of
I say if
this pair were genuinely hungry due to hardship, and couldn't
find enough food to feed their families, then they should have
approached the plot holders and asked if they could spare some
veg. In my experience about 99% of decent plot-holders would
have gladly shared some of their produce with them.
Fearnley-Whittingstall's Allotment Halves Anti-social Behaviour
Fearnley-Whittinghstall, the River Cottage chef, has halved
anti-social behaviour on a housing estate with an allotment
television chef launched the Landshare initiative, encouraging
communities to plant food on unused plots.
scheme's first project in Leigh, Wigan, has cut anti-social
behaviour by 51 per cent, local police said. “This has been a
wonderful project that gives children something positive,
healthy and educational to do," said PCSO Wendy Walters. “The
allotment has undoubtedly contributed to a staggering 51 per
cent reduction in antisocial behaviour on the estate in the last
estate has seen a great improvement in antisocial behaviour
since the allotment started,” said one resident. “The site gives
children somewhere to go and something to do."
Landshare scheme, backed by Channel 4, matches people in need of
land and those wanting to help with growing with people offering
unused plots. It also offers advice to novice gardeners. It has
been used by more than 55,000 people since its launch by
Fearnley-Whittingstall in 2009.
would like to know more about the "Landshare Initiative" then
Aeron Vale Allotment Society web-site, or click on this
together people who have a passion for home-grown
food, connecting those who have land to share with
those who need land for cultivating food. Since its
launch through River Cottage in 2009 it has grown
into a thriving community of more than 55,000
growers, sharers and helpers.
It’s for people
Want to grow
their own fruit and veg but don’t have anywhere
to do it
Have a spare
bit of land they’re prepared to share
Can help in
some way – from sharing knowledge and lending
tools to helping out on the plot itself
idea of freeing up more land for growing
growing and want to join in the community
KNOW YOUR PESTS
The Vine Weevil
weevil is a beetle that attacks a wide range of plants, both
indoors and outdoors, but especially plants grown in containers.
It is one
of the most common and devastating garden pests. The adult
weevils eat plant leaves during
spring and summer, but it is the grubs that cause the most
damage over autumn and winter when they feed on plant roots,
causing wilting, and often plant death.
Plants growing in pots or other containers, outdoors or under
cover, can be severely damaged by vine weevil grubs. Plants
growing in the open ground are less susceptible, although the
grubs can kill strawberries, primulas, polyanthus,
Heuchera and young yew plants.
beetles feed on the foliage of many herbaceous plants and
shrubs. Vine weevils have been increasing in significance to
gardeners over the past few decades, due to the increased use of
ornamental containers and container grown plants from nurseries.
Recently a couple of species previously unrecorded in the UK
have been spotted in the London area; they have probably arrived
in plant pots and can overwinter in the milder environment of
presence is shown by semi-circular notches eaten into the edges
of leaves, most notably on evergreen shrubs like Rhododendron,
Euonymus, Azalea and Camellia. This damage by the adults is not
fatal, just unsightly (although is a good indicator that there
will be eggs, and larvae hatching in the autumn). The real
damage is done by the larvae or grubs, which
the roots often killing the plant, especially potted and young
plants. The first sign of the presence of the larvae is usually
yellowing leaves, poor growth and a wilting plant which does not
respond to watering. Unfortunately it is often too late to save
the plant. Rescue is possible if the damage is not too
extensive, wash off all the compost to remove the grubs and
remaining eggs, then replant in fresh growing medium. Some
plants are more at risk from attack than others, e.g.. Sedums,
Primulas, Fuchsias and Impatiens, but most plants in pots are at
The adults are all
female, reproducing by pathogenesis (i.e.. they don't need a
mate), and are flightless, but are very good walkers able to
climb sheer surfaces. If one is spotted on a plant, arrange a
tray or sheet directly below it as their favourite trick is to
fall to the ground at the slightest disturbance and if this is
not anticipated they are difficult to find.
They emerge from the
pupa stage in late spring and after feeding on plant material
for 21 to 45 days they are ready to lay between 500 to 1600 eggs
over a one to two month period. These round eggs are about 0.8
to 1 mm across, laid in the soil close to a plant; white at
first they become brown later and very difficult to find Slow
release fertilizer pellets for which they are often mistaken,
are much larger and usually the yellow outer coating crushes
easily, the eggs are relatively hard. They hatch 10 to 12 days
later into the creamy-white larvae which burrow down to the fine
roots - when found in the soil these are usually C-shaped and
about 10mm long. A pre-pupal stage develops in December and
remains like this until late spring when it pupates fully for a
few weeks before the adult emerges.
Conditions for eggs and
larvae are optimal when soil moisture is moderate to high in
July and August. Heavy
help to maintain moisture levels, so removal of excessive
layers and minimal watering of plants during this period is
detrimental to their survival. (Unfortunately surface rooted
shrubs such as Camellias need to be well watered at this time to
set the flower buds, so this must not be missed.) Excessively
damp soils in the autumn also force larvae to move up the base
of the plant where girdling can occur, so good drainage around
the plants will ease the problem. Indoors, the warmer conditions
mean that they can reproduce all year round so all stages of the
life cycle can be present at all times.
A natural predator is the Centipede which eats both eggs and
The Nematode - Steinernema kraussei
is a biological control. It is a recently discovered species
of microscopic eel worm which kills the larvae and is able
to tolerate soil temperatures down to 5°C, so it can be
applied over a longer period outdoors. It is best used
between August and November when the weevil eggs are
hatching and again from March to May when the soil is warm
enough and the larvae are active. The protection lasts for
about four weeks - trade names are Nemasys Vine Weevil
Killer or Grubsure.
Heterorhabditis megidis is
another species of eel worm which enters the grub and
carries bacteria that kill it. The nematode reproduces using
the dead grub as food. It is also temperature sensitive and
works best at around 12°C. They die out if no grubs are
Traps - corrugated cardboard has been
used, made into a roll and left for the adults to hide in
during the day. Moist sacking laid on a path provides a dark
daytime hiding place for the adults, which can be collected
during the day when they are relatively inactive.
Night-time sorties with a torch might
show results, but the adults are quite active and difficult
to catch. If disturbed they fall to the ground remaining
still on their backs and their dark colour makes them
difficult to spot - if possible lay something light-coloured
on the ground before touching the foliage.
If the plants are in pots they can be
placed a raised platform which is in a large saucer of
as the adults do not swim so will not cross this barrier.
With indoor plants on a stand, place the legs in
- only useful for rust or rot resistant legs, or use a
inside the other to form an outer moat.
Provado - contains the systemic
insecticide *Imidacloprid applied to the growing medium as a
drench, lasts for a few months and kills the larvae which do
the damage. It cannot be used on edible or cropping plants
such as strawberries.
Levington Plant Protection Compost -
contains *Imidacloprid a systemic insecticide, and used as
the growing medium - gives protection for about six months.
Follow the instructions carefully and buy only what is
needed as it loses its potency if stored.
Foliar insecticide - plants which are
attacked by adults can be sprayed with insecticide starting
in the late spring and repeated during the summer to kill
them before the egg-laying period in late summer
Sacrificial plants - primulas,
polyanthus and cyclamen are some of the favoured plants for
adult weevils to lay their eggs beside. Some of these potted
in Levington Plant Protection Compost and left beside your
treasured plants will attract the adults, which will lay
their eggs in the compost and the larvae will be killed when
they hatch and begin feeding. You could use Provado to treat
the sacrificial plants instead.
info. on other pests will be published in future issues of our
you're feeling a bit bloated after this
festive season, and are worrying about
loosing a few pounds to compensate in
the new year, then consider this:
one 8-inch celery stalk contains about 6
calories. The energy needed to
metabolize celery is actually more than
the caloric intake due to celery's
mostly cellulose composition. Cellulose
cannot be digested by humans as we lack
the enzymes necessary to properly break
it down. Although there's no such thing
as a negative-calorie snack, eating
celery actually helps you to lose weight
by satiating your desire to eat while
automatically burning its own calories.
"Not a lot of people know that!"