HW&DAA NEWSLETTER

Editor: Phil Langley     spicypip@yahoo.co.uk   0117 973 1389   Date: March 2013

Correspondence to: Registered Office, 2 Kennel Lodge Road, Bower Ashton, Bristol BS3 2JT

 HWDAA Website: www.hwdaa.co.uk


CHAIRMAN’S COMMENTS

 Fires

It is Bristol-wide allotments’ policy that you have until the 31st March to burn permissible items on a bonfire or in an incinerator. After that and until the 1st November 2013, all fires are banned. Preferably you should compost material, but if you really must have a fire, remember that:  

·        Only dry, inflammable items should be burnt; no greenery.

·        Test for smoke to ensure it will not cause a nuisance to other plot-holders, nearby residents or public highways. Remember that some people may be asthmatics and there may be washing being hung outdoors. Smoke hazard on a highway could land you with a £1,000 fine and the loss of your tenancy.

·        You must completely extinguish the fire before leaving the allotment, even if it has not burnt to completion.

·        Fires must be attended at all times.  

Water

Water is one of our biggest costs and therefore it is essential that it is not wasted. Where appropriate, taps must be turned off and any leaks reported to your Site Representative immediately.  

One of the main priorities set out in our development plan was to upgrade the water supplies to each of our six sites and we have a rolling programme to achieve this. The largest site, Alderman Moores, has 230 tenants who currently have to manage with 14 tanks from which to draw water. New systems have been installed on all sites except Alderman Moores, which will be completed towards the latter part of this year.  

I am delighted to report that our neighbours, Imperial Tobacco, whose head office is adjacent to the Alderman Moores site, have generously gifted us £2,000 towards the cost of installing a new mains supply and an appropriate number of galvanised metal tanks for this site. There were coffees all round and photographs taken at the Store when the cheque was presented. Thank you Imperial Tobacco!

Cultivation

The arrival of Spring heralds the real start of the cultivation. Cultivation means that the soil has likely been turned and prepared for planting or nurturing of seeds, or already has plants growing there without excessive weeds. The minimum acceptable cultivation is two-thirds of the plot area at any one time. The plot area is all of it, including the area of the path for which you are responsible. So, masses of internal paths do not count as cultivation!  

Black plastic or other ground cover does not count as cultivation, except where being used as a weed suppressant for crops such as courgettes or strawberries protruding through prepared holes.  

We do not expect new tenants to necessarily meet the two-thirds minimum requirement until near the end of their first year of occupancy. But the plot and the paths must be kept tidy and free of long grass and weeds.  

Primarily the allotment is for growing vegetables, but some flowers may also be grown. Soft fruits such as red/blackcurrants or gooseberries may be grown but must not be the dominant crops on the plot. One or two apple trees are also acceptable provided they are grown on dwarfing root stock.  

Site Inspections 

These are carried out from late March until November. The object is to ensure cultivation standards are maintained, paths and verges are kept tidy, plot numbers are displayed, sheds have wood preservative applied and properly felted roofs, and the plot is not strewn with rubbish.  

You may get a reminder letter if there is something to be done and you would usually get a month’s grace in which to remedy the problem.  

Stores

The Stores management has changed hands. Stan Morgan, who did such a magnificent job to expand the store’s stock and turnover, has eased Elaine and Robert Griffin into the post. I am pleased to see that they have ‘hit the ground running’ so all should be well.  

The Seeds manager is now Lesley Woodward (still supported by Ron Pedley, the guru) whose enthusiasm is infectious. Besides the regular compost being hauled from the Somerset Levels by Phil Cass, Elaine has some limited stocks of organic peat-free compost in store.  

Security

The gate at Kennel Lodge 2 is to be replaced with new posts, a single palisade gate and a new lock. This will be done over the next few weeks.  

The hauling-way exit through the Alderman Moore's gates is to be re-contoured and tarmaced so that potential damage to the undersides of vehicles is avoided. Again, weather-willing, this will be done this month.  

Spent Hops 

Spent hops are periodically becoming available in bags from a local brewery. The first consignment was delivered to the Alderman Moores site and was quickly snapped up on a first-come basis; they are free.  

Phil Cass will let you know through our website when the next delivery is due; so far it appears to be a weekly routine.  

For those who are unaware of their benefit, spent hops are considered to be one of the best soil conditioners going. Slightly acidic, especially when fresh, they should be forked into the ground where they will rot down. They are ideal for blueberries and the like.  

However, a word of warning if you have a dog: some animals may chew them and become subject to severe gastric pain or worse. Please keep all animals away from spent hops. All animals must in any case be kept under control and contained to their owner’s plot.

 

Slug Pellets and Garden Chemicals

After a thoroughly wet winter, we expect to see lots of slugs and snails, which can wreak havoc with tender seedlings. Slug pellets are one of the more popular means of affording protection. We are no longer able to sell loose slug pellets as it is illegal to do so. Pellets have to be sold in a manufacturer’s original container, with application advice printed on the container. We now stock a similar product in 700g plastic bottles. We also have a good organic alternative; this only dispenses a small amount each time. Nematodes are a biological alternative and you can ‘grow your own’ – see Editor’s section.  

Touching on slug pellets and all gardening chemicals, pesticides and growth products, it is incumbent on tenants to keep such items out of the reach of children and animals, as laid down in our Health and Safety rules – see the Association website.

In Memorium

I must sadly report the death of the very popular Jim Addison from the Bower Ashton site. Jim succumbed to cancer after a long and painful fight. A wonderful thanksgiving service was held at Christ Church, Clifton on the 1st March, with a packed congregation. The Association was well represented and referred to in the Eulogy.

 

Bob Franks (Chairman)

FROM YOUR EDITOR

 

Stores News – A Welcome from Elaine and Lesley

If you haven’t already done so, please visit the Alderman Moores’ stores. Lesley and I hope to build on the success of Stan and Ron in providing a shop where members are able to find all the gardening products needed.  

Most items on sale represent very good value for money. This in turn enables the allotment sites to be maintained and developed for the benefit of all members. If you are looking for a particular item and we don’t stock it, we are happy to see if we can get it for you – just let us know! Our stores are 'manned' by volunteers who will be happy to help with any queries. 

Our very large selection of seeds is purchased through the National Allotment Society. Currently there is a wide variety of green manure seed. If you’re not sure what to sow then come and consult one of the books in our library.  

Making sure the shop is continually well stocked entails a weekly visit to the wholesalers and contacting new suppliers if we think they have items of interest. For example, we currently have in stock hazel poles, coppiced from woods, sourced from a local cooperative. There is a small section devoted to organic items and, of course, what we sell is very much dictated by what members buy!  

We would like to thank Stan and Ron for all their help in this transition. Thanks also to all the other volunteers who give up their time to help run the Stores. More volunteers are very much welcome. We look forward to seeing you soon.  

Elaine Griffin (Store Manager, with help from Robert) and Lesley Woodward (Seeds Manager)     

Gardeners’ Question Time and Other Talks

We are recommencing with our programme of talks and activities to be held at the Alderman Moores’ site starting in April.

Tuesday 23rd April: Tim Foster – who is un-missable and literally down-to-earth – will be giving a talk on ‘Preparing the soil and getting started with vegetable growing’. With all the delays with weather it will surely not be too late!  

Wednesday 22nd May: Gardeners’ Question Time, chaired by Derek Aldred of the National Vegetable Society, has proved very popular and great fun in the past.  

Tuesday 9th July: Nick Wray of the University Botanic Gardens will give a talk on Plants and Landscapes of Cuba (the largest of the Caribbean islands with the greatest number of plant species). He will focus on how plants are grown, orchards, and the vegetable gardens (organoponicos) on the outskirts of urban areas.  

All talks will start at 7.30pm at the Alderman Moores’ store. A charge of £2 will be made on the door to cover costs and refreshments.  

A very big thank-you to Helen Slater for organising these events.  

Grow Your Own Nematode Slug Killers

Many thanks to Nigel at Middlecombe Nursery – Wrington Road, Congresbury – for allowing us to re-publish this edited article from their Summer 2012 newsletter.  

Nematodes are biological parasites that are available commercially as a highly effective alternative to slug pellets and other slug/snail deterrents. They can, however, be quite expensive to buy and not always readily available. You can instead cultivate your own.  

Collect as many slugs as you can in a jar that has a few small air holes punched in the lid. The more you have the better it works. Add a few weed leaves for them to eat. Once you have caught around 10–20 slugs, decant them into a bucket with an inch or so of water in the bottom for humidity and add a few more handfuls of leaves to make an edible floating island. With the slugs safely inside, place a firm cover over the top to seal them in. The bucket is the perfect environment for nematodes and bacteria to breed. Nematodes spread in water so check regularly, giving the slugs a stir with a stick. The idea isn’t to drown them but to keep them moist so the nematodes can hunt them out.  

After a fortnight a high level of nematodes will have built up inside the bucket and the slugs will have died from infection. Now you can dilute the brew: fill the bucket to the top from the tap and decant into a watering-can fitted with a rose. Prevent the weed and slug mixture from falling into the can with a filter of chicken wire folded over the can so it stays in place while you pour.  

Water the sieved brew around vulnerable plants – the raised nematode population will seek out and destroy resident ground-dwelling slugs. Like the shop-bought version, this slug killer gives up to six weeks’ worth of protection. Save the contents of the chicken sieve to start off your next nematode brew if you are so minded.

Gardening for Bumblebees

No-one could have failed to notice or read about the declining numbers of bumblebees in our gardens and hedgerows as a result of intensive agricultural practices and the use of pesticides over the past 50 years. Three of the 25 native British species are now extinct and another six seriously threatened.  

A number of Association members keep bees on their plots. Yet you do not have to keep bees in order to help their numbers or indeed receive their help in ensuring your allotment flowers, vegetables and fruit trees and bushes are well pollinated, so you can directly benefit from better crops.  

Bees, like birds, require ‘nests’ and probably struggle in the modern world to find good sites. This is where the allotment gardener can help. Most bumblebee species look for a dry, dark, ventilated cavity with a small entrance hole that they can access at ground level. With that in mind, it is easy to build your own simple bumblebee ‘nesting box’ from nothing more than a suitably positioned upturned flower pot and a short length of hose pipe (see figure). Sink an upturned 20 cm (or wider) ceramic pot into the ground; a herbaceous border would be a good place for this. Put a raised slate over the drainage holes to provide ventilation and rain cover. Use a cradle of chicken wire in the nest for ventilation that supports a bedding of dry moss, hair felt or hamster bedding – avoid cotton wool or fibre-glass.

   

Run a 12- to 18-inch length of hosepipe (>18 mm diameter) underground and into the pot, leaving a prominent entrance for the queen bee. Be sure to make some drainage holes in the pipe. Covering the entrance hole with a slate or tile to create a shady overhang seems to work best in attracting queens. A nail across the centre of the entrance will deter large snails.  

Bees love traditional cottage-garden flowers and a number of familiar allotment species such as chives, borage, lavender, marjoram, rosemary, sage, thyme, raspberries, dandelions (controlled growth please!), geraniums suspended in pots, and of course, sunflowers. The bumblebee season lasts typically from March to August.  

This article was drawn from a publication by David Goulson of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, (www.bumblebeeconservation.org).

 Allotment Food Piles High on UK Plates

Recent government figures reveal that the proportion of fresh fruit and vegetables grown for personal consumption by Britons has almost doubled in the past four years. Staggeringly, almost a third of all fresh beans consumed in this country are now home-grown. For soft fruit, the figure is 10%, for apples, 9%, for potatoes, 7% and for tomatoes, 6%. Georgie Willcock, a spokesman for the National Allotment Society said that the Society estimates there are now up to 150,000 people with their names on allotment lists. At the extreme end, the waiting list in some parts of inner London is now up to 40 years!  

The increased trend in home-grown produce has been attributed to the rising cost of fruit and vegetables in supermarkets and from calls by celebrity chefs for people to “grow your own”.  

Thanks to Lesley (Seeds Manager) for providing the original article (The Sunday Times, 30/12/2012).

 SEASONAL RECIPES

 Rhubarb Crumble Muffins

This excellent-sounding recipe is a novel take on a perennial favourite and has been taken from the BBC Good Food Guide website.

 For the muffin mix:

   175 g caster sugar

   175 g rhubarb, halved lengthways then diced

   2 tbsp sunflower oil

   1 egg

   1 tsp vanilla extract

   125 ml buttermilk

   200 g plain flour

   1 tsp baking powder

   1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

 

For the crumble topping:

   50 g light muscovado sugar

   50 g plain flour

   25 g porridge oats

   1 tsp ground cinnamon

   50 g butter

Heat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan) or gas mark 7. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper muffin cases. Stir the sugar and rhubarb together and set aside while you make the crumble topping.  

Mix together the muscovado sugar with the flour, oats and cinnamon, and then rub in the butter until clumpy with your fingertips.  

Stir the oil and egg, vanilla and buttermilk into the sugary rhubarb. Now add the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and stir well.  

Quickly spoon into the cases, then scatter each with a thick layer of the crumble mixture. Bake for 15–18 minutes until golden and a cocktail stick poked into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

 

Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!