Allotment Society News 2002
Newsletter - Winter 2002
The good spell of dry weather during September and early October gave plot holders an excellent opportunity to harvest and store allotment produce. The mild weather also extended the season for some of the more tender crops such as runner beans and courgettes – it always amazes me how many courgettes can be produced by one plant over a season!
Winter digging is well underway on the site. At this time of year homemade compost to dig in is invaluable. Usually a further supply of organic matter is required. At times this can be quite difficult to source. Currently many plot holders are using spent mushroom compost. The compost consists of rotted horse manure plus a little peat or coir. It can also contain lime. The compost may also contain mushroom spawn; so it will be interesting to see if one of our biggest crops for 2003 will be the mushrooms!
As well as preparing the soil for next year it is also the time to plan which crops to grow next season – our Sutton’s seed catalogues for bulk order are now circulating the membership.
A large percentage of plotholders now garden organically and with the dwindling range of chemicals available to the amateur gardener, any products that can help provide a physical barrier between pest sand the crop is of great benefit. Over the last few years I have used polythene, netting and standard horticultural fleece as protection. This season I tried out a new product called “Ultra Viromesh”. This is a tough, strong, white very fine mesh screening. It has the advantage of allowing air and rain on to the crop. It is much more robust and durable than the usual fleece type material. The other big advantage over normal netting is that it is much more wildlife friendly, greatly reducing the risk of birds getting caught up. I shall be ordering more for next season!
On a personal note this season proved to be a very good one for gladioli growing. This year I exhibited in national competitions from as far apart as the British Gladioli Society National show in Bristol, to what turned out to be the highlight of my growing year in winning the “Gladioli World Championship Class” held at the Dundee Flower Show. Spare blooms were again sold to raise funds for the premature baby unit in Burton. This year £200 was raised. Over the last ten years over
£2,000 has been raised for charities, mainly premature baby units. Thank you again to all who purchased blooms! Fellow allotment gardener Janet Stone has also been putting her horticultural expertise to good use. This year she has been raising plants for sale in aid of the Staffordshire Air Ambulance fund. So far this year she has raised over £200. Well done Janet!
Newsletter - Autumn 2002
Members are now busy harvesting a good range of crops from the site, some of the surplus being frozen or given to appreciative friends and relatives! Apart from a couple of weeks, there has been no shortage of rain to swell the crops. The downside is that it has been ideal weather for slugs and snails! Potato crops have done particularly well with some bumper crops being reported. My courgette plants have been working overtime; producing in abundance. Towards the end of the season I will allow a few to grow to a larger size. These can be harvested and ripened off on a sunny windowsill until they turn from green to golden yellow, kept frost-free they should store through the winter.
Growing vegetables on the allotments is not all plain sailing, over the last couple of years onion crops have suffered greatly from a fungal attack to the foliage. This is very difficult to deal with without resorting to frequent chemical sprays. The attack stops the growth of the onion bulbs, but if they are lifted at the first sign of attack and dried well they should store for winter use, although being of smaller size than usual. Autumn plantings of sets fare quite well as the fungal attack seems to set in around July when they should have already reached maturity. I have found the variety “Radar” to be a reliable cropper.
Our site summer competition took place in July. The results were:
1 - Ted Killick
2 - Trevor Bottrill
3 - Geoff Faulkner
The winner of the best crop competition was Mick Winson for his onion bed.
On the site it is pleasing to see a number of plots sporting spikes of my favourite flower, gladioli. Some people are deterred from growing glads due to losses in winter storage. Gladioli are best lifted at least 6 weeks after flowering. If there is a frost then lift immediately. Cut off the foliage just above ground level. The corms can be washed in water and dipped in fungicide solution. The small cormlets attached can be saved and grown on next season, if more stock is required. Now the important bit! The corms must be dried as quickly as possible. A warm cupboard with reasonable air circulation is ideal. After about 3-4 weeks last year’s old shrivelled corm and the stalk should be separated from the new corm. If they do not separate cleanly and easily then probably more drying is required.
The corms can be lightly dusted with sulphur before being stored in an airy frost-free place until the spring. Do not use plastic bags, or trays for storage. Paper bags, wire mesh trays or cardboard trays are the best.
If you have not got around to growing your own cut flower glads: I am selling bunches from outside my Dovecliff Road home. All proceeds to the Premature Baby Unit in Burton Hospital.
Newsletter - Summer 2002
With lots of early spring sunshine most plot holders were off to a flying start, and drills of peas, broad beans, carrots etc are already well advanced on some plots. Early May is the time to think about sowing more tender subjects like runner beans, marrows, courgettes, sweetcorn etc. Crops such as these can be sown direct into the ground or started off in 3-4inch pots filled with general purpose compost and then placed in a greenhouse or windowsill to germinate. I use this method particularly for sweetcorn and begin to harden them off when they are about 6ins tall. They are planted out in early June. Sweetcorn is wind pollinated and should be planted out in blocks rather than rows to ensure well filled cobs are harvested. I like to put a thick mulch around the plants to prevent moisture loss and reduce the amount of weeding. Cobs are usually ready to harvest around mid August. To appreciate them at their best they should be cooked and eaten shortly after harvesting. They will be much tastier than any you can buy at supermarkets!
Many plot holders find room for at least one or two fruit crops on their plots which seem to thrive in the allotment location. Tom Martin has discovered that producing good fruit crops in our vicinity is not a new phenomenon-
WHY NOT GROW AUTUMN RASPBERRIES?
There is a history of raspberry growing at Rolleston Hall. At the end of the 19th century, the Head Gardener at the Hall was Mr George Woodgate a keen fruit grower who specialised in blackberries and raspberries. In 1896 Woodgate was producing weekly articles as the ‘Hardy Fruit’ correspondent of “The Gardeners’ Chronicle”. A reporter from the “Chronicle” visited Rolleston Hall that year and noted –
“Raspberries are likewise very satisfactory in this garden, where the cool stiff soil so meets their requirements; and there is an excellent new plantation of the variety Superlative.”
An old lady who, as a child, lived in a house in the gardens in the 1920’s also remembers raspberries. In particular she recalls white raspberries being grown for Lady Mosley.
Allotment rules restrict fruit trees to small trained varieties but it is an excellent site for establishing small plots of soft fruit.
Raspberries come in two main types –Early summer fruiting varieties, where the fruit is borne on canes grown the previous year and autumn fruiting varieties, where the fruit is borne on the current years’ canes.
Both types are well worth growing but, with the ready availability of summer raspberries from local ‘Pick your Own’ farms such as Ward’s at Anslow, one has to decide if there are higher priorities for the space.
There has been considerable development in autumn fruiting varieties in recent years and at around £12 for 10 canes from a reputable nursery, a modest investment can soon provide a good cropping bed of plants. Rather surprisingly, autumn raspberries have been grown on the allotments for several years without the need for netting. Although birds tend to take one or two of the first ripening berries they appear to leave the bulk of the crop alone.
Raspberry canes are available November to February and are very easy fruits to grow, with two caveats -
· They dislike heavy waterlogged soil
· They need regular watering during the first spring after planting.
A well-prepared plot will crop for 10 years. Once planted raspberries require minimum cultivation – just mulching and light hoeing to keep weed-free. Autumn fruiting varieties are cut to 2 inches from the ground in February and the strongest new growths selected for cropping.
Autumn varieties to look for include –
Older varieties: September, Zeva,Heritage (probably the latest of all, will pick until November in an open season).
Newer varieties: Autumn Bliss, Glen Magna
Returning to white raspberries –The original white raspberry favoured by Lady Mosley is no longer available commercially because of virus infection. Also, probably it was never ‘white’ but a pale yellow when ripe. No yellow raspberries are available for certification as virus free but they do have a very good sweet flavour. The standard autumn variety is ‘Fallgold’ and John Marshall was so impressed with the flavour of the crop on Plot 13 that a new planting has appeared on Plot 7A.
The East Staffs Allotment Federation held its Spring Competition in April. Mr T. Bottrill, Mr E Killick and Mrs Kendrick were entered and came 8th, 9th and 10th respectively. The Summer Competition will be judged on Saturday 13th July.
Graham Anderson, Secretary
Newsletter - Spring 2002
It’s late January and the brave little snowdrops and crocus are colouring up, heralding the first signs of spring. Our bulk seed order has been delivered and thoughts turn to plans for the season ahead.
Gardening on the allotment site however is not without its share of problems where pests and diseases are concerned. The site is cultivated intensively and that means for instance with brassicas that there is normally an all the year round home for aphids, whitefly etc on your plot, if not on a neighbour’s!
Seed potatoes are on sale now and many members will have them “eyeing up”. Potato blight can be a problem in some seasons, particularly if it is warm and wet. The blight is caused by a fungus, that first shows itself as dark brown patches on the leaves. The undersides of the patches develop a downy white coating of spores in moist conditions. The disease can spread rapidly and in a severe attack the foliage may be reduced to a rotting mass. Tomatoes, which are of the same plant family, can also be attacked.
There are fungal sprays available such as diathane 945 which can offer a good degree of control. For the more organic grower reducing the risk of catching the fungus is the key. Buy good quality seed tubers. Try to choose resistant varieties like Cara, Remarka and Romano. Early varieties are particularly susceptible so try to ensure they mature before blight starts, normally in July. Exercise a good rotation system. Remove all tubers when you harvest and potato haulms are best removed unless they can be composted in a good active heap. Leave a good spacing between rows to reduce humidity levels. Earth up well or mulch to reduce the chance of spores transferring from the leaves to the tubers. In a bad attack cut off all the foliage to prevent spread to the tubers. Leave the crop for at least three weeks to develop thicker skins. Check stored tubers regularly and remove any that show signs of rotting.
Some of the trials and tribulations experienced by plot holders are expressed suitably in a poem recently given to me by a member, Ted Killick:-
Garden Hymn to a Bright Fuchsia
All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful, The Lord God made them all.
But things they never mention, though gardeners know its true
Is when He made the goodies, He made the baddies too.
All things spray and swattable, disasters great and small,
All things paraquattable, the Lord God made them all.
The greenfly on the roses, the clubroot on the greens,
The slugs that eat the lettuce, and chew the aubergines.
The drought that kills the fuchsias the frost that nips the buds
The rain that drowns the seedlings, the blight that hits the spuds.
The midges and mosquitoes, the nettles and the weeds,
The pigeons in the green stuff, the sparrows on the seeds.
The flies that get the carrots, the wasp that eats the plums,
How black the gardeners outlook, though green may be his thumbs.
But still we gardeners labour, midst vegetables and flowers,
And pray what hits our neighbours, may somehow bypass ours.
Our site gardeners are a resilient bunch and always seem to rise to a challenge!
A feature on the site for a number of years now is the produce being grown to raise funds for good causes. Janet Stone has been keeping up this tradition and last season she raised £250 for the British Diabetic Society from the sale of flowers etc.
Very sadly, at the end of January, the Society lost one of its hardest working and committed members with the death of Walter Richardson. Walter was a long standing committee member and an excellent grower. He regularly was among the prize-winning plots on the site. He was always willing to work on the site and offer advice, particularly to new members. One example of this was during last season when on one new member’s plot the pea crop failed to germinate. Walter deliberated on the problem and a number of days later the member appeared on his plot to find new peas pushing through the previously blank row – Walter had re-sown for him! Walter’s ever-cheerful presence will be sorely missed.
Graham Anderson Secretary (812807)
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Last updated: 12 December 2002