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Archive for July, 2007

We have found many allotmenters frown upon the use of rotavators. It goes something like-  tut tut, you’re making problems for yourself in the long-run, chopping up all those weed roots, tut tut….

We completely ignored this advice, as detailed in the post – Rotavators, hurting worms and proper gardening.

Our plot initially looked like this

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and through the power of rotavation, ended up like this:

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with the addition of a few plants later in the year, this is how it looks at the moment:

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Its physically demanding work, but very satisfying to see your whole plot turned from compacted, concrete clay soil to workable land to an allotment!

We thought now would be a good time to update people on our weed situation. Basically we have no more pernicious, nasty weeds than our plot comrades  do. We have bind weed and brambles pushng up all over the plot. However with a bit of ‘little and often’ weeding, it is easy to say on top of their cheeky emergence. 

We also feel that as the surrounding hedgerows, paths, fields and gardens are full of bramble and bindweed, it is unrealistic to think that our plot can ever be a weed free zone…

 We still intend to carry out some double-digging in autumn to further break down our soil – giving an opportunity to pick out some roots. However we won’t get carried away as the phrase ‘needle in a haystack’ is apt. I always thought that saying is a nice way of saying ‘its pointless’…

Without rotavation, our plot would not have been fully workable this year. This along with the addition of well-rotted horse manure has produced a soil that is immediately user friendly.

So we urge people not to be put off by scare stories of ‘little shop of horror’ weeds terrorising your plot if you dare to rotavate…

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With allotments increasingly being under threat by housing development – it has never been more important to show your support for the great British allotment.

The National Allotment Gardens Trust are running the National Allotment Week from13th to 19th August 07. Various events and competitions are taking place, all with the aim of promoting the importance of allotments to British society.

They are also asking allotment sites to consider opening their gates to the public and exhibit their produce..

mmmm…

The press release explains further and is another rousing piece of writing about the virtues of allotmenteering. Indeed, allotments are our birthright..

National Allotments Week Press Release 2007

National Allotment Week is 13th to 19th August 2007. It is a chance for Allotment Sites, Allotmenteers and Landlords to work together to promote the UK’s most popular hobby!

Since 2002 when National Allotment Week first started, the whole country has seen an explosion in the interest in Allotment Gardening. Not only is it enjoyed for the healthy exercise it provides, but also for the abundance of great quality, affordable food.

Although there is a great explosion in the popularity and demand for allotments, it is only with the continued support of the UK public that councils across the country will honour the statutory legal obligation on their part to supply land to individuals for growing food. As a nation, we have a right to feed ourselves, and know how the food is grown and what it contains.

Allotmenteering is also proving to be a great source for building new communities with many interesting community projects being set up by allotmenteers to benefit their local community. Allotmenteering is a truly community-based activity, deserving public support.

The focus of this year’s National Allotment Week is that traditional British architectural gem – The Garden Shed – No matter where you find a gardener enjoying his hobby, somewhere close by will be the bolthole that provides a social focal point, and allows for an individual’s character and creativity to come to the fore.

In a busy ordered world, the individuality expressed in one’s Garden Shed shines through. From the brand new shed from the DIY store, to the shed made from a collection of recycled materials. The Shed makes an ideal environment to shelter from the rain whilst it fills the water butts, and a place to share your stories, with your fellow gardeners.

This year has seen a massive upsurge in media interest with TV programmes such as Chris Collins and Hannah Genders “Dig for Victory” Carol Kelvin’s “Grow Your Own”. A mainstream film written by Frank Cottrell Boyce about life on the Allotment plot for a group of asylum seekers and their fellow allotmenteers, starring Benedict Wong and Harry Marsan entitled “Grow Your Own” and hopefully, more to come!

NAGTrust also runs competitions to find the Best Allotment Site, Best Allotment Project and Best Allotment Garden Shed with its media partners at Kitchen Garden magazine. The results will be announced during National Allotment Week 2007 NAGTrust also run a competition to find the Best Individual Allotmenteer and Best Newcomer with media partners Garden News. Results will be published during National Allotment Week.

NAGTrust is inviting any Allotment site group that are opening their gates to the public during National Allotment Week 2007 to send details to be displayed on the NAGTrust website at http://www.NAGTrust.org and all contributors will be entered into a draw, the winners will receive a case of Caliterra wine to be used at their opening.

NAGTrust is grateful for the support from Mantis UK, Caliterra Wines, King’s Seeds, Wilkinson Sword, Haxnicks, Dancing Bee, Darlac Tools and the National Society of
Allotment and Leisure Gardeners.

Major events for this year include a demonstration allotment in St James’ Park, London and a display and exhibition of the history of Allotments at RHS Rosemoor in Devon.

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I came across this article on the website The worlds Healthiest Foods.

This is only a small part of the article click here to read the rest.  You might want to take a look around the rest of the site, it’s well worth checking out.  

Can organic foods really improve my health?

Yes. Organically grown food is your best way of reducing exposure to toxins used in conventional agricultural practices. These toxins include not only pesticides, many of which have been federally classified as potential cancer-causing agents, but also heavy metals such as lead and mercury, and solvents like benzene and toluene. Minimizing exposure to these toxins is of major benefit to your health. Heavy metals damage nerve function, contributing to diseases such as multiple sclerosis and lowering IQ, and also block hemoglobin production, causing anemia. Solvents damage white cells, lowering the immune system’s ability to resist infections. In addition to significantly lessening your exposure to these health-robbing substances, organically grown foods have been shown to contain substantially higher levels of nutrients such as protein, vitamin C and many minerals.

Research Suggests Organic Food is Better for Your Health

Rats fed organic food were significantly healthier than their peers given conventionally-grown produce, shows research reported by the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, February 2005.

During the experiment, 36 rats were divided into three groups. All were given potatoes, carrots, peas, green kale, apples, rapeseed oil, and the same vitamin supplements. One group was fed organic food, another conventionally grown food with high levels of fertilizer and some pesticide, and the third group received minimally fertilized conventionally grown food.

Although pesticide residue was measured and found to be below detection levels in all groups, the scientists found that the rats fed organically-grown produce were measurably healthier, slept better, had stronger immune systems and were less obese.

Lead researcher, Dr Kirsten Brandt, of Newcastle University’s School of Agriculture, was careful not to overstate the findings, but noted: “The difference was so big it is very unlikely to be random. We gave the food to the rats and then we measured what they were doing. We can say the reason why the rats have different health was clearly due to the fact that there was a different growing method, and this was enough for this result. If we want to understand how and why, we need another study.”

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We have spoken before how we like our allotment to be visually appealing. To this end we have sweeping wood-chip paths that invite you to wander around the plot and resting areas to sit and contemplate or relax. We are growing a chamomile lawn, have night-scented stock, cosmos and other ‘pretty’ flowers adorning our ‘durt’.

It is partly because our background is in horticulture, rather than agriculture – so we just can’t help ourselves – all that open ground to play with – a blank canvas asking to be painted.

Of course the butterflies, bees and other assorted pollinators and predators don’t do our vegetables any harm either…

It seems this type of approach is unsettling some of the more traditional plot holders, with their regimented rows and predictable ‘two up – two down plots’..

The Scotsman paper says –

A new report published in Garden News magazine claims traditional plot-holders are becoming increasingly disgruntled with the practices of their younger female neighbours.

The Telegraph explains

“Women also tend to want to tidy things up, grow flowers and put curtains in their sheds, which to some men goes completely against their idea of what an allotment should be about. It is a case of ‘not on my vegetable patch’.”

Thankfully, both articles report that any misgivings and uneasiness experienced by those men soon evaporates. The usual banter of seed swapping and top tips soon fill the plots again. The common goal of wanting delicious vegetables, no doubt being a soothing tonic.

We don’t have any ‘old-timers’ on our allotment, – mores the pity – nothing beats experience – in allotment gardening and life in general – our site is the poorer for it.

We are a mixed group in our allotment style – all scratching our mark in the earth and making our allotment our own.

Increasingly people in Britain are crying out for a simpler, ‘greener’ life. (And what a diverse group of people we are on this tiny island). Allotments are meeting that need and reciprocally the mish-mash of styles and quirks found on allotments reflect it..

Casting your eye over allotments these days certainly makes for interesting viewing…

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jpggardenframe.jpgjpghatandglove.jpgjpgburtssunflower.jpg

Simple to use these, just right click on the one you want and click save picture as, direct it to where you want it on your computer, then print it off.

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Please consider signing the petition to save Aldershot Road Allotment Site in Guildford. The deadline is 19 December 2007 – so please spread the word..

An empassioned and unarguable case for saving the site by a local resident can be found here.

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I stumbled across this article in the Independent newspaper and it made me smile – Grow-your-own Viagra craze hits Britain’s garden centres.

The discovery was made by an allotmenteer who enjoys experimenting making his own drinks from his plants and produce.. For more details click here

Now who said allotmenteering was boring!

Here’s the ‘article’ in full 

A chance discovery by a Berkshire allotment-holder that a plant widely available in garden centres has the same effect on men as Viagra has been confirmed by experts at one of the world’s leading botanical institutions.

The plant is winter-flowering heather, and botanists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, many of them heather experts who have recognised the source of its active ingredient, now expect it to be the next must-have plant in British gardens. Demand is already high. Nurseries and garden centres in some areas are having trouble finding sufficient supplies as word spreads of the plant’s unexpected properties.

A spokesman for Wyevale Garden Centres, which has 106 UK branches, said: “At first, it was just a trickle of inquiries, but now stores are virtually being besieged each weekend. We have had men buying dozens of the plants and, at one store in Croydon, there were men old enough to know better fighting over the last remaining trays.”

The latest gardening craze was triggered by a discovery by a 55-year-old furniture restorer, Michael Ford, on his allotment. He was always experimenting with drinks made from different plants and one day he tried an infusion from his winter-flowering heather. He said: “The effect was almost immediate. I had to stay in my potting shed for an hour or so before I could decently walk down the street.”

He then contacted the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, famous for their work with the heather family, to see if they could offer an explanation. They could. Botanist Alan Bennell said: “This first surfaced when East European chemists reported finding a Viagra-type chemical in the floral tissues of winter-flowering heaths. They were able to isolate measurable amounts of material that is an analogue of the active principle in Viagra.”

Winter-flowering heather, he explained, belongs to the genus Erica, a close relative of our own native heather. He said: “As yet, the active ingredient has not been found in these British forms, but it is proving to be most concentrated in many of the widely available hybrids sold as winter-flowering heather in garden centres. Particularly potent are forms of Erica carnea, the Alpine heather, whose range extends into the Balkans.

“The work of these biochemists and physiologists – much of it disrupted and lost during the ravages of war – is now coming to light.”

From the limited amount of information available, it is suggested the Viagra-analogue is best extracted by steeping the detached small flowers in neat alcohol. An infusion of about 20g of flowers in 100ml of fluid liberates the active principle. A quality full-strength vodka (at least 40 per cent) is also effective. Mr Bennell added: “There is some confusion whether oral consumption or topical application is more effective.”

But not everyone is happy about this new discovery. One woman shopping at a Wyvales in Dorking yesterday said: “It’s amazing. My husband has never shown any interest in gardening before, but now he’s out there night and day fussing over his heathers. Frankly, I preferred it when he left the garden to me and wasn’t so frisky.”

http://news.independent.co.uk/health/article2411405.ece

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