Autumn at our community allotment

As winter approaches we are still getting a great turn out on Sundays (11-1pm).  The weather has been kind, making it a very enjoyable time at the Weald Allotment site.  There is still plenty to do – pruning, collecting, preparing and, of course, eating!

The girls have been helping Viv prepare for Seedy Sunday (Sunday 4th February 2018 – more details are coming soon!) by collecting coriander seeds.

We had a lovely picnic to farewell Emma, who is moving up north –  best of luck for your new adventure Emma we will miss you!   Barbara’s delicious homemade cake was a winner once again (she cooked the chocolate beetroot cake we posted recently – any excuse for another slice!).

Harvests are still going strong – rocket, carrots and chard…

Next year we are replacing half the Lavender border – typically you should would renew plants after 7-10 years and these have been on the site for at least 10 years.  We removed the old plants, and the soil is being prepared for planting in March (spring is the best time as lavender can be damaged by frost if not well established).  Here is a handy guide if you want to know more about growing lavender.

Now is a good time to prune autumn fruiting raspberries – using the opportunity of being able to get close and personal to hand fork out the more persistent weeds. Top dress the nearby soil with a compost of well-rotted manure in the early spring. You can also plant out new roots or replant raspberry suckers now if the ground stays warm and has good drainage in organic soil.

Between November and February you are welcome to come to the allotment between 11am and 1pm on Sunday (weather permitting). The winter sessions are not overseen by co-ordinators, however, there are usually some regular hardy volunteers who will make you feel welcome. We have a poly tunnel where we can shelter if the weather suddenly takes a turn for the worse.

 

Russ’s Winter Greens Trial in his allotment poly tunnel.

I have had a poly tunnel on my plot for a couple of years but have never tried growing over winter. I have had really successful crops of tomatoes and chillies over the summer but I am keen to see if my poly can be equally productive during winter. I chose 5 plants to try out: Mizuna, Spinach, Pak Choi, Choy Sum, Chop Suey Greens.

The seedlings are currently looking very happy, although the spinach had a very poor germination rate leaving me with only 3 seedlings. The seeds were sown in organic seed compost in a bright shed and then placed out into the poly once they germinated. I am using a capillary matting technique to ensure the seedlings are kept moist from below, as I don’t visit the allotment as frequently this time of year. My next step will be to thin out the seedlings and wait until they have 2 sets of ‘true’ leaves before planting them into the ground in the poly.

I’ll post an update so you can see how I’m getting on, or join me in trialling growing winter greens yourself.  If you’ve already had experience growing over winter, then comment with any advice to share.

Review: Vera Zakharov’s foraging walk through Stanmer Park

Oh what fun we had foraging in the forest with Vera! But as over-picking has now fungally impoverished many areas we mostly refrained from gathering them to eat. It wasn’t just about the fungi; lots of common weeds like nettles and ground elder are amazingly nutritious in spring and autumn, in particular the fresh young growth of the top 6 leaves.

We learned about the symbiotic relationship between many aspects of the environment with special focus on how saprophytic fungi help to break down dead wood, mycorrhizal fungi help to feed trees by extending their root systems and making minerals available to the host plant, whilst parasitic fungi (like the almost edible honey fungus) actively kill trees.

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Vera encouraged us to only pick well under 50% of those that were plentiful and easy to identify. We had a great turnout on a pleasant autumn day and had a lovely walk in the woods with friends old and new.

NOTE: Do not handle, pick or eat any fungi unless you have sufficient training from an expert to do so. Some fungi are poisonous, even if touched. If in doubt, do not pick.

For more information about Vera and the Brighton Food Partnership click here.

Photos courtesy of Bhogg member Coco

 

 

Summer at our community allotment

We had a fruitful summer at the allotment.  A bumper harvest meant that we were able to pick and donate over a ton of local, organic apples to Fareshare, who distribute food to vulnerable groups in Sussex.  A vital organisation ideally suited to distributing gluts of produce.

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Nikki  with Apples on their way to Fareshare
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Alan with heritage organic apples ranging from Ashmead’s Kernel to Rosemary Russet.
The lavender harvest

We were delighted to welcome our newest member Ivy!

Our summer culminated with the autumn equinox picnic.  Delicious delights from our summer harvest plus, of course, Barbara’s amazing baking (every week she brings something incredible for us to eat!).
Every Sunday our Organic Community Allotment welcomes new visitors between 11 and 1 pm.

‘Citizen Scientists’ volunteering opportunity

Phoenix Community Centre, Thursday 16th November,  7pm-9pm

Scientists from the University of Sussex will be talking about how pollinating insects are vital to the production of many of the foods we grow in our gardens and allotments.  Team Pollinate are looking for allotment growers in Brighton & Hove to volunteer to become ‘Citizen Scientists‘ and help us learn more about which insects are pollinating the food we grow. The data will help scientists understand more about pollinator behaviour and how best to protect these important insects.

Events are free to members, £3 donation to non-members

Meet at Phoenix Community Centre, 2 Phoenix Place, Brighton, BN2 9ND.

 

Pumpkin Spice Biscuits

Pumpkins are so versatile – sweet or savory dishes aplenty.  Here is a delicious biscuit recipe – perfect alternative to sweets for Halloween!

Ingredients

4oz butter
6oz sugar
1 large egg
250ml pumpkin pulp (boil 1 inch cubes until tender and strain well)
1 tsp grated citrus peel
1 tsp ground cinnamon
8oz plain flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F/180C, oil or line a large baking sheet.

Beat butter, sugar & egg together then add pumpkin, peel & spices, and beat.
Add flour, salt & baking soda to the pumpkin mix and blend.

Drop tablespoon sized batter onto baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and firm to touch (around 20-25mins).

 

Pumpkin spiced biscuits (2)

 

 

Fungal Forage

Fungal Forage in the Forest: An autumn foraging workshop with Vera Zakharov

Sun Oct 15th 12-3 Stanmer Park

We will wander with Vera in the woods. She will show us which fungi are ok to pick, and which are not.  Whether they are poisonous or whether they are part of a fragile ecological web needing to be conserved, not disturbed.

Meet at Stamner house. Wear study shoes bring a mac and picnic.