Phoenix Urban Organic Gardening Club

Join us on the third Saturday of each month: 2-4pm.  Phoenix Community Centre, 2 Phoenix Pl, Brighton BN2 9ND

Events:

2017 Dec 16 –  What is Companion Planting all about? And gardening for wildlife

2018:

Jan 20 – Get to know your soil, plus composting & mulching

Feb 17 – Time to sow & grow; how to grow veg from seed

Free to Bhogg members and local residents.  £3 donation non-members.

Roasted winter veggies with satay sauce.

This is my favourite winter recipe – so hearty and delicious – it never fails to impress. It’s a great way to use up veggies, and the satay sauce is just divine.

Ingredients:

Usually whatever is in the fridge that needs to be used up.

A mix of root vegetables – beetroot, potatoes, parsnips, carrots
Garlic, onion, leeks, celery, zucchini, red pepper
Broccoli
A couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary / thyme
Pinch of salt and olive oil

Satay Sauce

½ tablespoon peanut oil
1 small onion (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon sweet soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut butter (crunchy)
1 can coconut milk

Method:

Cooking time is approx. 40 mins.  Heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Chop the root veggies and add garlic, onions, a dash of olive oil, salt, fresh herbs – pop in the oven.  While these are cooking cut up the rest of the vegetables.

 

Veggies 1

After 10 minutes add the rest of the vegetables except broccoli (if you are using). Broccoli – I always add this about 10-15 minutes from the end so not to over cook.

While the vegetables are cooking make the satay sauce.

Satay sauce

The satay sauce is a community recipe posted by Ashy on nigella.com.  Because I like a bit of spice I swap out the chilly flakes for fresh chillies (those fiery little green ones if you like it hot!).   And if you want a gluten-free option just swap the soy sauce for tamari (add a couple of extra teaspoons depending on taste).

Method:

Heat the oil in a wok and fry the garlic, onion and chilli over a moderate heat until onion is soft.  Add the sugar and stir until slightly caramelised.  Add the soy sauce and peanut butter and stir through.  Add a little coconut milk at a time until you achieve your desired consistency.

Once the veggies are cooked pour over the satay sauce.  Enjoy!

 

Special thanks to Lisa Barber for the headline photo.

Saving seeds for the Seedy Sunday seed swap – 4 Feb. 2018

Our friends at Garden Organic have some great tips on seed saving.  

Which seeds can I swop?

  • Seeds from plants that do well in your garden, vegetable, flower, shrub, herbs… Ideally more unusual plants are sought after.
  • Seeds from healthy plants. They should be collected when ripe, as mature seeds contain more food which ensures vigour and viability (potential for a high germination rate). The larger the seed, the better.
  • Seeds that you have collected to preserve the genetic variety. It is best to save equal numbers of seeds from each healthy plant, rather than only saving seeds from the best plant. The latter is done if you want to develop your own varieties. Seedy Sunday is about preserving heirloom varieties .

How do I package the seeds?

  • Free envelopes are available from Infinity Foods in Brighton, or from the Seed Table on the day.
  • As a rough guideline, envelopes should contain enough seeds for a small crop, for example, a short row of peas, or beans, or a square metre of salads.  We advise 5 to 10 seeds per pack for tomatoes, 5 seeds for squashes, 20 to 25 seeds for peas and beans.
  • Labelling the pack should include name (common or Latin), variety (if applicable), year and place of collection. Example: Tomato – Rose de Berne – 2017 – Shoreham-by-sea.

What about F1 Hybrids?

  • We aim to avoid F1 Hybrids, because seeds saved from those plants do not subsequently breed true to type, and it takes a long time to get a stable variety from F1 plants. Therefore we do not use them as our starter stock, nor do we wish to swap them. If you have some F1 seeds, you can experiment with producing your own varieties, but it is a complex and lengthy process.

I do not have any seeds to swop. What can I do?

  • You can select any packets you want from the Seed Table, and give us a donation of 50p per pack instead. The money will be used to buy some fresh new starter stock for next year’s Seedy Sunday.
  • Each year, we replenish our basic starter stock with open pollinated varieties from reputable suppliers, the main one being Moles Seeds. Some seeds are organic. We avoid treated seeds.

 Do you have any tips for seed saving?

  • Some seeds need to be fermented before being dried, for example tomatoes. This process ensure germination. Keep them in a jar of water for a few days. Rinse well and dry.
  • All seeds to be dried should be thoroughly cleaned first, the chaff and the unviable seeds sieved or removed before proper drying. In the case of broad bean seeds, they should be visually inspected for holes, and later stored in a freezer in order to kill any possible insect infestation.
  • During ripening and drying on the plant, the seeds prepare for dormancy by converting sugars to more stable fats and starch. After that they can be safely dried and stored
  • Drying should be gradual and thorough, shady spot, airy, dry (20%-30% relative humidity), for a couple of weeks, and depends on the size of the seeds. One easy way is to place the seeds in a jar of dry rice for a fortnight. The rice will gradually dry up the seeds. Dry corn and beans will shatter when hit with a hammer.
  • Storing should be in dry, constant temperature and moisture, in an insect-free environment. You can store them in the fridge, or even a freezer, but gradually bring them back to room temperature before sowing.

Any more questions?

  • Some seeds can keep for several years, under favourable conditions, however, some, like parsnips, only keep for a year. So it is best to use seeds collected this year. Old seeds can always be used for a spot of guerilla gardening.
  • Best not to swop squashes and pumpkin seeds (Cucurbits), unless the plants have been well isolated, as they cross-fertilize very easily, being a promiscuous lot! Use new stock of seeds instead

For more information about Seedy Sunday click here.

Russ’s winter greens trial update

At the end of October I thinned out the seedlings as ruthlessly as I could. This meant removing around half to make plenty of room for the remaining plants to continue growing. I always feel a sense of brutality at pulling up perfectly healthy plants, but we made the most of the thinned out seedlings as a delicious addition to a bowl of hot noodles. In particular the brassica seedlings will thank me for this activity, as brassicas are notoriously fussy about not having their roots disturbed too much and disliking competition from neighbouring roots.

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In fact, next time I would consider sowing directly into a seed bed of well sieved soil in the poly, rather than having to transplant the seedlings. The brassica’s above ground healthy looks belie their pathetic, weedy looking root system. I worry that they can’t support their top-heavy heads, but they have survived the transplant so far.

Even with minimal trips to the poly tunnel this month the capillary matting worked really well, and there’s been some bright days allowing the seedlings to put on some growth, particularly the Mizuna which you can see in the foreground of the picture of transplanted seedlings.

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I was able to plant out the seedlings at the weekend, ensuring the soil they were planted into was finely raked and moist. The poly tunnel has been well manured over the growing season and is relatively fertile. I have added some organic slug pellets, which I know are under scrutiny as to whether they are truly organic, but as they are being used undercover, I hope that any contaminated pests will not be accessed by birds or wildlife.

I will continue my infrequent visits to the seedlings to water and check for pest damage, although in the first few days of transplanting I will make sure they are watered every 2-3 days. Once they have had a chance to establish themselves, I may also make a further thinning out – if I can bear it!

 

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.

F3Use

 

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

 

 

Phoenix Street Party, Saturday 2nd December, 2-8pm

BHOGG’s Urban Gardening group at the Phoenix Community Centre is getting involved with this community celebration. The event is the culmination of the ‘Maps and Lives’ exhibition showing 11th November to 3rd December 2017 (Wed – Sun 11am – 5pm). The celebration will be held in the gallery, in the community centre and on the streets in between.

This will be free to organic group members & local residents; £3 donation non-members

Phoenix Art Gallery and at Phoenix Community Centre, 2 Phoenix Place, Brighton, BN2 9ND.

 

 

 

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.