Getting To Know Your Soil – January 20th, 2-4 pm
As part of the Urban Organic Gardening Course which runs weekly at the Phoenix Community Centre, Ruth Urbanowicz, qualified RHS gardening teacher, will be giving a talk all about soil.
Ruth will provide a fascinating insight into what soil is, how to get the best from it and the importance of composting, fertilising, mulching and digging (or not!).
This will be free to organic group members & local residents; £3 donation non-members
Gardening Organically – Back To Basics – Wednesday 24th January, 7-9pm
Come along to hear BHOGG’s very own resident RHS qualified teacher talk about getting back to the basics.
Ruth Urbanowicz will explain the importance of the What? Why? and How? of gardening organically, and look at the history, context, and putting it into practice.
Free to paid up BHOGG members; £10/£5 donation non-members.
Meet at the Phoenix Community Centre, 2 Phoenix Place, Brighton BN2 9ND
After the mayhem of Christmas & New Year, it was a pleasure to be able to escape to the allotment for a few hours last weekend. And even more pleasurable to witness what awaited me in the poly tunnel: a ready-to-harvest crop of wintergreens.
Despite the inclement weather, the transplanted seedlings have grown into strong, healthy plants that are now large enough to be picked. I took the ‘cut and come again’ approach as you would with lettuce at this stage. I am hopeful that this will encourage new growth and extend the picking season. I suspect that at some point I will uproot whole plants if they continue expanding at current rates.
The only plants not ready for harvest were the spinach. The first lot of seedlings only produced a couple of plants and these are very slow growing in comparison to the brassica varieties. Perhaps they will still do well a bit later on.
I only harvested from the plants with the largest leaves, but could have taken a couple from each for a larger haul. With the Mizuna I took a small clump. The harvest (clockwise from top left) is: Mizuna, Pak Choi, Fuyuna and Choy Sum (flower heads).
I only wanted to lightly cook the greens, and as there wasn’t enough to make a main dish, I fried them in a hot wok in a little seasame oil, sprinkling tamari over them in the final moments of cooking. I then added them to a bowl of hot, spicy celery and potato soup (because its still winter and its too cold for salad!).
Any type of vegetable soup will work – perhaps make the most of the opportunity to showcase your fresh winter greens by using up some of those left over root veggies you have: potatoes, carrots, celeriac, parsnips. You can also add a little cheese after serving; we used vegan blue ‘cheese’, which complimented the soup perfectly. Alternatively, the greens would be a perfect addition to a stir-fry or as a steamed vegetable accompaniment.
With less than a month to go here is a round-up of what’s happening on 4th February.
Venue: BHASVIC, 205 Dyke Rd, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 6EG
Gardener’s Question Time Returns to Seedy Sunday
Once again, we are also hosting BBC’s Gardeners’ Question Time with a panel of the best brains in horticulture. Bob Flowerdew, James Wong, Anne Swithinbank and Eric Robson. Tickets available from 10.30am on the day – first come, first served. Price £4.
A Host of Interesting Talks
We have a great line-up of speakers talking about no-dig gardening, butterflies and the biosphere, the Brighton and Hove citizen science pollinator project, potatoes and the latest in seed regulation and policy.
The Giant Seed Swap
At the heart of Seedy Sunday is the giant seed swap table. Bring seeds to swap that you have saved from last year’s crops. No seeds to swap? Simply make a donation at the seed table. Volunteer seed saving experts and gardeners will be on hand to offer all the advice you need to choose and grow your seeds.
A World of Discovery in the Market Place
Visit more than 50 stalls from growers, seed merchants, charities and community groups and more.
For more information visit seedysunday.org
Join us on the third Saturday of each month: 2-4pm. Phoenix Community Centre, 2 Phoenix Pl, Brighton BN2 9ND
2017 Dec 16 – What is Companion Planting all about? And gardening for wildlife
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Nikki with Apples on their way to Fareshare
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.