Category Archives: News

How to….Plant Garlic

8 harvestGarlic can be planted over a number of months from October to February, although the earlier you can plant, the longer the crop will have to mature (which can be handy if we have a poor summer). Traditionally, garlic is planted on the shortest day of the year and harvested on the longest, but you will find you probably need longer than this for larger garlic bulbs.

Garlic is available in 2 broad categories of soft or hard necked garlic. Soft-neck garlic is what you are most likely to buy in the shops as it stores well, but can have a milder taste. They tend to have mixed clove sizes in one bulb. Hard neck varieties are closer to wild garlic with the accompanying stronger taste, but doesn’t store for as long. These tend to have larger clove sizes. There is also Elephant ‘garlic’ to consider, which produces huge individual cloves, but this is technically a leek!

Whatever variety you decide on, buy your bulbs from an organic supplier and check that the bulb is firm and free from mould. Tempted to plant that sprouting garlic in the cupboard? You can plant garlic you’ve bought from the shop, but it potentially won’t have the disease resistance and vigour that seed bulb garlic will have.

Choose a position outdoors that will be sunny. Prepare the soil by adding some manure and forking this in well.  Make sure the soil is loose to a good depth – as deep as you can do easily by hand (unless your soil is very compact, then you either need to dig it over properly, or add a lot of organic material if you choose ‘no dig’). Draw the soil into raised rows allowing room to plant cloves 4 inches apart and at least 6 inches between rows.

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Break open the garlic bulb to access the individual cloves within.   Each clove will grow into a new bulb. Place the individual garlic gloves along the rows of soil to get the spacing right, then gently push them into the mound until the tip of the clove (pointy end) is even with the top of the soil. Draw up a little of the soil to cover the clove to a depth of around 1 inch.

5 plant bulbs detailPlace a physical barrier over the planted area to deter birds and other creatures from unearthing the bulbs. If this does happen, simply gently push the cloves back into the soil and draw soil up to cover them again.  There is no need to water the garlic in, and in fact, unless there is very little rain, there is no need to do anything else with the garlic except sit back and wait.

Harvest the crop when the top of the plant has gone from green to brown, dried out and looks dead. Lift the bulbs from beneath the soil and leave them somewhere dry and warm to ensure all moisture is removed. Store somewhere cool and well ventilated, and use as you would shop-bought garlic.

If you have a large crop and you can’t wait to taste it, you can harvest the bulb when it is ‘green’ – the top of the plant will still be green and growing, and the bulb will not have separated out into individual cloves. This can be used in cooking and gives a fresh, welcome treat to dishes in early summer.

There is a chance that in wet conditions the bulbs can get white rot. This is a fungal disease that rots the crop from the roots up and is very hard to control once it occurs. The best organic defence is to lift and burn infected plants and avoid planting garlic, onions or leeks (all from the allium plant family) for 7 years. This is hard to achieve in a small space, so attempting to avoid it initially is the best bet.

Try out these recipes to use your garlic in: Courgette pesto and Ema’s chilli, garlic & ginger sauce.

 

 

A round up of what’s happening @ Seedy Sunday, 3rd February

Seedy Sunday is less than a month away! Here’s a summary of what’s happening on the 3rd of February.

Venue: BHASVIC, 205 Dyke Rd, Hove, BN3 6EG. £3 entry, kids free!

The Seed Swap

At the heart of Seedy Sunday is the giant seed swap table. Bring seeds to swap saved from last year’s crops. Seed saving experts and gardeners will be on hand to offer all the advice you need to choose and grow your seeds. You can collect Seedy Sunday envelopes from Infinity Foods in Brighton.

No seeds to swap? Simply make a 50p donation at the seed table. We have already prepared over 2500 packets of seeds to get us started on the day!

Learn something new with a diverse range of speakers and talks

This year we have herbalists, gardeners, authors, university lecturers, and an international NGO speaking about weeds as medicine, wildlife gardening, sustainable food production, and pesticides.

We are also hosting a Local Gardeners’ Question Time featuring:

Joshua the Gardener – after the popularity of his ‘no dig’ talk last year and the queue of people waiting to ask him questions, we are delighted to have Joshua join the panel.  He has lots of advice to share about no dig gardening, organic gardening and design.

Chris Smith from Pennard Plants – another Seedy Sunday favourite. Pennard plants specialise in heritage and heirloom seeds and Chris is a gold medal Chelsea flower show winner, accomplished speaker and potato expert.

Ros Loftin is our seed saving expert and is the heart and soul of the seed swap since 2012.  A trained horticulturist, she has been saving seeds for the past 10 years, and each year brings between 20-30 different varieties of open-pollinated heritage tomatoes to swap on the seed table.

The panel with be chaired by our very own Alan Phillips!  He has been involved with Seedy Sunday since the beginning (back in 2002!), including serving 5 years as the Chair.  He is an integral part of Brighton & Hove’s vibrant organic gardening community, providing expert advice to many novice organic gardeners on our Community allotment.

A world of discovery in the Market Place

Visit more than 50 stalls from specialist growers, seed merchants, charities and community groups and more.

Children’s activities galore!

As ever we have some fun and inspiring activities for children and their parents or caregivers. Making decorations, planting seeds and discovering how to make an ‘ecobrick’ from plastic waste, there’ll be plenty to keep young people interested on the day.

Infinity Foods and Cafe

A special thanks to Infinity Foods who generously sponsor us every year, display our posters and give away our seed envelopes in their shop on North Road, Brighton.  They run a fantastic stall on the day selling organic seed potatoes, and the award winning Infinity Cafe will be upstairs to serve teas, coffees, cakes and lunches.

Be inspired for the gardening year at Seedy Sunday!

Save our soil: Winter is a good time to think about nurturing our soil

FUNCTIONS of SOIL

  • Physical support for plants [anchorage]; rooting environment; holds air, water & nutrients essential to plant growth; houses organisms necessary for making soil suitable to support plants
  • Well­-structured soil both holds water & allows it to drain.

It may become compacted & waterlogged if walked on when wet: this stops air from being available to plant roots & soil organisms & they die.

Mulch protects soil surface, keeps it warm & moist, keeps weeds down & nourishes soil life & plants; apply to moist [not frozen] soil whenever you can.

Garden compost, leaf mould & farm-yard manure, mushroom compost, spent hops, composted bark/wood chips/prunings, municipal green waste, hay/straw, & worm compost are all good sources of organic matter & can be applied as a mulch.

Plants need a variety of mineral elements for healthy growth & development; soil with plenty of organic matter [ or clay] holds onto these in a form easily absorbed by the plant; lighter soils [not clay-based] lose some nutrients through LEACHING by rain: Nitrogen & potassium [K] are most vulnerable & may need replacing. Seaweed is a good source of trace minerals.

Humus is the end result of decaying plant & animal matter, broken down by soil organisms: worms, insects, fungi & bacteria. It can hold 90% of its weight in H2O; it attracts & holds nutrients available to plants & prevents leaching.  It binds mineral particles into crumbs, thus improving structure [pores > air, H2O]. It improves all soil types, & it encourages the presence of micro-organisms, worms etc.

Green manures: protect & feed soil, improve structure & provide habitat for predators; very good in winter [but too late to sow now], early spring & late summer when beds are empty.

Green Manu

Article By Ruth Urbanowicz

Save the date for Seedy Sunday! 3rd February 2019

Plans are underway for Seedy Sunday 2019!

Here’s a selection of some of the exciting things the Seedy Sunday team are working on:

  • Seed swap area with a huge variety of seeds
  • Seed saving experts offering advice
  • Market Place stalls with a range of plants, produce and community connections
  • Fascinating speakers from around the world
  • Tasty food and drink
  • Fun kids’ activities.

Venue: BHASVIC, 205 Dyke Rd, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 6EG

How To….Make a Wildlife Pond

10 Mature Pond

A pond is a really useful resource in a garden, providing a habitat for important beneficial insects, invertebrates and vertebrates, which are natural hunters of pests in the garden.

There are infinite versions of ponds, differing materials and a wide range of websites offering you support with how to make a pond.

We have done some reading and put ideas into practice to produce a short ‘how to’ guide on making your own wildlife pond. This is not a definitive guide, just offering you some practical tips in a step-by-step format.

Step One: Choosing your pond material

For our pond we chose a flexible PVC liner with protective underlay. Ideally a wildlife pond would be made from puddled clay, but that is a rare resource in chalky Brighton, so we opted for a liner from a professional supplier with a 5-year guarantee. Well protected from sunlight and sharp stones, there’s no reason the liner won’t last a lifetime. Other options include pre-formed plastic liners and rubber liners. Decide on what suits you best depending on the space available, how large you want it and what your budget is.

If, like us, you opt for a flexible liner, you need to work out what size to buy. Many online pond companies provide a calculator to work out this out depending on what size you want your finished pond.

Step Two: Choosing your pond site and size

1 Mark out site

Choose the place you want to put the pond and mark out the shape and size you have decided on. Using sand to mark the outline is helpful to visualise the final shape. As a general rule, you should choose a sunny site with no overhanging vegetation and the ground should be a level as possible.

A pond needs to be as large as you can accommodate (or afford), but make sure it is at least ½ metre deep to avoid it freezing solid in winter. The pond we made is 2 x 1 x 0.5 metres. Choosing an irregular shaped design is important for wildlife and looks attractive.

Step Three: Digging Out the Pond in Layers

Decide on how you want to place the layers of the pond. A good way to think about it is like an upside down fried egg – the deepest point of the pond need only be relatively small with shallower layers towards the edges. Make sure one edge is very shallow to allow pond fauna to access the water.

One website recommended using vertical (rather than sloping) edges, using a back filling technique over the liner with sub soil. This is possible where you have dug deep enough to hit subsoil – we didn’t go that low for this project. We did dig vertical sides except for our sloping ‘shore’ (seen in the lower part of the picture).

Take care with digging out the soil – plan to do the work over a few days so you don’t injure yourself, or get some friends to help share the work. Also think about where you want to move the excavated soil to – it can be a surprising amount even from a small hole. Keep back a small amount of soil to use to bury the edges of the liner under at the end.

Step Four: Lining the Pond and Filling it

Place the liner protector over the dug out space and carefully mould it to the shape of the pond as closely as possible. Overlay with the liner and do the same. DO NOT CUT THE LINERS YET!

Fill the pond using tap water; this is recommended as it is less nutrient rich than rain water and will help keep out unwanted growth as the pond establishes.

Take care as the weight of the water allows the liner to make contact with the soil – make sure excess liner is carefully pleated and folded to make good contact with the soil. Keep adjusting as it fills.

Step Five: Trimming the Lining and Finishing off

8 trim liner

Once the pond is filled with water, you can trim and bury the edges. Trim about 30cms from the edge all around the pond. You can secure the liner by placing some of the reserved soil you dug out over the edges. It’s important to shade plastic liners from sunlight and you can use off cuts of the pond liner to cover up where it may be exposed.

Wildlife ponds benefit from a range of materials being placed around and near the pond. We used some paving slabs on one side to provide some shade over the pond and weight to anchor the liner. Don’t use slabs all the way around – they get very hot in the sun and small aquatic fauna entering and exiting the water can die from the heat exposure. We used small rocks and stones around the shallow ‘shore’ edge to create a wetland area, and a habitat pile of cut wood to provide damp, dark environment for toads, frogs and newts. Characterful decayed wood was also used to add interest to the overall effect.

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Step Six: Adding Plants

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Now you can introduce some water plants to the pond. Make sure you choose these carefully, going for native options and ensuring they won’t get too big for the pond resulting in having to clear the pond of overgrown vegetation. Choose plants for differing water depths, but make sure you have at least one oxygenator and that around 70% of the water surface will be covered by vegetation. This prevents too much nitrogen building up causing algal blooms and other unwanted growth.

Step Seven: Trouble shooting

The pond is likely to go a murky green a few days after filling and planting. Don’t panic, it will soon turn clear once everything has settled down. However, even with the best will in the world, it is likely that you will get unwanted visitors such as duck weed or the dreaded blanket weed. Pull out what you can as it arises and try using barley straw – a packet of straw which magically suppresses overgrowth of blanket weed and other algae without upsetting any of your wanted plants and animals.

Damselflies mating

Sit back and enjoy watching the visitors arrive: water boatmen, pond skaters, damselflies, dragonflies, mayflies, caddis flies, water beetles, toads, frogs, newts, and even birds looking for a bath!

For more information, look online, and check out our favourite pond expert: @petethepond

Rosehip Jelly

Rosehips are a wonderfully colourful and cheery sight in the local hedgerows, but they also make excellent jams, jellies and cordials, reputedly high in Vitamin C. Take advantage of this year’s bumper crop and make some tasty jelly to cheer up your frosty mornings.

All rosehips are edible, but make sure you only pick berries from plants you can identify as roses.

Ingredients

500g Rosehips

500ml water (approx)

3 apples (for pectin)

Juice of a lemon

1.5 cups of sugar

Method

  1. Rinse fruit and top and tail, removing any bad berries.
  2. Boil rosehips in enough water to just cover the fruit. Add apples and boil all until soft and mushy.
  3. Pour mixture into a muslin bag and strain overnight.
  4. Return juice to a wide bottomed pan, add lemon juice and bring to the boil.
  5. Add sugar and boil until setting point is reached (jelly ‘wrinkles’ when placed on a cold saucer).
  6. Bottle into sterilized jars and keep in the fridge once opened.

A great homemade Christmas gift!

October’s Top Tips

 

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1. Plant spring cabbage, broad beans, garlic & onions.  And why not try sowing some winter greens if you have a sheltered spot or poly to use. Check out last year’s winter greens trial.

2. Plant bulbs & spring bedding (wallflowers, forget-me-nots)

3. Divide rhubarb crowns (see community noticeboard for some crowns going spare)

4. Clear beds & mulch with compost; put old vegetation into emptied compost bins

5. Trim hedges; cut down tired vegetation; protect ponds from falling leaves with netting