A lot of great things have been happening at our Organic Community Allotment this spring. A group of seventeen staff members from INTO marketing department joined us on April 4th, as a day for working in the Community and for Team-building. The photos show some of their hard work that has helped transform the newest of our three allotments.
Every year, INTO helps thousands of young people from around the world to study at a leading university working together with university partners, providing specialist degrees and pathway programmes.
If you would like to get involved come along on Sundays (11am – 1pm). Efforts are rewarded with a share of whatever produce is available and this allotment is very productive. Come and visit!
Scientists at the University of Sussex are looking for growers in Brighton & Hove to help them learn more about food grown across the city.
Approximately one fifth of the world’s food is grown in urban areas, yet we know surprisingly little about how it is produced. That’s why citizen-science project, Team PollinATE, is working with growers in Brighton & Hove to collect data on which insects pollinate crops in urban areas, how much food small city growing spaces such as gardens and allotments can provide, and the most common pest control methods used by urban growers. The project has also partnered with scientists in India, who are working with urban growers in Kolkata to collect similar data and give a global view of urban food production.
The project launched in April last year, and already volunteers have collected lots of useful data. After attending a workshop on pollinator identification, throughout the summer of 2017 volunteers conducted quick pollinator counts in their growing spaces (surveying over 17, 000 flowers in total, and spotting 850 insects!), as well as keeping a diary of any pest control methods used. To help us quantify how much food people are producing across the city, some volunteers kept a record of the food they harvested, and by using our handy ‘Garden Shop Calculator’ could find out how much their produce was worth- on average volunteers grew an impressive £425 worth of food last year, with some volunteers ‘saving’ up to £900 by growing their own.
This year the project is open to anyone who grows their own food, be that in an allotment, garden, window box or community growing space. So, if you’d like to learn how to identify bees and other pollinators, why not visit our website and register yourself as a volunteer or come along to our next pollinator workshop at the BHOGG plot (11-1pm, Weald Allotments- all welcome!). You’ll receive a pack with more information on how to participate and monthly updates on the findings.
We had an excellent illustrated talk by Joshua on 8th March at the Phoenix Community Centre. Joshua was inspired to develop his raised bed veggie garden for his son with Down’s syndrome. The soil was covered with cardboard, straw, manure, compost in a 2” deep layer, replenished every year, growing fab veg. Worms and micro-organisms do hate to be disturbed; mulching with whatever is available is great for soil structure, preventing weeds, evaporation and keeping roots happy.
If anyone would like to take on the challenge of testing out their own ‘no-dig’ system, we’d be really interested in hearing about your experience. We’d especially be keen to have a mini write up and pictures documenting your trial. Let us know by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 .
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
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.
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.
Our friends Finca Slow produce amazing olive oil from their heritage organic trees, which were bought as part of a derelive grove and are being renovated under permaculture principles.
Sue, a member of Brighton and Hove Organic Gardening Group who went to stay at the grove, says “The olive oil is superb, especially the one from the heritage trees. This is because they pick some olives green, when the taste is great but there is less oil, and blend it with those picked fully ripe when the taste is less good but they produce more oil…I’ve given some of these heritage packs for Christmas presents and they’ve gone down really well!”
Finca Slow are visiting Brighton at the moment and are hoping to establish us as a bit of a hub, so if you’re interested in buying delicious, sustainably produced olive oil as a gift – even for yourself! – please contact us.
Did you know that 15 – 21 November is Brighton Time to Act week?
Our friends over at Brighton CAN (Climate Action Network) are organising an amazing line up of events, including a special climate change -themed Allotment Sunday with us on the 22nd November between 11am and 1pm.
The network campaigns for divestment from polluting industries, the creation of a million climate jobs, against fracking and the continued burning of fossil fuels, and for the expansion of renewable energy, energy conservation, cheap and environmentally clean public transport, and a better and safer urban environment for cyclists and walkers.
We hope to see you on the 22nd… if you want to find out more about the events or the Climate Action Network, pop along to their information stall at the Jubilee Library from 12 – 18 November, or visit their website to find out where you can watch a film, make a flag, enjoy a pint or even cycle to Paris!