Tag Archives: organic gardening

Review: No Dig Gardening Talk by Joshua the Gardener

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:  bhogg.org@gmail.com.

Review by Ruth.

How to grow…. potatoes

Traditionally, potatoes were planted on Good Friday.  This, of course, is not a set date, but moves around the calendar by up to a month.  I suspect it may have had more to do with Good Friday being a long standing common law holiday than it did with weather conditions, but links to the moon and gardening have always been exploited, so perhaps Good Friday signals an auspicious lunar time slot.

Whatever the reason, I find it a useful reminder of when to plant and I try to sow my potatoes around that date (and try to coincide with a mild spell followed by rain – potatoes are frost-sensitive).  I have sown both my early and main crop potatoes, but if you haven’t done so yet and if you’re new to growing, click on the video below.

 

Article and video by Jenni – BHOGG Chairperson

Winter at the allotment

Things have been pretty quiet on the allotment over the winter.  Still some hardy souls come along regularly enjoy the peace and tranquillity at the site. And we were treated with some spectacular scenes with the snow.

A gale-force rainy day compelled us to relocate our annual outdoor Winter Solstice celebration to the warmth and comfort of Alan’s house.  Mulled wine was sipped, delicious soup and cakes were consumed and carols were sung while the rain pelted the window.

CakeXmas

Now spring is here we are looking forward to the regular Sunday sessions 11-1pm at the Weald Allotment site.  For more details about how to get there click here.

 

Growing, Gluts and Generosity

Kate Harrison’s talk on Growing, Gluts and Generosity posed some interesting questions around what we as gardeners can do to take responsibility for our own food production. We discussed sowing less, sowing successively, thinning out more boldly, choosing varieties with longer harvest seasons, or growing multiple varieties to stagger production. But despite these ideas, we will still be likely to have gluts during the year. Solutions to this could be inventive recipes, food fermentation (see Kate’s fermenting article from last month), gifting to friends & family or even composting.

There were some shocking figures around food waste, yet 8.4 million people in the UK struggle to afford a meal (source: Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations).

Fareshare, Food waste in the UK statistics, WRAP

Fortunately, many charities and organisations are working to ensure that the food waste meets the needs of those most vulnerable people struggling to afford to eat. FareShare (a national organisation) manages just 4% of the edible surplus food available, distributing food donated by supermarkets and food producers to frontline charities and community groups. Last year they provided enough food for nearly 25.8 million meals!

How FareShare Works

FareShare Sussex Impact

FareShare Sussex is based in Fairway Business Centre, Westergate Road in Moulsecoomb and is very happy to receive food donations from individuals.  This means for those months when you’re grown too much there is another option: you can bag it up and drop it off to the warehouse where volunteers and staff will be genuinely glad to see you.  Our community allotment volunteers delivered over a ton of apples to Fareshare in 2017.

To ensure your surplus stock is put to the best possible use, please contact:

Rachel Carless, FareShare Sussex Development Manager
Email: rachel@faresharesussex.org.uk
Tel: 01273 671 111

Review by Jenni, and special thanks to Kate Harrison for use of her FareShare slides.

No dig gardening talk with Joshua the Gardener. March 8th

No dig gardening, talk by Joshua the Gardener, March 8th, 730-9pm.  Phoenix Community Centre.  Free to Bhogg members, non-members £5

Joshua the gardener was very popular at Seedy Sunday, with a huge line of people waiting to ask him questions after his talk.  We are delighted to have him come talk to us at the Phoenix Community centre in a few weeks.

His talk is based around growing vegetables without the need to cultivate the soil so, no digging, forking or tilling. The no dig gardening method was made popular by Charles Dowding and having featured on gardeners world a few weeks back it is going through a rapid rise in popularity.  It’s a process of adding organic matter in layers and growing almost immediately. Healthier plants, healthier soil and bigger yields.

The talk covers all aspects of how to get started, sowing and harvesting as well as design points. The talk currently is around 60 minutes with plenty of time for Q&A at the end.

 

 

Fermenting vegetables with Kate Harrison

Why ferment vegetables?

I began my journey with fermenting because I wanted another way to preserve the glut of vegetables coming from my plot in the late Summer and early Autumn. I’d already been making jams, pickles and chutneys, and I wanted to try something new.

Fermenting vegetables is also known as ‘lacto-fermentation’, because it uses lactobacillus bacteria. These bacteria are an example of the ‘good bacteria’ we hear so much about; they are good for your digestion and your gut health. They also help to preserve the good nutrients in your vegetables, such as Vitamin C, and break down some of the carbohydrates and proteins in food, making them easier to digest and absorb. Lactobacillus bacteria thrive in wet and salty conditions – the brine of your fermentation. They produce lactic acid, which is what gives all lacto-fermented foods that tangy sour fresh taste I find so delicious.

How to ferment vegetables?

Before trying my first fermentation, I went to a workshop run by Darren Ollerton of Alchemy Flow. In this workshop I discovered it was so easy, that I started my first ferment the next day. Darren is a fantastic educator and a great advocate for fermentation, and I recommend his website, his delicious products and his workshop. However, you do not need special training to make simple ferments like sauerkraut described below. It’s also much quicker than standing over a pan of bubbling chutney for hours on end – and the end result is sugar-free and more nutritious. Once you’ve tried this, you too will realise how simple it is, and you’ll start experimenting too!

Making sauerkraut

In its most basic form, sauerkraut is simply white cabbage, lacto-fermented with salt. Look for salt that has no added iodine, as it can interfere with the fermentation process. The lactobacillus bacteria is naturally present on the leaves of all vegetables – you are simply creating the salty conditions which encourage this good bacteria to grow, and which inhibits the growth of bad bacteria.

Use 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt for one medium cabbage (about 2 kg). This is not a precise art, and you can taste it to check it’s not horribly salty. I always like to add some caraway seeds to enhance the taste, about one tablespoon per medium cabbage. Once you understand the basic principle, you can start to add other spices and ingredients such as layering it with chard leaves or beetroot tops, adding garlic or spring onion.

Finely shred the cabbage, and put it in a container with lots of space to get your hands in. I use a clean washing up bowl.

Sprinkle the salt onto the cabbage, and stir and massage it in with your hands. Leave it for a while – between 20 minutes to an hour. You’ll find the salt is drawing the liquid out of the cabbage, creating a brine. Keep massaging the cabbage and moving it around, so all the cabbage has contact with the salty solution.

Sprinkle the caraway seeds onto the cabbage and stir and massage again to mix thoroughly.

Get a large jar, or a couple of medium sized ones, and firmly pack the cabbage into the jar. If the jar is big enough, you can get your hand in to really push the cabbage down, packing it tightly so there are very few gaps. You could also use a spoon or a pestle to do this.  The cabbage should be sitting in its salty brine. If you don’t have enough brine, you can always add a 5% salt solution to top it up.

Weight the cabbage down so all is submerged. I use a smaller jar filled with water as a weighting device. You can also use a clean plastic bag filled with 5% brine (in case it leaks), packed into the neck of the jar.

Cover with a clean tea towel or muslin and leave at room temperature for several days. How long is up to you, and the temperature in the room. It could be ready in four days, or you could leave it for two weeks or more. The longer you leave it, the sourer it becomes – so taste it occasionally to check.  Refrigerating the ferment slows the process down dramatically, so once you have the taste you like, keep it in the fridge.

Enjoy it as a pickle on the side of your plate, as an accompaniment to sausage and mash, in soups or sandwiches – experiment!

Once you understand the technique, you can try other things –  red cabbage sauerkraut, fermented runner beans and kimchi.

Troubleshooting

I promise you, making sauerkraut is easy! Here’s a few things to remember to prevent problems:

  • Keep hands, utensils and jars clean. No need for sterile jars, but wash with hot soapy water and rinse well
  • Not too much salt – this inhibits the fermentation process and tastes rubbish. If your mix tastes too salty, you could add a bit of water before starting the fermentation
  • Not too little salt – this will mean the cabbage will rot instead of fermenting. You’ll know by the smell, and the mould. If your cabbage looks mouldy, or you have any doubts about it, throw it away and start again. Rinse before adding to your compost bin, to remove the salt.
  • Be aware that fermentation creates a gas, carbon dioxide. This gas needs to escape during fermentation, so do not put a tight lid on your jar, or it may explode. It’s OK to use a lid once you’ve put your ferment in the fridge.

Find out more

Sauerkraut is just the beginning! Look online and you’ll find recipes for all sorts of vegetable ferments. You can also learn about kefir (fermented milk) and kombucha (fermented tea).

If you want to read more, in my opinion Sandor Katz is the best author on the topic: “Wild Fermentation” is the classic.

Kate Harrison is a BHOGG member and has gardened on the Weald allotment for 17 years. She is a member of the FareShare Sussex steering committee and is passionate about reducing food waste and helping more people eat healthy and nutritious food.

 

Seedy Sunday one week to go!

There is a wonderful line-up of speakers, with a great range of talks including practical gardening advice from Joshua the Gardener and Pennard Plants, to a panel discussion about policy and legislation around selling seeds. The full speaker programme is available here.

There is also a fantastic range of exhibitors and stall holders this year: Along with familiar favourites, we are welcoming some newcomers, such as the Old Tree Brewery, Native Hands, FareShare Sussex and the Woodland Trust.

There’ll be some great children’s activities, including making vegetable print bunting, decorating seed envelopes, and the chance to have a go on a flour grinding bicyle!


Click here for the full Seedy Sunday 2018 Programme telling you what’s on and where. Paper copies will also be available at the event.

Seedy Sunday will also be hosting the BBC’s Gardeners’ Question Time again, with a panel of the best brains in horticulture: Eric Robson, James Wong, Bob Flowerdew and Anne Swithinbank. Tickets are available to Seedy Sunday visitors from 10.30am on the day – first come, first served.  The price will be £4 to cover the cost of hiring the main hall at BHASVIC; this is in addition to the £3 Seedy Sunday entrance fee.  Recording will start at 3.30pm.
Seedy Sunday is February 4th, and runs from 10.30 to 4pm. It’s at BHASVIC, 205 Dyke Road, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 6EG.  See the map here.  Please note there is NO parking for the public on site.   Visit www.seedysunday.org for information on public transport.

Phoenix Urban Gardening events

 

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

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.

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.