Volunteering Sunday 29th July 2012


Potato blight
The recent warm and moist weather conditions have led to an outbreak of this fungus-like organism – Phytophthora infestans. Please follow this link for detailed information. Please bring your own plastic bags so that you can deposit discarded plant matter in them and remove from the site.


Volunteering tasks
We particularly need help this Sunday to clear the bathtubs in the children’s area (under the Beauty of Bath apple tree) that have become overgrown. Once clear, the tubs can be planted with lettuce and basil and sown with French beans or carrots for a late crop. And watered. So, if there are any young children (and parents) still in Norwich and in need of a morning’s activity, then come along and help – my grandchildren, Athol (5) and Morven (3), have already (been) volunteered. We have a selection of small tools, wheelbarrows and watering cans. Breaks for drinks and a snack and lunch later are a possibility.
Other volunteering jobs include the always necessary grass-cutting along paths, weeding the lower compost pile, tidying the stacks of plant pots and trays by the white shed, and much more.


Growing advice
This Sunday Mahesh will be around to answer any of your fruit and vegetable growing questions. The next structured gardening workshop will take place on the first Sunday of September.


New project at Marlpit
Norwich City Council’s planning committee unanimously approved our application on May 17, 2012.  We hope to start the site development work soon and make the plots available to local individuals, families and community groups from September 2012. We will update you on the progress of our work. You can also check out what is happening here, on this website.


Bridget & Clive

Are slugs and snails stressing you out?

The unusually wet conditions experienced in the last three months have led to an estimated doubling or even trebling of Britain’s population of slugs and snails.  Disturbingly for growers, the most prolific of the slugs are two invasive Spanish species, Arion vulgaris and Arion flagellu. These slugs are larger and lay around 10 times more eggs than Britain’s native slugs, producing hundreds of offspring at a time.  Hopefully the six inch long slug found in Devon recently won’t make it as far east as Norwich, at least not this year.

What to do?

The following can help to reduce (but not eliminate) the risk of damage to crops:

  • Clear weeds and vegetation from near your plot, to reduce hiding places for these creatures that move around mainly at night
  • Wait for dryer weather conditions to return before sowing more seeds or replacing damaged plants.
  • The larger and more healthy seedlings are before being transplanted the more likely it is that they will survive
  • Use barriers such as slug tape (made from copper)
  • Pray for sun

Please see an example of a large red slug (arion rufus) below.  Apparently these are not especially damaging to seedlings, preferring to graze on decaying plant matter.


Plant and seeds to go

Bearing in mind the comments above, Juyna and Jane C will be around in and around the big shed on Sunday to help you decide what to grow, now that some early vegetables, such as broad beans, are finishing.


Composting issues

We are gradually moving away from using individual bins to having a larger-scale community composting facility, and several areas where plant waste can be stored and covered.  We think that this will provide a more efficient composting process, and will reinforce the communal aspect of our project. If you bring your plant material to the community composting facility near the entrance, please help Laurie our composter by following the instructions.  That is, separate green, brown and couch grass materials into the different bays provided, and chop up the plants into small pieces.  We are looking for someone to help Laurie with composting on a regular basis, so please let me or Bridget know if you are interested.


Clive

Salad days …

It’s not too late sow seeds. As well as crops for autumn eating – beetroot, carrots and turnips can still go in – there are plenty of salad leaves which will add interest and variety to late summer meals. Sow rows of mixed oriental salad leaves, cut-and-come-again lettuce, fennel, Swiss chard or spinach.

Pick some of the young leaves as soon as they are big enough to handle, leaving the rest of the plants to grow on.

Then forage for some nasturtium leaves (they give a peppery kick) and a couple of their red and orange flowers.

Add these, together with the spiky petals of a pot marigold flower and blue petals of borage (which taste of cucumber), to the mix of leaves for a salad with enough colour, texture and taste to cheer you while you watch the rain fall.




Potato blight

This perpetual wet weather means that, despite our seed potatoes being resistant to blight, we’re unlikely to escape it completely.
Look out for the tops of your potatoes developing brown patches on their leaves and dying back quickly.  If this happens, cut away all the foliage. Bag the diseased foliage and take it either to the municipal tip where the heat of composting destroys the spores that cause the infection or home to your landfill bin.
The potatoes will be quite safe to eat though, as they’re less likely to keep, it’s a good idea to lift and start using them sooner rather than later.

For more information see earlier newsletters


Bridget

Harvesting

At last, after the cold, wet spring, the allotments seem to be flourishing.  Broad beans are getting to the end of a prolific season but there are mangetout, sugar snap peas, lettuce, beetroot and courgettes to take their place. Strawberries are everywhere, in plots and on paths; even the slugs can’t keep up.  The first raspberries, the first flowers on runner beans, the first courgette turning into a marrow; it’s all beginning to happen.  If you haven’t been to your plot for a while, go this weekend, you might find a few strawberries hidden in the undergrowth and even spindly looking broad bean plants are producing a few pods.


Planting


There are plants – lettuce, brassica and pak choi – in the polytunnel and seeds – turnips, swede and beetroot – in the hut for the spaces left when you pull a lettuce, lift onions or dig the first new potatoes.


Holidays

It’s getting to the time when people are setting off on holiday. If you have crops which, despite all your plans, are going to crop while you’re away, don’t let them go to waste. Ask your allotment neighbours or friends but if they can’t use them let us know, in person or by email at bluebell@grow-our-own.co.uk.   We’ll make sure the produce is used, by our regular volunteers or for jams and chutneys to sell on open day in September.


Bridget

If you are growing potatoes, there is a question which you may be asking …
What is potato blight?

This leaflet from the Potato Council answers the question and has a link to their website with a wealth of helpful tips.