This Sunday, 2nd June…

The usual suspects – courgettes, runner beans, sweet corn – will all be available from outside the polytunnel and can safely go out into plots. Or you could try something less usual; some climbing stripy French beans maybe; a custard white summer squash or a Crown Prince winter squash; some kohl rabi or one of several kinds of stir fry/salad leaves. Now is the time, too, for sowing dwarf French beans, mange tout or sugar snap peas or a row of fennel.

Do you have spare plants or seeds to offer other growers? Providing seeds and plants as part of the GO2 package isn’t just to make growing vegetables possible for people, it’s part of the philosophy behind the project. We buy in bulk, which is cheaper than buying singly, and then try to use all seeds in a packet. This means less waste, a better use of the planet’s resources. However, people sometimes like to start off their own seeds, on a window-sill at home perhaps. Or they pick up a packet of seeds of an interesting vegetable and sow a row on their plots. But then the question is, what to do with the spare seeds or plants? If you have the fag end of a packet of (in-date) seeds, bring them to the big shed for others to use. Or if you’ve grown more dwarf French bean seedlings than you can use – as Sophie who instigated this idea has – put them outside the polytunnel, with a label saying what they are, for others to make use of on their plots.


Working up an appetite for …

There are plenty of jobs to do; building a frame for cucumbers and gerkins alongside the polytunnel, cutting grass, planting up in the polytunnel, turning compost, tidying under the bench in the greenhouse… the list could go on!

… the GO2 Big food sharing Lunch!

We’ll have our version of the Big Lunch at 1pm on this, the first Sunday in June. Bring a dish to share, made from whatever is growing on your plot, or from whatever is in season.

Bridget

GO² Birds

We may not give much thought to birds while working on our plots, except of course to curse the predatory pigeons. But there are many more delightful, and even exciting, birds to look out for from day to day. Magpies and jays provide a great deal of noise but the latter seem to be much more common than formerly giving plenty of opportunities fro admiring their quite exotic plumage.
Starlings have been in decline but it has been good to see them in greater numbers recently. Normally they are to be found in the tree branches or foraging on the ground but the other day large numbers of them were hawking in the sky among the martins and swifts – hardly as graceful, but they seemed to be catching insects successfully. Watch out for a sudden flurry of starlings into the air – it might mean that a predator is about. Last week the cause of such a commotion became clear when a sparrowhawk dashed past.
Many birds are feeding youngsters at the moment, and robins and blackbirds can be quite bold as they fly down to pick up worms almost from under your feet. Nests are not easy to spot but a bluetit is presently raising young in a hole in the apple tree next to the rock garden near the carpark. Who knows what else might be about or might appear overhead if we keep our eyes open.

Charles Lewis

Herbs

People have made use of herbs since the beginning of time for both food and medicine and later on as a preservative for meat and fish. Herbs were regarded so highly they assumed importance in religious rites and festivals and many superstitions grew up around them. Now they are so common that some regard them as weed, especially the invasive mint! Some of you may have noticed that the sinks next to the bike rack are now full of some wonderful aromatic herbs which are ready for anyone to help themselves. If you are unsure as to what is a herb and what isn’t then please consult those on duty and also the books in the Big Shed.

Storage: Dried herbs are best kept in glass containers away from direct sunlight. An airy dark cupboard away from heat is ideal.

Drying: Really easy! Gather a few long stems of your favourite herbs, group them into bunches and tie with string. Hang the bunches upside down in a warm place and let them dry in the air. When they are firm and crispy strip them from the stalks and store in airtight glass containers.

Here is a simple recipe to whet your appetite using common herbs:-

Spiced Herby Potatoes

2 large sweet potatoes or ordinary potatoes
2 tbsp oil
A little salt & pepper
A little paprika / coriander powder
3 tbsp mixed ‘hard’ dried herbs such as sage, rosemary, bayleaves1. Peel the sweet potatoes / potatoes and cut into thick slices.
2. Put the oil into a non-stick baking tray and add the sliced sweet potatoes / potatoes.
3. Mix in the herbs, salt, pepper, paprika & coriander.
4. Bake at gas mark 6 / 200C for approx. 25 minutes.
Juyna

Graphics and layout by

Jim 

What to do on Volunteering Day

Communal activities

Grass cutting, planting in unused areas, grass cutting, weeding, grass cutting, compost bin construction, and did I mention grass cutting?

Vegetable activities

Squashes and courgettes to be planted on your plots. Remember that they are big plants so need lots of space. We have lettuces and other salad plants to fill in the gaps. And climbing beans, komatsuma, heritage kale (Theyer) and much more.

And seeds to be sown, such as chard, beetroot, carrot, radish, dwarf beans……..
If you have planted or are going to plant sweetcorn, green manure seeds can be sown in the gaps between the corn to help prevent weed growth.


Fruit activities

Check gooseberry leaves for sawfly caterpillars. They are a similar shade of green to gooseberry leaves, and tend to cling on to the underside of the higher leaves, eating their way from the edge to the centre.

They have voracious appetites, so plants will need to be examined every few days. Collect the caterpillars and take them several yards away from bushes. The soil around fruit trees and bushes can be mulched with cut grass and weeds to retain moisture.
Strawberry plants benefit from having straw placed under their leaves. This prevents the fruit from touching the mud, and helps to reflect heat back from the sun.


Historical find in the compost heap!

This is what Natasha found while sieving compost!Click to see bigger image
Peter Robins, at Norwich Castle Museum, identified it as a flint knife, long, narrow secondary flake with shallow retouch along much of the right edge and signs of use wear on the left edge. Probably Early Neolithic, 4,000-3,000 BC.

Worth a Visit

Audley End has a wonderful organic walled fruit and vegetable garden. It is accessible by public transport, the village being on the train line between Cambridge and Stansted Airport. Visit www.english-heritage.org.uk for details

Clive,

with graphics and other exciting bits from Jim

Jane says …

Here’s a fab recipe to add to the seasonal collection – Spanakopita, which is a Greek spinach and feta cheese pie

23rd May 2013

An invasion of red

Have you found little reddish purple seedlings on your plot and wondered if they were weeds or something more useful? They could be from wind-blown seeds of red orach, a handsome annual plant with edible leaves and flower buds. It grows to about a metre high but, because it isn’t bushy, doesn’t take up too much room or need staking. When young the leaves are very tasty in salads and later can be cooked like spinach.
To keep the plant producing new leaves the flower buds should be picked; they’re delicious steamed. Then, if one stem is left to flower and produce seeds, there will be a new supply of seedlings the following year. If you don’t have seedlings, I’ll pot up some from my plot and leave them outside the polytunnel for anyone to take. Look out, too, for self-sown borage seedlings; the blue flower heads have a cucumber flavour and look wonderful scattered over salad leaves.
There are plenty of seeds and plants available for colour and interest on plots. Ask in the big shed for seeds for nasturtiums; the leaves and flowers are a peppery addition to a salad. Or for sunflowers with their stately flower heads and, once ripened, seeds for humans and hamsters.
There will also be also flower plants available; cosmos, French marigolds and sweet rocket. Sweet rocket will produce flowers in shades of blue and mauve with a fragrance as sweet as a violet, which accounts for one of its other names, damask violet.


What to plant now

Kale seedlings - click for info

There are plenty of plants ready to go out. On the bench outside the polytunnel are several different types of kale for autumn picking. Peter and Helene have planted a row of each in the plot opposite the greenhouse so, if you’re not sure about how to space the plants or how to protect them from pigeons, take a look.
It continues to be cold with a risk of frost so some might say it’s foolhardy to plant out courgettes and squashes. However, as the first plants are outgrowing their pots in the polytunnel, brave souls are needed to take the plunge. They could be rewarded with extra early courgettes.

Start with one, at most two plants; there will be more available over the next two or three weeks. Dig a sizeable hole and work a spadeful of manure or compost into the bottom of it. Some people plant courgettes in a slight dip, others on a mound, still others on a mound with a slight dip in it like a doughnut. Take your pick! Water the plant well and, for the first week or so while it gets established, think about protecting it with fleece, a large cut down water bottle or similar.
Parsley, sweetcorn, calabrese and various salads are also available as plants. For a list of which seeds can be sown in May, look at the grower’s guide on the website (click here)


Volunteers needed

As always, there are jobs to be done. The beds round the polytunnel will be planted with cucumbers, physalis and fat baby (achocha) in a week or two. The beds need digging over and a frame to support the trailing plants built. Grass cutting, compost turning and weeding are perennial jobs for anyone with an hour to spend. Come to the big shed for seeds, advice or to offer help with one of the tasks.


Finally..

Are there any (older) gardeners wanting to be on television? Channel 4 is to open the first job agency for OAPs. The production company Plum Pictures say that ‘we are currently casting for a new Channel 4 television series which will be presented by Mary Portas and we are looking for retired people to take part. We want to bring together a group of talented retired people who can use their skills for the benefit of their community.’


Bridget

Layout and graphics by Jim

Here is the NEW SLI Office

Sustainable Living Initiative
Fourways Community Centre
Stevenson Road
Norwich NR5 8TN.
Tel: 01603 920147
Mob: 07969996646

click for map Fourways Community Centre – click for map

 

Work has started at Marlpit Community Garden!

Plots will be available as soon as the construction work is complete.
Several volunteers have been planting trees, and very soon (Wednesday 15th May 2013) the plough starts!
Please see the MCG webpage for plans, a gallery, maps and travel information.

Thanks

Thanks to everyone who has helped over the last few weeks, including Lesley, Charles, Juyna, Jane, Jane, Jane, Christine, Mandy, Natasha, Max, Jose, Tessa, Maria (fab beetroot cake!) and many others


What to do

The grass on paths and other communal areas will need cutting regularly. The clippings add valuable nitrogen to the compost heap, and can be used as a mulch around fruit bushes and trees. And we do need more people to help out on Sunday mornings by being around to assist other growers, water in the greenhouse, provide a welcoming atmosphere………..Either I or Bridget will be around to support you and to let you know what is going on. It’s a great way to learn new skills and to become more engaged with the project and with people. Almost all of our plots are now being used, so If we have more growers actively involved we can be an even more amazing project!


Heritage seeds – Jane Chittenden says…

Here’s a pic of Prew’s Special pea seedlings, sown exactly a week ago.
The quality of these heritage seeds is exceptional: every single one of the twenty seeds has germinated (I’ve got some French beans in the same tray) and they are all growing vigorously. I’ll keep them indoors in the tray for another week, then aim to plant them out when they are nice and bushy. Normally I would sow peas directly into the ground at this time of year, but these are so precious that I want to be sure I don’t lose any. Looking forward to trying these peas later in the season – they are allegedly descended from peas found in Tutankhamun’s tomb!
(Meanwhile I’ve also sown all sorts of exciting beans and some purple peas too – wonder if they will have purple shoots?)


What to put in the ground

Most seeds will be able to germinate now that the soil has warmed, so beetroot, chard, radish and carrot, are just a few that will be available from the big shed on Wednesday and Sunday mornings. And it is not too late to plant potatoes; there are lots of Lady Balfour and Orla available. Those grass clippings can also be placed around emerging potato shoots, to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weed growth and provide nutrients. There are also some brussels sprouts and broccoli plants, and there will be more lettuces, salad leaves and kale soon. Have you tried summer savory? It is an annual herb that can be used with broad beans or peas instead of mint. Culpepper said that it “quickens the dull spirits in the lethargy”. We have some available.


Frost

I have known overnight frosts to occur at Bluebell Road as late as 23rd May. So we do recommend that tender plants, such as courgettes, squashes, french beans and runner beans are not put outside until we can be sure that there will be no more frosts for this season. I will keep looking at the weather forecast, and I might start sowing some french beans outside in about 10 days time.


Top tips for watering

When making a drill for sowing seeds, or a hole for planting a seedling, fill it with water first. This encourages roots to search downwards for moisture, and leads to healthier roots development
Watering occasionally and thoroughly is better than little and often.
Try to water early in the morning or in the evening, and not in the middle of the day. This reduces evaporation and is less traumatic for your plants.


Toilet

Accidents do happen, and we are replacing (at a cost of £30) the cover on the toilet seat which was broken recently. Please let us know when these sorts of events occur so that we can keep the site safe.


Clive,

 with graphics and other exciting bits from Jim

What’s happening on Sunday

If you haven’t done your stint in helping out yet and have a hour to spare, come along to the big hut. There are many jobs to be done, including:

  •  pricking out lettuces and sunflowers
  •  potting-on courgettes and squashes
  •  weeding and planting in the polytunnel
  •  planting up a salad bed opposite the greenhouse.

Don’t forget that, as it’s the first Sunday of the month, there will be a food-sharing lunch, starting at 1pm.


Availability of plants

The plants ready to go out will normally be put on the benches either side of the door of the polytunnel. This week there are plenty of salad leaves, several kinds of brassica and a few beetroot. No courgette, squash, runner or climbing French beans yet. These are all tender plants and need to wait until the end of May before going out when, fingers crossed, there should be no more frosts.

Try a ‘catch crop’ of lettuces, spicy mustard frills or mizuna.
If you plant a few of these in and around where you’re planning to grow courgettes or squashes, in a few weeks you should get a crop to pick well before the larger plants take over.

Plan and plant a three-stage brassica patch
First, for late summer and early autumn eating, there are romanesco, calabrese and purple-sprouting broccoli plants ready to go in now. These should come into their own at the point when courgettes and beans are beginning to fade.

Second, the Brussel sprout and red cabbage plants are also ready. These need a longer growing period, cropping, perhaps, in time for Christmas lunch or soon after.

Finally, leave room for a couple of different kinds of kale and some late purple-sprouting broccoli, a variety that will crop next spring. We’ve just sown these in the greenhouse so the plants should be ready for planting out in a couple of weeks. All brassica need protecting from pigeons. There should be plenty of sticks and netting near to the white shed.


A message from Sharon Copple,

secretary of the The Bluebell Allotment Association.

‘We would like to invite children to come and make a scarecrow at the Scarecrow Workshop on Saturday 25th May at St Anne’s Church Hall at 10am until 12 noon.

We will be able to provide lots of the equipment, paint, pens, glue etc but, to make sure they can make the head and body, we ask that they bring something along. We would also like the children to be accompanied by an adult. To secure a place, please call me on 07768185730 or contact one of the trading hut team by 11th May.

If you don’t have any children we would be very grateful if you could donate any clothes, hats or equipment which could be used to make their scarecrows.’


Bridget

Graphics by Jim