Allotment News – November 2020

Still much to do
There is a feeling at this time of the year that everything is finished on the allotment. The last tomatoes have been picked and any green ones are now ripening on a windowsill. The bean frames are leaning over at an alarming angle and any pods that have clung on are turning brown. The flowers that once grew amongst our veg have either faded or are, like the condemned man, awaiting the first frost. It can seem like gloom and doom arrives with the month of November. The poet Thomas Hood had this feeling when he wrote:

No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, –
November!

But I’m having none of that. If we look around us there is still so much to be done and, more importantly, so much that the allotment can give us in return.

We are currently using the empty beds to store winter hardy plants for next spring’s bedding – Wallflowers, Sweet Williams, Foxgloves and Marigolds. The green manure that we sowed as we lifted our potatoes and onions has grown vigorously and now gives our soil a warm blanket of green that will be dug in as the winter progresses. The compost we have nurtured all summer will be spread over the soil that is bare and any crops we still have in the ground like leeks and parsnips will be harvested with extra relish in the dark months ahead.

Alan Jenkins in his wonderful book Plot 29 says that he visits his allotment as to an elderly relative and is dutiful, loyal. I think of it as a friend who still needs me when the winter sun is low. The truth, of course, is that it is me who has the need – to nurture, to walk through memories. To grow.

Maintenance
As you will be aware if you have visited the allotments over the past year, the plots are in a good state of repair. They have been well tended, pathways have been mown and lots of produce has been grown. And how lovely to see so many flowers being cultivated amongst all that fruit and veg. However, there will be some basic maintenance tasks to carry out over the winter, including covering plots for new owners to take on in the new year. We are also keen to tidy up the area by the Watery Lane entrance so that it does not become a dumping ground but a space where manure or compost could be delivered. We are also keen to carry out some work on the large shed by the orchard, improving storage and strengthening the structure. If you are able to assist in any of these tasks we would love to hear from you and will be publishing details of when we will be starting work in the coming months.

Our thanks goes to all those people who have helped with the upkeep of the allotments over the past year, whether that be giving of time and labour so generously or donating equipment for general use. Your support is appreciated.

The Orchard
Our fruit trees have grown really well this year and the area we planted up just two years ago is beginning to look like a real orchard. I would like to think that this time next year we will be picking fruit and asking you to share in our bounty. Basic tree maintenance will continue in the winter and early spring.

Wildlife
Dave Musson has been keeping readers of the Prattler fully informed of developments in the wildlife area with his monthly articles, so suffice to say that the bio diversity that he and Mark and Mary Newstead have helped create in that area has enhanced what we on the allotments do, day in, day out. That is something we all benefit from.

Equipment
A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish langrish_heyford@hotmail.com (01327 341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
If you are considering growing your own fruit and veg, act quickly by contacting Lynda Eales on 01327 341707. We have a few vacant plots but at least five local residents who are keen to begin allotmenting. Rent night will be held in January – more details in the next edition of the Prattler. It is hoped that by then we can reallocate vacant plots so that everyone is able to benefit from this wonderful village resource.

Mike Langrish 

Allotment News – October 2020

Continuing a legacy
It was with great sadness that we learnt of Sue Corner’s untimely death at the end of September.

Allotmenteers will recall that her illness was the reason we contacted them in the middle of last month to convene an emergency meeting to discuss the allotments. Sue and her husband Bill have, over the last few years, done so much to help regenerate the allotments and create our community orchard, jam patch, flower bed and wildlife area. We did not want that legacy to be jeopardised. The response from plot holders was most encouraging and offers of help, to particularly keep up the maintenance work carried out by Bill, were plentiful. Sadly Sue’s illness progressed much faster than anticipated hence this sad news.

Sue wanted the allotments (and the village – through the development of the Neighbourhood Plan) to develop and grow sustainably. I’d like to think that we will continue that work. And what a fitting tribute for a very special lady.

Covid continued …
I have been determined to avoid that subject in these articles but a piece I read in my morning newspaper has prompted me to sing again the virtues of growing your own fruit and veg and getting outside in the fresh air – whatever the weather. “Bundle up and embrace an alfresco winter” ran the headline. So I reckon that creating a safe space between people, coupled with all that fresh air and exercise is achieved pretty well on an allotment. Added to which you get exercise and grow stuff to eat. If you bring something warm to wrap up in, along with a hearty snack and warm drink, we even have a welcoming outdoor seating area – where you can of course socially distance. What is there not to like?

Autumn
As the growing season comes to an end next spring and summer seem to stretch far into the distance. There is however, still much to do. Preparation of ground and basic maintenance makes work in the new growing year so much easier. How about building a couple of compost bins and putting all that green waste we create to good use. It always strikes me that whilst it is good to see recycling of green waste in the council bins, how much more productive to use that to build up the fertility of our own soil. There is lots of guidance on how to successfully compost your waste. Readers of the Prattler may recall that several years ago we actually ran a series of articles on this very subject. They are all still available.

In addition there are crops that can be grown throughout the winter, often without too much protection. I’ll go into more detail on that subject in next month’s article.

Finally, and of particular importance to those who think that they couldn’t/can’t manage a whole allotment don’t despair. A number of plot holders have rationalised their holding and covered some areas with plastic sheeting or a landscape fabric, cultivating just what they can manage at the moment. When they are ready to extend their growing again they will have clean areas of soil to work. Alternatively, a number of plot holders have turned part of their plots over to flowers. Dahlias grow well on the allotments and have looked quite stunning this year. Other perennial plants like lavender, rosemary or sage don’t mind a bit of neglect, come back every year and smother weed. We have even created a rhubarb hedge on the community jam patch. It just looks after itself and gives an abundant crop every year.

Equipment
A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish langrish_heyford@hotmail.com (01327 341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
If you are considering growing your own fruit and veg, act quickly by contacting Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

Mike Langrish 

Allotment News – September 2020

Community Use
It has been so good to welcome villagers to the allotments. They are often residents who have never visited the site or who came along when it was an overgrown wilderness. Their comments and general surprise at how productive and attractive the allotments look have been most encouraging. One long standing resident of Heyford said to me the other day: “Last time I came here it was a jungle and all a bit depressing really. Now look at it! The allotment holders must be very proud of what has happened”.

The sharing barrow in the community picnic area has been used by allotmenteers to off-load excess produce (particularly courgette’s). It is good to share and exchange what would otherwise be wasted. Even more encouraging, has been the increasing number of allotmenteers and villagers who have taken the opportunity to cut some of the beautiful flowers on offer. Virtually all of these flowering plants originated from donations, so many thanks if you were able to give us something earlier in the year. When you come to tidy up your seed box in the winter or begin dividing plants, do spare us a thought. Those items could be the basis of next year’s bounty.

If you are picking flowers, try to use a pair of scissors or snips and, if time allows, give the plants a drink, using the watering cans we have left out in that area. A water cistern can be found nearby.

Soft fruit in our community fruit patch has been better than we anticipated, particularly as the bushes and canes were only cast-offs and did not look too promising when we planted them during the winter. Do feel free to pick fruit from this area if it looks ripe. We know for a fact that many villagers have already used this resource to make jam, fill a freezer box or even produce gin!

Allotments are cool?
We recently dug up the early potatoes on our own allotment, enlisting the help of our grandchildren. There is something quite magical about a child’s face when they unearth a large clutch of potatoes from the soil. For them it must be like finding buried treasure. As we finished and surveyed our haul, Nick, our eldest grandchild said: “You know grandad, allotments are really cool aren’t they?” I gave him a hug, there and then.

People used to have this stereotypical view that allotments were the preserve of old men in tweed jackets and flat caps. Those wise souls of more mature years are still a vital part of the growing community, but as Nick so wisely noted, allotments are “cool” and have attracted a far wider group of people. This has become so obvious in Nether Heyford, for our allotments are now tended by people of all ages and from all sorts of backgrounds. They have all discovered the joy of growing their own fruit, veg and flowers and long may it continue. Perhaps, as I approach another big birthday, I may even need dig out my tweeds and flat cap!

Weather
Despite the ridiculously hot weather we’ve experienced during much of the summer, the crops on the allotment have held up well – due in no small part to all the watering that allotment holders have done. However, we have found that cropping has advanced, in many cases by as much as a month. We are already picking autumn fruiting raspberries from our own allotment and sweetcorn is in danger of “going-over” if we don’t get a move on! I suspect that is a trend all gardeners will have to come to terms with as our planet warms.

Fruit Trees
A recent inspection and some routine maintenance of the fruit trees in our community orchard has revealed that all the trees, planted just eighteen months ago, are thriving. Earlier infestations by aphids have all but disappeared – largely due to the increasing number of predators like ladybirds and wasps. The excessive use of pesticide just isn’t necessary if you wait for nature to take its course. New growth on the trees is strong and they are beginning to take on that classical shape which should herald good harvests in the coming years.

Equipment
A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish langrish_heyford@hotmail.com (01327 341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
If you are considering growing your own fruit and veg, act quickly by contacting Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

Mike Langrish 

Revitalising the Allotments – July & August 2020

Revitalising the allotments

Sharing

I was pleased to report, in last month’s edition of the Prattler, that allotment holders had been generously sharing their surplus plants with other allotment holders. That has continued throughout June with more and more excess being offered. What a generous group of people we have in our growing community. I am sure that when excess produce is forthcoming later in the season, there will be fruit and veg to hand out too. I won’t even attempt to guess how many oversized courgette’s are likely to appear! An old wheelbarrow now sits proudly in the picnic area and hopefully by the time this article goes to print, there will be a sign attached directing you to place all surplus items there.

It has been encouraging to see more and more villagers making use of the picnic area. It is a tranquil place to sit and while away some time.

We are also encouraging people to visit our community flower patch (clearly signposted) and, if they so wish, help themselves to some cut flowers. Cutting carefully should enable everyone to have a bunch – so bring a pair of scissors or secateurs. Sweet peas benefit especially from regular cutting and will continue to flower all season if that happens. Later in the year we are hopeful that we may have sufficient soft fruit to offer to you as well. Just keep an eye on the notice boards at the entrances to the allotments and on the large shed in the middle of the site.

A spare watering can be found by the sweet pea wigwam, so if you are cutting flowers you might also give the plants in that area a drink. Every little helps.

Links to the past

We were very pleased to accept a donation of old tools from two allotment holders who found them at the back of their parents’ garden shed. They’d once rented an allotment in the village and it was wonderful to think that the tools were “coming home” and again being put to use. If you are a new allotmenteer or just want to make use of some unusual hoes and hand cultivators, let us know. They are stored in the community shed and available to borrow.

If you too have any unwanted garden tools let us know; someone can probably
make good use of them.

Wildlife

One of the joys of working on the allotments is the amount of wildlife you see. Even if we do seem to spend a lot of time and effort protecting crops from greedy pigeons and butterflies anxious to lay their eggs on our tasty greens, the benefits from creating a rich and diverse eco-system far outweigh any small loss of produce. It has been wonderful to see more and more people visiting the allotment wildlife area, created and curated by Dave and Pauline Musson and Mark and Mary Newstead.

An indication of the richness of our eco-system has been the presence of more frogs, toads and hedgehogs on the allotment. They are beneficial visitors to allotments and gardens, hoovering up large quantities of slugs and snails. A note of caution however: try to avoid using larger gauge netting to protect crops as it can snag and trap hedgehogs. One conscientious allotment holder recently spent an hour disentangling one of our prickly friends from a piece of netting before taking him off to the vet! I am pleased to report that the hedgehog made a full recovery and when set free, limped off across the allotment site to find more slimy treats for dinner.

Equipment
A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Bill Corner (sue.corner@sky.com 01327 342124), Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish langrish_heyford@hotmail.com 01327341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
If you are considering growing your own fruit and veg, act quickly by contacting Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

Mike Langrish 

I believe in the life enhancing virtues of
pure earth, clean air and blue sky.
Octavia Hill – founder of the National Trust

Northamptonshire ACRE Village Awards: Nether Heyford

Northamptonshire ACRE Village Awards : Nether Heyford
northampton-ACRE-logo
Northamptonshire Action for Communities in Rural England

Nether Heyford is a village of 1750 people with approximately 50 organisations and amenities benefiting its own folk and those of neighbouring villages. Activities take place around the village, many based in the village hall, school, churches, youth club, on the sports field and village green (see map). Volunteers of all ages are involved. Our village hall committee includes an active 92-year-old; and a 96-year old gentleman, a founder member of our village choir, has just retired after 18 years.

For young people we have a primary school, pre-school, before-and-after-school clubs, cub and beaver scouts, and a youth club. Our village play area is about to expand for a wider age range. Young people can enjoy tennis, football and cricket on our village playing fields, along with adults. We have events in the village hall, including family martial arts and Cha Cha Chimps. Apart from the school and pre-school, the other groups are run by volunteers.

Older people enjoy social activities, including our weekly community café and an annual ‘holiday at home’ in the village hall. Many are actively involved in groups and activities, including bowls clubs, film nights, choir, craft, gardening and flower arranging clubs, and helping to look after our village hall.

People needing transport to medical appointments or events are given lifts by neighbours and friends.

For safety, we have a Police Community Support Officer, a recently re-launched Neighbourhood Watch Scheme, dropped kerbs for wheelchair users and two defibrillators.

Our developing Neighbourhood Plan will identify additional housing needs – currently, demand exceeds supply.

Information technology and social media are widely used, for instance: village newspaper website (https://heyfordprattler.org), Parish Council, village hall, village, organisations – full list and details available.

In addition to two local charities, fundraising goes on for a variety of causes, including the village fete in aid of our village hall, built 60 years ago by volunteers, and maintained by volunteers ever since. In July, the hall’s chairman will do a sponsored tandem parachute-jump, celebrating the village hall’s 60th year and her 80th, with proceeds shared between the village hall and ‘The Prattler’ the village newspaper – two of our community mainstays.

There are several shops and businesses, providing local employment, plus two public houses. Most of them support local fundraising efforts, especially our village fete, with financial donations and gifts in kind.

Alongside their allotment revitalisation, villagers have created small flower plots and planted trees at village entrances, as well as flower boxes near the village shops.

Our Tidy-Villagers group organises litter-picks, and school children litter-picked the village green ready for our last fete.

Near our village hall are recycling, garden waste and general rubbish bins: plus an Air Ambulance textile collection point.

We have two keen gardeners, qualified as ‘Compost Masters’, helping to train their fellow villagers.

There is a Welcome Pack to help newcomers settle in quickly.

To conclude, Nether Heyford is a community of volunteers and friends – of all ages, abilities and backgrounds – a great place to live.

 

Revitalising the Allotments – June 2020

Revitalising the allotments

Having spent over forty years teaching, I grew very accustomed to the sound of little people’s voices and since retirement I have missed that more than I realised. The situation has been compounded by the fact that we can’t even hear the cheerful sounds that emanated from village school at playtimes.

So, what has all that got to do with allotments you might be asking?

Well, I am pleased to say that another benefit of having virtually every plot on the allotments occupied is that we have many more young families joining us and they bring children with them. It is refreshing to hear and see them enjoying the outdoors, learning about growing things and appreciating and respecting the hard work of others. With a little guidance it is amazing how quickly children learn where not to tread! A particularly special thank you must go to the young people who have assisted on the community plot, whether that is simply deadheading bulbs that have “gone over” or more strenuous tasks such as digging, watering and moving soil and compost.

The current lockdown meant that a project about growing and sustainability, that we were setting up with the village school, had to be postponed. However, the allotments and the school are not going away and we are hopeful that when the climate is right, the project can recommence. If Coronavirus has taught us anything it is the importance of valuing the natural world and the provenance of food (and so much else we’ve taken for granted). There is so much to look forward to.

Where did that come from?

All that fine weather in April and early May really did convince a lot of people that it was safe to put out tender plants. What a mistake. Nature is nothing if not fickle and I am sure that by the middle of May a lot of allotmenteers were suddenly donning warm coats and saying “Where did that come from?” Beans, potatoes and young sweet corn plants were scorched by late frost. Some plants will recover, but where they won’t I suppose we always have the reopened garden centres. Gardeners learn from experience and dead plants teach us a valuable lesson.

The Community Orchard

Fortunately, the fruit on most of the trees in the orchard had set by the time the cold snap arrived so we are hopeful that this will not have been affected by our inclement weather. Cherry trees have been netted against marauding birds – although we’ll perhaps remove the covers once most of the fruit has been picked, just to give them a little something to snack on.

A big thank you must go to the volunteers who not only keep the grass in the orchard under control, but those who water and weed around the trees.

Sharing

We have a large table in the middle of the community area that has been used to display any plants that people have spare and are quite happy to share. A big thank you to the good souls who have recently left young lettuce, strawberry plants, assorted brassicas and seed potatoes. Where possible we will advertise what is on offer by posting a notice on the blackboard by the shed and on the notice boards at the allotment entrances. Do feel free to add more spare items as well as avail yourself of plants that others have left.

If our amazing growing experiences this season result in an excess of produce and you have nowhere or no one to give it to, do make use of the sharing table. It is good to share and allotmenteers are generally a generous lot.

Pathways

A big thank you to all the allotment holders who are able to keep their pathways mown and tidy and special thank you to Bill Corner for the conscientious way that he strims all those other areas that need attention. It really has been a feature that has changed the allotments so dramatically. Some pathways have, over the years, become increasingly narrow, which means that getting a mower along them is impossible – hence the need for a strimmer. Plot holders can, in a small way assist Bill by trying to ensure that any row markers or cloches are not set right against the path edge, thereby making it easier to strim and avoiding accidental damage to their equipment. If paths could be reinstated to their original width that would be even better, but I think that is an issue for the future and we are not even going there yet!

Equipment
A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Bill Corner (sue.corner@sky.com 01327 342124), Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish langrish_heyford@hotmail.com 01327341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
If you are considering growing your own fruit and veg, act quickly by contacting Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

Mike Langrish 

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”
Audrey Hepburn

Revitalising the Allotments – May 2020

I promised, in my last article that this would be a Covid 19 free area and I intend to stick to that, although I suspect that increased activity on the allotments may have just a little something to do with “that which will not be named”.

Bloomin’ Lovely
The allotments have never looked better. If you have had a chance to wander past the site on Watery Lane as part of your daily walk/exercise you can’t have avoided seeing so many well tended plots. If you have not ventured that way, then do so, it looks a treat and is testament to all those people who have worked so hard to make it happen.

The fact that so many people have more time on their hands is I suppose a factor, but I’ll skip over that. I would like to think that this has more to do with the good people of Heyford and nearby locations realising that growing your own fruit and veg is good for you and the planet.

Trees are in bloom, the ground has been tilled and sown with seed, the grass has been mown and things are starting to grow. Even more sheds are springing up from the earth!

And bird song, particularly on the calm sunlit evenings with which we have been blessed, has never sounded so loud and life affirming. It is a tonic and puts a spring in your step.

The Community Orchard
All the trees we planted just eighteen months ago have survived the winter and are flourishing. If the blossom on the trees and the number of foraging insects that we have seen is anything to go by, then the chances of trees producing some good fruit this year are high.

A big thank you must go to the volunteers who not only keep the grass in the orchard under control, but those who water and weed around the trees.

The pruning of the cherries and plums will take place in May – a little later than the apples and pears, so as to avoid a fungal disease called Silver Leaf.

Equipment
A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Bill Corner (sue.corner@sky.com 01327 342124), Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish langrish_heyford@hotmail.com 01327341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
We are now in the unusual position of having almost no vacant plots available. A group of us joked a year or so ago that one of our targets should be to arrive at point where we had to create a waiting list for an allotment. Fanciful we thought, impossible, some cautioned. Well, we are almost there. As I write this article (16th April) we have just half a plot available for rent. The waiting list could become a reality. If you are considering growing your own fruit and veg, act quickly by contacting Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

Mike Langrish 

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
— Margaret Atwood

Revitalising the Allotments – April 2020

Pests and Diseases
I promise you this will not be another opportunity to go on about Coronavirus. We’ve had too much of that recently. This is a Covid 19 free area!

Pests and diseases trouble plants just as they trouble us humans. How we tackle them is a moot point and one that has divided gardeners for many years.

Since before Roman times gardeners have used all manner of concoctions to wage war against pests and diseases in plants. We have become increasingly inventive and clever devising what appears to be foolproof remedies. However, our cleverness does not necessarily mean we’ve been equally wise; for these efficacious products can have the most devastating effect on not just the baddies that ravage our crops, but also the many beneficial insects and animals that inhabit our countryside (and more specifically our allotments and gardens).

DDT was once hailed as the wonder chemical that would solve all our horticultural and agricultural problems until it was discovered to be slowly accumulating in the stomachs of a host of creatures, including humans, and doing untold damage. That was almost fifty years ago and yet even now big agro-chemical companies (and a host of retail outlets) develop and promote a range of pesticides and herbicides that have the potential of cause untold damage to the environment. Since the millennium, there has been a massive decline in the butterfly, beetle and bee population in Europe and the UK leading to the extinction of some species. Much of that can be laid at the door of these products. Sadly, the story is replicated across the whole world. The disappearance of these vital links in the chain of life means that pollination is threatened. No pollination, no food!

There is however some good to emerge from this. We are seeing herbicides and pesticides being used by fewer gardeners and allotmenteers as they discover more environmentally sustainable ways of controlling pests and diseases. Consumer pressure has led to this year seeing a ban on all slug pellets containing the highly toxic chemical metaldehyde. Fear not gardeners, an equally effective organic pellet using ferric phosphate will be available as a replacement.

Many alternative remedies are cheaper and have the added benefit of enhancing what and how we grow. Stop the pests from getting to your crops in the first place by using a barrier and growing sturdier plants. You might ask how that is done and of course you’ll probably guess, from previous articles, that the answer lies in homemade compost. This will develop good, fertile soil. Look after your soil and it will look after your plant

Getting Ready to Grow
The recent advice to avoid social gatherings does not mean you can’t go to the allotment and begin sowing and planting. What better way to take exercise and yet still maintain social distancing. A friendly wave from a neighbouring plot is breaking no rule.

It has been so heartening to see so many villagers at work.

The Community Orchard, Jam Patch and Cut Flower Beds
Work continues in these areas and we’ve had some tremendous help from villagers on our volunteer days held on Saturdays in March. The information signs we reported on in our last two articles are now in place and look very impressive. Hopefully they’ll also be of use for people finding their way around the allotments. A big thank you goes to Tom Dodd for his design work, to the volunteers who erected them and to Ed Smith from the Telegraph Hill Shoot in Daventry who provided the posts.

We would be very grateful if any gardeners who still have spare perennials or shrubs could donate those for our cutting garden. This will ultimately become a free resource for the village. How much nicer to be able to pick locally grown flowers than buy them at extortionate prices from the filling station forecourt.

Our first crop of rhubarb is coming to fruition and visitors to the jam patch are welcome to pick some for themselves.

Equipment
A range of equipment is available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact Bill Corner (sue.corner@sky.com 01327 342124), Lynda Eales (01327 341707) or Mike Langrish langrish_heyford@hotmail.com 01327341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
As always, if you are considering growing your own fruit and veg and you want to try a small tester plot, or something larger, here are the usual telephone contacts: Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

Mike Langrish 

For England is not flag or Empire, it is not money and it is not blood.
It’s limestone gorge and granite fell, it’s Wealden clay and Severn mud,
It’s blackbird singing from the May tree, lark ascending through the scales,
Robin watching from your spade and English earth beneath your nails.

Revitalising the Allotments – March 2020

Weather
I started last month’s article talking about the weather and, yet again, I think I’d better make mention of that much-loved topic. This time it is the wind. The roofs on allotment sheds seem to have stayed in place, a testament to sound construction by their owners. I am afraid the same can’t be said for all manner of other allotment paraphernalia. I have never seen so many runaway compost bins, cloches and cold frames. I even spotted one item lodged up against the tennis courts. Where possible, anchor things down and hope for the best.

Getting Ready to Grow
Although the ground is soggy, it is amazing how quickly the soil on the allotments drains (and the same seems to be true for the Playing Fields as well). Those hardy souls who have begun preparing ground for the earliest of crops like shallot and onion sets and a first sowing of parsnip seed, will have been surprised at how well the ground turns over.

Now is also a good time to dig out perennial weeds, particularly couch grass. It really takes hold later in the year by spreading a clinging net just below the surface and clings on for dear life. Wise gardeners dig it out and try to ensure they leave not a scrap of root behind, for it regenerates with a vengeance from just the tiniest of root segment. Rotavating the soil when couch (or any other perennial weed) is present in the soil will result in an even more dense net of weed later in the year. The ground might look good when you finish your rotavating, but beware of what lurks beneath the surface.

There is still time to prune bushes and trees, but as mentioned last month, plums, cherries and other stone fruit should not be touched until April as they are susceptible to a fungal disease called “silver leaf” if cut during the winter.

The Community Orchard, Jam Patch and Cut Flower Beds
Our pruning of the apples and pears in the Community Orchard is now complete and, after a general health check on all the trees, we can report that all are doing well.

Signs, indicating where the community areas are situated, have now been printed onto special weatherproof aluminium sheeting and they will be erected in the next few weeks. We have clearly identified the orchard, the jam patch, the cut flower borders and the wildlife corner, as well as the community seating area. We hope that will enable you to find your way around the allotments and make good use of the space, particularly once the weather warms up.

Allotment Volunteer Days
Throughout March we will be holding a series of volunteer days. We invite allotmenteers and anyone in the village who’d like to help, to join us on Saturday mornings, from 10.00. until 12.00. to finish clearing the few remaining derelict plots, tidying up the paths, covering vacant plots with plastic sheeting and weeding around the fruit trees/bushes and painting the tables and chairs in the community area. Every little bit of help is valued and enables us to continue to make the allotment an important part of the village.

Equipment
A range of equipment is now available for allotment holders to borrow when working on the allotment site; this includes mowers, rotavators, wheelbarrows, brooms and watering cans. Many people will own some or all of the above, but for those who wish to get access to such equipment, please contact either Bill Corner (sue.corner@sky.com 01327 342124) or Mike Langrish (langrish_heyford@hotmail.com  01327 341390). We can ensure that you get the equipment you require at a mutually convenient time.

Allotment Holders
As always, if you are considering growing your own fruit and veg and you want to try a small tester plot, or something larger, here are the usual telephone contacts: Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707.

“And there will come a time of great plenty,
A time of good harvest and sun.
Till then put your trust in tomorrow, my friend,
For yesterday’s over and done.”

John Tams

Mike Langrish

Heyford Gardening Club – March 2020

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments

Our February meeting featured the welcome return of Liz Taylor of the Woodland Trust who explained the different types of natural woodland to be found in Britain and their associated flora. She also demonstrated how to tell apart the two types of oak to be found here (sessile oaks have stalked leaves; pedunculate oaks have stalked acorns).

We also held our annual arts and crafts show, which again highlighted the range of talent amongst our members.

The photograph section was won by Mike Langrish, Tom Dodd came second and Tony Clewett third.

Philip Reeve won the visual art section with an exquisite miniature painting of a heron, Jean Spokes’ cross-stitch took second place and I managed a third place.

The craft section was won by Mary Newstead with an embroidered bag, Chris West got second with a quilted wreath, and Lynn Ashbee took third with her cupcake quilt.

Our next meeting will be on the 9th March when we will have a talk on snowdrops from Anita Thorp. The evening will also feature the annual daffodil and narcissus show (assuming that there are still daffodils in our gardens by then!).

I am writing this article whilst the second storm in two weeks is lashing the trees. We have already had a very wet winter although there has been little frost so far. Snowdrops are already over and daffodils are fully out and I notice buds nearly bursting on our lilac. This leaves a dilemma, if the season is so advanced, should I get on sowing seeds now to get an early start, or are we likely to get cold weather in the weeks to come? The soil is so wet now that, even without further rain, it will take a while to dry out so perhaps it would be wise to wait a while.

Speaking of plants in pots, I planted some anemone corms in pans in the greenhouse in the autumn, but some creature has been digging in the pans and nipping the developing buds off, I’m not sure whether this is due to mice or renegade sparrows, but it’s all very frustrating.

Things to do in March
1. Top dress container grown plants with fresh compost
2. Prune roses
3. Lift and divide crowded perennials.

Mark Newstead

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www.heyfordgardenclub.com

For more information visit the Heyford Gardening Club & Allotments page

Heyford-Gardening-Cluband-allotments