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Help promote the benefits of organic growing

Growing your own food organically is one of the ways you can help to tackle climate change.  By not using poisonous chemicals and fertilisers, you save the considerable emissions created in their production, and your soil and its all-important natural organisms stay healthy. West Yorkshire Organic Group (WYOG) has been helping gardeners do this since the 1970s.  It also reduces food miles while improving resilience, health and well-being.

In the past we got our voice heard through our unique Organic Show judged entirely on taste rather than appearance, and our potato day where we sell otherwise unavailable organic seed potatoes and we are proud supporters of the Savari Potato Trust – home of the famous Sarpo Mira.

That has not been possible for us to do for the past year and looks like continuing for some times. We know there is a huge demand for information and advice on growing organically so we’ve made more use of for example, by setting up the photo competition in the autumn. Unfortunately, this has shown up the its limitations. It has done sterling service over the years but is slowly falling to pieces and costs a lot to repair. A new one would let us showcase all things organic and attract new people to organic growing. With this in mind, we’ve worked with an experienced web designer to design a web map that would be much easier for people to use to find information and get involved in activities.

We have raised half of the money from our reserves and we need to raise £850 to have a web site built and for us to be trained how to use it.

If you possibly can, please consider giving us a donation. You can click on the Donate button below to donate via paypal to support our new website or click here to go directly to our paypal donation page. Please contact us to make a direct donation.

WYOG AGM

This was held virtually this year. The main agenda items were to accept the finance report, to discuss and decide on a new web site and to consider what else we might be able to do this year. The minutes are on our web site. We plan to meet again in Mid May to consider if we can run any kind of show this year.

News

Bee killing pesticides.

The government has just given the green light for bee-killing pesticides to be sprayed in the UK. The pesticide being used has been banned for being poisonous to bees, but it’s just been approved to help grow sugar beet in the spring. This is about bees, but it’s also about us. If we keep harming bees, we risk our food supplies. It’s estimated that a third of our food is dependent on pollinators, of which bees are some of the most important. A third of bee populations are already shrinking. We can’t allow pesticides to destroy our environment and kill any more bees.

Although we have been told it is not only the UK sugar beet growers who have been given ‘ emergency authorisation’ to use neonicotinoids (Belgian, Dutch, French)  the EU emergency conditions stipulate use only when virus levels have reached a certain level whereas,  now that we are leaving the EU the American model is to allow use where there is a perceived risk and we wonder who gets to decide?

There are numerous campaigns against this decision – try Greenpeace, Avaaz and the Wildlife Trusts websites for starters

Insects replace fertilizer in raspberry cultivation

Work by the Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation group at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in The Netherlands shows that improving pollination has a greater effect on final fruit yields than fertiliser application. According to the authors, this is the first study to measure the interactions between insects, soil quality and fertilizer in food production.

The researchers grew raspberries under a range of different conditions, with variations in pollination by insects, the organic matter of the soil and the application of artificial fertilizer. Insect pollination increased yields by 33 per cent and led to raspberries that were 11 per cent heavier. Higher organic matter content in the soil attracted more insects and resulted in berries that were 20 per cent heavier but did not increase overall yields. Adding fertilizer increased yields and the weight of the fruits but had no effect on insect pollination or the amount of organic matter in the soil.

The results, which have been published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, show that pollination, soil organic matter and fertilizer significantly and independently affected both quantity and quality of raspberry production, and that the contribution of soil organic matter to soluble solids content also interacted with pollination and fertilizer.

The researchers conclude that market gardeners can use pollination by insects and soil organic matter to raise production levels while reducing the use of artificial fertilizer. This will let the growers bolster nature values and produce food simultaneously.

Extract from Horticulture News Jan 15th https://hortnews.com

Agroforestry

The latest Living Earth from the Soil Association, looks at the potential for agroforestry. Trees are an essential part of our landscape and they have an important role in protecting the environment, providing habitats or animals and plants, preventing soil erosion and water pollution and storers of carbon.

The UK has the lowest level of tree cover in Europe, the result of the tearing out of hedges and trees for intensification of farming and building of houses on land that supported trees and wildlife. The result is loss of biodiversity, reduction in soil health and pollution of water courses.

Agroforestry combines agricultural crops or livestock with trees and shrubs. As well as benefitting the environment it gives farmers another source of income from the timber, wood fuel, nut and fruit. The soil will be healthier and therefore more productive.

Take a look at www.soilassociation.org/eastbrookagroforestry  

Growing ideas

Grow you own seed potatoes byThose Plant people

if you want to find out how to grow your own seed potatoes then take a look at this https://youtu.be/j9q8y2vlFag  an absolutely fascinating step by step guide by Pippa as to what to do and the fabulous results.

Seed Guardian

“I’ve been a Seed Guardian for Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library for a while now, helping save some of our rarest vegetables from extinction along with a dedicated team of other Guardians and members of Garden Organic. Over the last couple of years, our aim has been to try and re-introduce some of the most popular varieties back to the commercial market and allow everyone the chance to grow some of these fantastic, almost forgotten varieties. I have been working closely with producers and am extremely proud to announce that we have now been able to relaunch one of the Heritage Seed Libraries most popular seeds, lettuce ‘Bronze Arrow’, under its synonym ‘Bronze Beauty’. Along with this hardy and delicious lettuce, we also have three other varieties which we are bringing ‘Back From the Brink’ Rob Smith organic catalogue

https://www.organiccatalogue.com If you want to try some in your garden or plot.

Jobs for February

It’s the time to plant wildflower bulbs in the green and all your saved wildflower seeds from last year.

The days seem to be getting colder but Spring is only just around the corner! Make use of your propagators, greenhouses, cloches and windowsills so you have delicious, organic veg for the year ahead. Some of the seeds that can be sown this month include:

  • Cucumbers
  • Broad beans
  • Cauliflowers
  • Chillies
  • Radish
  • Parsnips
  • Broccoli
  • Leeks
  • Tomatoes
  • Artichoke

It’s your last chance to prune fruit bushes and pip fruit trees.

Compost by Jack First (with apologies for the misspelling of his name on last month’s article on bird feeding)

What more can be written about compost, a subject covered hundreds of times by different authors. Time and time again we read of the usual composting materials such as kitchen and garden refuse, of leaves and manures of garden pets such as poultry and rabbits. Horse manure might be available to a lucky few. One thing is for sure, for many there is never enough of these composting materials to meet all the needs around the garden. But have you ever passed by a landfill site on a frosty day and wondered about the clouds of steam rising. That steam can only be generated by all items created via photosynthesis and includes many items discarded by all that could be used to produce compost.

While living in Yorkshire I had no problem obtaining large quantities of horse manure for making Hot Beds or adding to compost heaps. But this supply has dried up as I now live in Wales with few stables nearby. So I have had to seek out alternatives sourced locally, some of which maybe local to you. Many leaves are gathered by the lane that runs by our house. Sacks of spent hops from the local brewery are collected free of charge. Local sheep farmers have delivered bales of daggings,  the soiled part of sheeps wool separated at shearing time). A bunch of onions passed on in gratitude goes a long way. Seaweed is plentiful as we are close to the coast but check with your council first in case permission is needed to collect it.

This photo shows hot bed and in foreground bulk load of compost from last years hot bed. There were two of these with about 1500 lts part of which is used for the growing medium in this year’s hot bed.

To a lesser extent paper and cardboard can be used but remove tape, do not include glossy paper and check that cardboard is not plastic lined. All goods made from 100% natural fibres such as cotton clothes, sheets and other bedding can be included. Paper, cardboard and those items made from natural fibres should be weathered before including in a Hot Bed or compost heap. All the above have been used in Hot Beds and within ten months have successfully decomposed.

This photo shows alternative hot bedding material because I can’t get hold of sufficient horse manure. It includes seaweed, daggings, brewery waste, old cotton goods, paper and more

One can also assume that these materials will likewise decompose in a compost heap, providing air and moisture is present. The exceptions are underwear which can contain much elastic, and although 100% marked cotton trousers and jeans will mostly decompose, the zip, pockets,  studs and washing instructions remain, all connected by nylon thread.

Typically a pair of my trousers and jeans weigh two and a half pounds. The remnants after being in hot bed weigh four ounces. So only 10% goes to landfill the rest totally decomposes.

Dates for your diary January 2021

WYOG AGM – this year it will be held online, through Microsoft teams, so do join us on Wednesday 27th January at 7pm. If you plan to attend or would like to see the papers and comment outside the meeting then get in touch and we can sort you out with links and papers etc. Contact WYOG
 
Compost orders – A reminder that Peter needs all your Dalefoot and West Riding organic compost orders by the 24th January. Full details in your last newsletter, a summary is below.
We are aiming for delivery the last Saturday in February at Northcliffe allotments; we will confirm that date when I put the orders in.
Contact Peter Taylor by using our contact page 
We plan to run a seed swop on compost collection day; there will be a table where you can donate any unwanted packets or saved seeds (please label) and then take what you fancy.

Compost options
 
West Riding Organic have a series called Moorland Gold –these cost £7 per 40L bag, including delivery to the allotments. They retail at £17 a bag on line. 
Seed and Cutting – For use in seed propagation. This is suitable for use in seed and module trays and can also be used as a blocking compost. 
Potting and Container – With naturally occurring micro elements and minerals, it results in a good workable medium giving excellent holding qualities to all plant types and strong healthy root growth. This compost is also suitable for tomato cultivation as contains sufficient nutrients to feed those hungry tomato plants, resulting in excellent growth. 
Multi-Purpose (Vegan friendly) For general use. This is a good workable compost giving excellent holding qualities to all plant types and strong healthy root growth. 
Natural Peat Alternative (Vegan friendly) The base from which all our composts are produced. This naturally filtrated peat is a rich, black and easily managed product that has a variety of uses from simple soil conditioner to more specialised uses. It has a pH of around 5.0. 
 
Dalefoot Compost have a wide range of composts they sell around £14 on line for the 30L bags .
You can find full details on their web site www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk and the summary of their prices to us are below which includes delivery. 
Lakeland Gold (clay-buster) – 30L, £7.00 
Wool compost – 30L, £7.00 
Veg and Salad – 30L, £7.00 
Tomato – 30L, £7.00 
Ericaceous – 30L, £7.00 
Double Wool – 30 L, £8.00 
Bulb compost – 20L, £6.00 
Seed compost – 12L, £5.50 

This Months Jobs

If you are looking for jobs then remember all fruit bushes, like currants and gooseberry , and pip fruit trees (apples, pears), can be pruned between Nov and Feb while the plants are dormant. For currants and gooseberries cut out dead wood and any branches that are overlapping and rubbing on each other to create a nice open looking bush.
 
If you are using green manure it will probably not like the current freezing weather so you can cover it with cardboard and let it rot back into the soil. Some rhubarb is starting to show and might appreciate having a bucket put over its had to keep it warm and to give you early stalks.
 
If you are planning on building/ restocking your hot box then this is the time to start to clear it out and check for any repairs needed.

Food for Thought

by Jack First
 
For seventeen years prior to retirement I ran a horticultural project for people with various mental health problems on an allotment site  near Keighley. One of my first priorities was to improve local wildlife so the perimeter was planted up with native hedging trees. A small pond with a seating area was soon established along with nesting boxes around the site. One of these nesting boxes was positioned on a shed close to the cabin where we had our breaks and from this cabin we could observe all the comings and goings of the blue tits that nested there every year. A small orchard planted nearby provided favourite perching places for the birds before they entered the bird box. We could clearly see all the various insects, caterpillars and worms still wriggling in the bird’s beaks prior to their entering the box. 
 
But the year before my retirement we noticed a change in the habits of the blue tits. We observed the nest making, but after the eggs had hatched we noticed that the parent birds were not bringing back to the nest the usual diet of caterpillars and other wriggling creatures. Something was wrong! I stood at the end of the allotment site, with the bird box in view. The birds flew over the crops and the hedge, passing over trees and parkland and all that natural food below. Their target was a garden where bird feeders hung. After a few days, noticing that all activity had ended, I opened the box and found all the nestlings dead. It is clear to me that these nestlings require the soft bodied worms and caterpillars which must be easy to digest, and not the hard indigestible seeds fed to them by their parents. By all means feed the birds in winter but why in late Spring, Summer and Autumn when there is natural food to feed on. Yet as we are informed of the importance of feeding birds all year maybe it is no surprise. 
 
The bird food industry is now a multi-million pound industry making large profits. At source a producer may only receive a few hundred pounds per ton, yet some bird food mixtures retail for a few thousand pounds per ton. More importantly one must consider that there are hundreds of thousands of acres in many parts of the world producing bird food. Are we inadvertently encouraging the draining of land, the felling and burning of forests and in doing so depriving birds and other wild life of their habitats so that we can enjoy birds in our own gardens? I think that is certainly the case. Furthermore, this bird food is not organically grown, so pesticide residue must be present in or on this food possibly leading to infertility and other problems. Birds cannot be so robust or resilient when feeding on commercial bird food when they should be pursuing their natural habit of foraging on the ground, in hedges or trees.
 
Please don’t get me wrong here, I love to see and hear birds. I lived in Yorkshire for many years where, as in many places winters can be very harsh. I would be out there before going to work clearing away snow to lay down some food. Like many others I feel a sense of duty but I have made this observation. On the coldest days I remove the covers from my compost heaps and almost immediately blackbirds arrive alighting on top and as is their habit flicking this organic matter over their shoulders in search of worms. The robin is next to arrive along with wrens, tits, thrushes, starlings and others. Here they rake over and closely examine things that the blackbirds have discarded. Within this compost lives a diverse range of organisms including worms, slugs and snails, insects, weed seeds and more. It is quite a spectacle, and while all this activity is taking place, the coconut and bird feeders hang nearby redundant and neglected. It proves to me the importance of a natural food source, and this foraging must increase resilience. Layers of leaves and compost, even if only half decayed and placed on the ground will always attract insects and worms. Is this not the way to feed birds organically?

Online Gardening Workshops!

Find out about Colin Shaw’s online workshops. Colin has been an organic gardener for over 30 years. More information can be found at http://www.organicgarden.org.uk/online-workshops/

Photography Competition

Thanks to everyone who sent in their photos; the winners of the public vote are:

Vegetables and Fruit

1st: Terry Marshall – Ayesha Harvesting Aura Potatoes. Terry says “Ayesha is keeping Keith’s potato in cultivation. Over all the years of the show, that is one variety that has been consistently exhibited and among the prizewinners,it really is delicious, it is such a pity that it is no longer available.”

2nd: Ayesha Marshall – Dog collecting blackberries;

3rd Harriet Gardiner Harvest – Trug of veg and edible flowers

Different ways of growing

joint 1st: Jack First – Old Lanterns. Jack says “The old lamp shades are made with thick glass. They will keep off mice, snails and slugs. Very good for germinating seeds and protecting young plants. Can be found in charity shops. I paid between fifty pence to one pound each. They are opaque so allow light in”

Rachel Munro-Fawcett – Water Butt at Hollin Lane allotments

3rd Jack First Hot and raised bed

Wonderful photos

1st: Sharon Heleine – Evening on Plot 29

 2nd Laura Harris – Potato digging hands

3rd Marion Pencavel – Hungry hedgehog

The winner of the best in show by the WYOG judges is  Dianne Pearks with Ready for Pickling

I am  absolutely delighted that I won ‘best in show’. It has given me a real boast given these difficult times – Dianne

We will be in touch with all the winners to explain about their prizes and certificates.

You can see all the winning entries on the WYOG web site and all the other entries as well.

Potato Day 2021

Sadly we have had to cancel next year’s potato day as we cannot get a suitable venue to deal with pre-orders and collection. The committee has worked hard to try and come up with various Covid secure options but the college are not accepting any external bookings and other venues are ether not suitable or not sure if they will be open.

We can offer to order whole sacks for you and get them delivered to Northcliffe Allotments in Shipley, and then they can be collected from there or delivered by WYOG to you on 13th February. You can choose from the list from SKEA or WCF; WCF offer the option to have a sack which is already prepacked into 8 x 2.5k or 10 x2 k – so you could easily split one with other people. Find out more here.

We are contacting all the stall holders and asking them for information about where you can buy from them and will post this as soon as we have the details

Potato trials

One of our members Brian was involved with the trials of the Mira/ Valor cross and this year planted on some of the ones he had grown from seed; he planted them into 3 litre pots, as he was out of space elsewhere, dumped them in an old cold frame on the railway embankment, then ignored them apart from an occasional watering and 2 or 3 comfrey feeds. He emptied the first one in late September and incredibly got 1280g from the first pot. They were wedged so tight in the pot that it distorted the pot & malformed some of the spuds.  See his photos in the potato A-Z list.

If you have any potato stories and photos, please let us have them to add to our site.

WYOG mugs

As we haven’t been able to hold any events we have a rather large stock of WYOG mugs. If you would like to help reduce the mountain they are £3.50 each or 3 for £9. They are nicely made, with a logo that’s doesn’t date, and a good size and I am sure you could find people to give them to!

Organic Growing in Dewsbury

Andy MacDonald   is having some ideas about running an organic market gardening business. He has  created a draft outline at https://www.spacehive.com/dewsbury-organic-growers and is looking for people to join him, he has some ideas about setting it up as a workers co-op and am researching what is involved.

Soil association campaign

The soil association has teamed up with The Climate Coalition to push for a healthier, fairer and greener future. They ae asking people to join them and make a declaration for the future of food and farming that you want to see to support climate change and to highlight the vital need to tackle climate change and make sure that nature friendly food and farming is at the heart of the response to climate change. You can add your name to the declaration at soilassociation.org/declaration.

Jobs to do this month

  • Plant garlic – either directly into the ground or pots and keep the area weed free
  • Winter salad leaves can be sown along with other hardy veg such as peas and beans
  • Plant overwintering broad beans and onions
  • Sow Spinach Palco F1 under glass
  • Pak Choi Tatsoi – crops 10 weeks from sowing and well into winter
  • Check your tree stakes are nice and firm
  • Sow green manures as you clear your beds
  • Order and plant bare rooted fruit bushes and trees
  • Sown corn salad/ lambs lettuce outside or under glass
  • As your beans finish, take out the stakes and tread the bean plants flat and cover with layers of cardboard, they will disappear into the ground over winter keeping the nitrogen ready for you to utilise next year
  • If you have a bramble hedge/ patch, then you can start to cut it back.
  • Plant sweet peas in October/ November in root trainers or toilet roll inner tubes
  • Pull up and compost annuals and replace with winter and summer flowering pansies, wallflowers, bells and primulas
  • Bring in houseplant that have been outside in the summer

Heritage seed library update

Last month we sent out a plea asking for help to replace the cooling system in the Heritage Seed Library cold store.  

I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you – we were absolutely blown away with the response, which far exceeded anything we could have hoped for. Thanks to generous donations from members like you, not only can we buy a new cooling system with an extended service package, but we have enough left over to replace two of our nine polytunnels which are in desperate need of an upgrade.

 Knowing we have reliable infrastructure has such an impact on the work my team and I can do. Without having to worry about failing equipment we know our time can be devoted to the important work of growing, saving and sharing these precious varieties.

The wonders of sage, and lemon balm

Sage is part of the family of herbs with the Latin name Salvia. It has a rich history of medicinal use and was, and often is, used as a brain tonic, with reputed cognitive enhancing properties indicated to address age associated memory loss.  A study which investigated the effect of consuming 50ml sage oil, given 7 days apart on 36 healthy participants compared to a placebo, showed interesting results. The sage consumption resulted in improved performance of memory and attention to tasks, most notably one hour after the dose was administered, while 4 hours’ post dose reduced mental fatigue and increased alertness were more prominent.

Lemon Balm is another on to look out for. Clinical trials have highlighted that lemon balm extracts standardised to rosmarinic acid have demonstrated clear benefit to memory and cognitive performance. In a recent study lemon balm extract was given at a dose of 300mg twice daily to a group of stressed people with mild to moderate anxiety and sleep disturbances. Lemon balm reduced anxiety associated symptoms by 15% and lowered insomnia by 42%. Most people responded to the treatment (95% of which 70% achieved full remission for anxiety and 85% achieved full remission for insomnia. It may also improve memory an concentration and has been studied in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. After 4 months of treatment lemon balm produced a significantly better outcome on cognitive function than placebo and helped reduce feelings of agitation.

The Organic Way, Summer 2020.