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Dates for your diary

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.