We have all had an incredibly difficult year due to the virus and sadly it looks like it is going to remain difficult still for some time to come. One thing that the situation has bought home is just how important allotments are to us all! There is a link at the bottom of this email to a video made this summer at Roedale Valley which emphasises this. Allotments have always helped during difficult times and lockdown was no different.
We received many messages from people saying how their allotments were essential to them and many who did not know how they would have coped without them. It was difficult not to feel even more lucky than usual to be able to spend time tending our plots and the benefits were noticed by the locals at large.
Applications to the waiting list increased massively with over 700 people applying for an allotment in the city during the lock down months. This sadly exposed some issues with the Council’s waiting list system which along with some other serious issues we are facing I will address in a separate newsletter very soon.
It was a privilege to be on the allotments during the lock down. The road noise disappeared, the skies were clear from vapour trails, the air was fresh and the birdsong seemed so much louder. Nature seemed to have been let off the leash in some ways and we spotted many more birds of prey hovering over plots and even buzzards circling high above. Allotments are havens for wildlife and people in the busy city anyway, and the lock down made them sanctuaries for those struggling with the worries and stresses of the situation.
The weather was incredible and plots had more work done on them than in many years. Harvests have been much greater as a result and I’ve been impressed to see the amount of food that people can produce without pesticides and chemical fertilisers while working in harmony with nature rather than in competition with it.
The Allotment Service will be sending out our annual invoices any time now, they are late this year evidently due to a ‘software glitch’. I would also urge you to read the accompanying letter from BHAF explaining how to make a donation to the service and to make one if you are able to. Many plot holders feel that allotments are very cheap and would happily pay more, while others say that they simply could not afford a rent rise. It is not possible to means test plot holders to see who could afford to pay more and who should pay less. We ask that those that can afford to pay more please do so, so that we can keep allotments affordable for all.
Not only are plot holders resourceful, they are community minded. In the first year of asking for donations over £6000 was raised! Hardly anybody in the Council thought that this would work when BHAF argued to try it. In fact BHAF had to work hard to even get the donations scheme to happen! We worked with the Council’s finance team to arrange it, we had faith that plot holders who could afford it would support plot holders who could not. We were so happy to be proved right. Thanks again to all those who have made donations over the last two years.
Mark Carroll Chairman BHAF
From Simon Powell Vice Chair
Autumn is upon us, and the squashes are gathered and curing indoors for storage through the winter. Root crops and brassicas are swelling in the moist soil and cooler conditions. Summer crops have been cleared, freeing up space – but what to plant?
If you’ve never grown over-wintering broad beans before you could give them a go – for me they’re the first true home-grown delicacy of the year (yes, better than purple-sprouting broccoli), a signifier that the hungry gap is over and to get ready for all the good things to come.
Make sure to get a winter-hardy (NOT Spring) variety, such as Supersimonia, Superaquadulce or Aquadulce Claudia. Plant from now until December, and crop from mid-late May to mid-June. Growing to 1m tall, they massively out-yield the Spring-sown varieties and aren’t troubled by blackfly. They need supporting to prevent them flopping all over neighbouring crops.
There’s also still just about time to sow certain over-wintering green manures such as hungarian grazing rye, winter tares and field beans, which protect the soil as well as building fertility.
The farming technique of leaving ploughed soil bare over Winter is usually done to let the weather break up clods of heavy clay – not a problem on most of our sites in Brighton & Hove. Chalky soils are vulnerable to nutrient leaching from heavy Winter rainfall. A covering of plants,whether green manure, vegetables or (dare I say it) annual weeds binds the soil, locks up nutrients and takes one for the team.
One of the many great things about allotment gardening is the opportunity to increase our self-sufficiency; as well as growing edible, medicinal, fibre, fuel and dye plants, we can propagate new woody plants too, and the Winter months are a great time to do this.
Hardwood cuttings are a really easy way of propagating a wide range of woody plants; choose strong, healthy 10cm+ shoots of the current year’s growth.
These are some of the plants I’ve grown in this way: red/white/blackcurrant, jostaberry, gooseberry, worcesterberry, elder, willow, privet, euonymous, ramanas rose, buddleia, and figs. Yes figs, they grow really easily. Which is nice. So have a go, stick ’em in the ground and see what happens!
From Hilary Standing BHAF Secretary
We are always keen to hear from you, our members, on anything you want to raise. Please do get in touch on any allotments related issue that concerns you. Although we are not able to hold meetings at the moment, we still have an active committee. Please see the list of BHAF committee members and their associated responsibilities. You can contact us by simply replying to this email or via social media.We also have a very active private Facebook group for members, co-workers and people on the waiting list which is always buzzing with comments and information.
Video by Rodney Beckford
Local video maker Rodney Beckford spent some time over the summer at Roedale Valley and made this lovely film of the site and the plot holders there.Its a great snapshot and insight into how important our plots are for all of us especially in difficult times.