Popular Reads on Allotment Gardening

Gardening BooksSo you are a newer allotment holder looking for information? The evenings come earlier and you are sitting at home looking for something to read to tell you more about allotment gardening ? Or perhaps you are a seasoned plot holder looking for more tips? Something that makes a change from seed catalogues? Well here follows a list of well read books that have helped many a gardener over the years. No this isn’t a complete list – but it’s a list of well known and well thumbed ones – a place to start.

The Allotment Source Book Caroline Foley
Allotments are enjoying renewed popularity as more and more people are becoming interested in growing their own fruit and vegetables. However setting-up and maintaining a plot can seem daunting, particularly for the inexperienced vegetable grower. Here Caroline Foley provides a complete reference for everything to do with managing an allotment, from soil and plot organisation to propagation and pruning.

The Allotment Book Paperback by Andi Clevely
This wonderfully illustrated book celebrates the blood, sweat and joy to be had in ‘growing your own’ in an allotment. Includes in-depth, practical gardening know-how, stories from allotmenteers and recipes.

The New Vegetable & Herb Expert Paperback by Dr D G Hessayon
A beginner’s guide giving basic information on how to grow common (and not so common) vegetables in the UK.

Allotment Month by Month Hardcover by Alan Buckingham
Follow month-by-month, easy-to-follow advice on what to do on your allotment and how to do it. Pick up time saving tips and techniques on everything from pruning to dealing with pests. There’s clear guidance on when to sow, plant, and harvest for excellent results

The RHS Allotment Handbook: The Expert Guide for Every Fruit and Veg Grower (Royal Horticultural Society Handbooks)
Written by expert allotment holders for those who want to get more from their plot, this is the must-have book for all would-be and existing allotmenteers and those who grow their own. Four RHS expert authors share their wisdom and experience on growing fruit, veg and flowers on allotments, and getting the most from allotment life. From getting an allotment to bringing home the carrots!

RHS Vegetables for the Gourmet Gardener: Old, New, Common and Curious Vegetables to Grow and Eat (Rhs Gourmet Gardener)
RHS Vegetables for the Gourmet Gardener is an accessible guide to over 65 types of vegetable, from the obscure to the familiar. It discusses the origin, cultivation and preparation of each vegetable, along with intriguing insights into its history and uses.
Practical growing tips, nutritional information and classic recipes are interspersed with feature spreads on topics such as heritage and heirloom vegetables, sowing techniques and specialist garden tools. Illustrated throughout with delicate botanical watercolours and engravings and presented in an attractive cloth-effect cover, this is a book for every gardener and cook to treasure.

Grow Your Own Vegetables Paperback by Joy Larkcom
This revised, updated and expanded edition Joy Larkcom’s classic guide to growing your own vegetables contains everything you need to know to create a highly-productive vegetable plot. It covers every aspect of vegetable gardening, including preparing soil; manures, composts and fertilizers; growing techniques; protection; pests, diseases and weeds; and making good use of space.

If you haven’t asked for a garden centre voucher, a selection of specific seeds for next year, some specific tools that you “need” (either to try out or to replace broken ones!) then perhaps a book could also go on your seasonal present list?

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Growing Elephant Garlic

Elephant GarlicElephant garlic – Allium ampeloprasum – is often sold as garlic, but it actually more closely related to leeks. It produces a small number of very large cloves of mild flavour. It needs good, long, warm growing season to grow well. It is best planted in October.

The cloves sometimes do not divide, producing just slightly larger single-clove (solo) bulbs. Early planting often reduces the occurrence of solo bulbs. The single-clove bulb can be harvested or planted again the following season, when it will often produce segmented cloves.

The rules for growing elephant garlic are the same as those for growing winter onions from sets. It can be harvested at the same time as winter onions but will store for far longer than these if allowed to dry properly.

It has a milder and sweeter taste than normal garlic and does well in a a stir fry or as roasted cloves.

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Planting Winter Onions

Onions growing outdoorsWinter onions are an extremely large, hardy vegetable that can survive in cold temperatures. Typically, the majority of their growth occurs over the winter months.

Winter onions of all varieties are easy to plant and care for. Start them from sets—small pre-grown bulbs — for best results.

Prepare your plot in the late summer or autumn. You can plant your sets as early as August, but many gardeners prefer to wait until October, when the weather has significantly cooled.

Select a sunny spot in your garden or allotment. Winter onions are hardy enough to grow in a variety of conditions, but they prefer to soak in full sun.

Break up the soil.  Winter onions do best in loose, well-drained soil. Avoid using sandy soils, however, since sand causes soil to lose moisture a little too quickly, preventing your onions from soaking in all the nutrients they need to thrive.

Mix organic matter into the soil. Sterilized compost is a popular choice. Organic matter provides additional nutrients and may improve the soil’s ability to retain proper moisture levels.

Plant each set 1 to 2 inches (2 1/2 to 5 centimeters) deep. Gently push the set into the ground until it is just below soil level. Cover it with additional soil if necessary, gently packing the soil over the bulb.

Space sets 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) apart within each row. Each row should also be spaced about 1 foot (30 centimeters) apart.

Care and Harvest

Water the onions twice a week for the first two weeks. After that, avoid watering the onions at all, especially once the ground has frozen. Once the weather warms up again, water the onions only if you experience a drought and the soil looks hard, cracked, and dry.

Give your onions two doses of fertilizer. The first dose should come shortly before the first heavy freeze. If you live in an area where it does not freeze, apply the first dose of fertilizer any time from late October through November. The second dose should be in the early summer, before harvest.

Weed the area. Throughout the majority of the growing season, weeds do not pose much problem. When you do see weeds, however, you should yank them up immediately, either by hand or by using a sharp hoe. Weeds will compete with your onions for nutrients in the soil, causing a small, dehydrated crop.

Harvest onion greens at any time during the spring. Once the greens reach several inches (10 centimeters or so) in height, you can snip them off with shears. They have a mild flavor but work well in many recipes that call for onions.

Harvest onion bulbs once the tops go brown. This usually occurs anytime from the late spring to the early autumn, depending on when you planted your sets. Due to the lengthy growing period, winter onions have notably large root bulbs. Tug on the tops until the bulb comes out or pry them out with a garden fork. Dust off as much soil as possible before setting them out to dry.

Winter onions do not store as well as spring planted onions but give an earlier crop which allows you space to follow on with another crop.

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Report from the 50th Town Show

First Prize 2014Gardening enthusiasts from across the North East lined up in Prudhoe for the 50th Anniversary Prudhoe Town show. The show has become a major event in the calendar of flower and vegetable growers as well as bakers and makers of handicrafts, and attracts a large number of entrants from outside as well as within Prudhoe.

For the 5oth Anniversary show there were a number of changes to the schedule, including the addition of categories for children and a completely new section for the over 10s,  which also has a new prize the ‘Joan Russell trophy’. The first Joan Russell Trophy award was to Chloe Simpson for the best junior exhibit. Joan Russell was the show secretary for many years until her retirement earlier this year and it is very fitting that she now has a trophy to her name for the event which she did so much for. Show Secretary Chris Newton said, “Joan has left a fantastic legacy for us to continue, she is a hard act to follow but we hope we have done her proud”.

There were also activities for children to do on the day as well as increased categories, reflecting the fact that the event is for all the family as well as encouraging young gardeners and bakers.

It is an event which is well supported by the local community and also in terms of sponsors such as Salem Tubes, SCA Hygiene, Thompsons of Prudhoe, Witton Ness, GMS, Northumbrian Roads, the Stationary Shop and Ready Steady Knit with many of the shops in Prudhoe donating items for the raffle.

Soil scientist Dr Julia Cooper was also on hand to offer advice to gardeners on fertilisers and other soil inputs to help them get the best from their allotments and gardens.

The quality of entries is always of a high standard and this year was no exception.  It was an especially good year for Jean Phillips who won the Prudhoe Town show cup for the most points in the show. The Hexham Courant Tynedale Trophy for Handicrafts was won by Rosemary Kenyon, and the Millenium Trophy for the most points in the flower section was awarded to Peter Cook.

Once again the two day event saw the venue become a riot of colour and scent as gladioli, dahlias, sweet peas, roses and carnations decorated the room.

The baking judge had the pleasurable yet difficult task of tasting and judging an incredible array of cakes, breads, tarts, jams, pickles and chutneys, and the handicrafts judge had to make some difficult decisions as the quality of this section was very strong.

The most entertaining section however was in the under 10s for the fruit and vegetable creature, which was won by Max Mountford for his penguin creatures composed of aubergines!

The Mayor of Prudhoe, Eileen Burt, was also on hand to meet the exhibitors and hand out prizes.

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Scabby Potatoes

Potato ScabThere are two forms of scab that affect potatoes – common scab  and powdery scab. Both are pathogenic micro-organisms and cause rough, scabby patches. Scabs appear during summer and persist on harvested tubers throughout storage.

Common scab is most serious on potatoes, but also affects beetroot, radishes, swedes and turnips. Common scab is worse when soil conditions are dry when tubers form. Powdery scab is worse under wet conditions and also infects tomato roots.

Common scab shows as raised, rough patches of skin on the tuber surface. Powdery scab shows as irregular brown depressions containing masses of dusty brown spores on the surface of tubers.

To help prevent scab always choose your seed potatoes carefully. Do not plant those which show obvious signs of scab. Liming soil to prevent club root in brassicas makes the soil alkaline which may trigger common scab. You should also not allow the soil to dry out during tuber development so you need to water regularly in dry weather when the plants appear.

Powdery scab is worse in wet conditions which allow the spores that cause the disease to become prolific.

There is no chemical cure available to the allotment gardener so rotation, soil conditions and good standards of general cultivation are important.

Information taken from the RHS website. Read the Royal Horticultural website for complete details.

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