Sunday, 29 August 2010

Pre-ordered onion and garlic sets

Pre-ordered onion and garlic sets are available in the allotment shop on Scarcroft for collection.  A limited number of Thermidore garlic bulbs, Senshyu, Radar and Electric onion sets are on sale in the hut if you didn't manage to order in advance.  We recommend that you purchase soon, because when this stock is gone we will not be reordering this year.


Gardening Judge Wanted

York Blind and Partially Sighted Society's gardening club, 'Green Shoots', need a judge for their gardening competition on Monday 20th September.  You would be needed at about 11.15am in the cafe at Acomb Library.  Any volunteers please ring Judy Shaw on York 339907 asap.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Hospital Field Best Plot Competition winner 2010

Sally Ann Gatus and her daughter, Laura
Sally-Ann Gatus, the winner of the Best Plot Competition 2010 on Hospital Field, is a real allotment inspiration. When she first took on her plot in October 1996 it only had a few ancient gooseberry bushes on it. Now it is a haven of vegetables, fruit, herbs, flowers and wildlife. When she came to the site, her style of gardening, such as introducing a pond and an herb garden, was viewed with suspicion by some. One of her neighbours, now no longer a plotholder, used to make comments such as ‘what on earth are you doing lass, what do you want with a herb garden?’ and ‘you are supposed to plant in rows.’ Times have changes now and her organic practices, recycling and encouragement of wildlife are far more common on the site.

Though Sally is certainly the principal gardener on her plot she is often joined by her husband Kevin, children Laura and Angus and various friends and their children from Dringhouses Primary School where Sally has been running the gardening club for the last 2 years. She loves her Hospital Field plot and this enthusiasm has definitely rubbed on her kids. Sally has been very creative in the way she has involved and interested them in the plot. She believes in putting the kids in their old clothes and just letting them get dirty, ‘they love to build dens and they love to pick. And I think it is really important for them to be aware of nature and of plants and where food comes from’. However, she doesn’t stop at just letting the kids help on the plot. Sally told me one of the ways she kept her kids entertained, ‘My kids are really into fossils and crystals so one day I came down and cleared an area of the plot, I buried a plastic dinosaur head and marked the area up with string in a grid. I then gave the kids brushes and trowels and told them it was an archaeological dig. They absolutely loved it.’

As a keen recycler, she brings her vegetable waste from home and uses torn up cardboard and leaves to mulch her plants. She has even created a cloche from the frame of swing her kids have grown out of.  Her composting is really impressive too. She bags up all her tops and leaves them at one end of the plot for at least 6 months, then in April or May she digs trenches and digs it all back into the soil. The perennial weeds she drowns and makes into a weed tea to feed to the plants, the woody material she tends to chop up with secateurs and add to her path and once a year, around the 5th of November, she has a bonfire with the kids.

Sally often saves seeds from this year’s crops to sow in the next. Those seeds she doesn’t use or eat she uses to make homemade fat balls. She shared her recipe with me. The ingredients change according to what she has around but the basics are bacon rind, bread, old breakfast cereal, old seed, lard – you break up the lard into pieces and mix it into the other ingredients, you then press the mixture into pine cone and tie them to the trees.

Finally, her best piece advice, which she received when new to allotment gardening is ‘don’t water too early in the season because the plants will get used to it and when you have a dry spell they won’t have developed decent roots.’ That seems to me to be more useful advice than ‘you are supposed to plant in rows’.

N.B. I am still trying to get hold of the Hob Moor winner, Mrs Valerie Warren, for a similar article on her.  If you know her please ask her to get in touch with me.  Caroline Bush

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A course on Urban Horticulture

The nice folk at the University of York thought some of us might be interested in a course they are running on Urban Horticulture.  The deails and contact information are below.  If you do book in please can you let them know that you heard about the course through the Scarcroft and District Allotment and Amateur Gardeners Association website.

Lifelong learning - Introduction to Urban Horticulture

The history of allotments and urban food production is a long one. We begin with the earliest cities and civilisations: the initial separation between people as growers, and people as consumers of food.  Progressing through the Middle Ages, the Enclosures and the agricultural and industrial revolutions, we find inevitable and continual tensions over access to land and struggles against food poverty; a fascinating story of possession, dispossession and repossession. We then study the gradual rise of the allotment as a solution - to a constantly shifting problem - as well as the surges and declines it has seen over time.We look abroad, to Cuba, China, Belgium, African countries and the USA, where urban food growing has evolved in dramatically different directions. Finally, we examine the local ‘status quo’, including a visit to a York allotment site, and the evolution of students’ own horticultural knowledge and interest.

Catherine Heinemeyer BSc MSc
Term: Autumn
Day: Thursday
Start Date: 07 October 2010
Time: 7-9pm
No. of weeks: 11
Full fee: £107.00
Credits: 10
Places Left: 7
Location:  University of York Campus

you can book through this website:

Another Bat Walk

Following the popularity of our last bat walk, we are holding another one on Friday 3rd September, starting at 8.30pm (sunset is 19.43 that night) by the Association Shop on Scarcroft. As before, a talk will be given by the ever engaging Joanne Hodgson from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.  We now know where the bats are so have a really good chance of detecting them.  There will only be 12 places on this walk and all places MUST be booked in advance by e-mailing , stating how many people will be in your party.  There will be a charge of £1 per person and all proceeds will go to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.  However, this event is only open to association members so if you are not a member please will at least one member of your party join the association (£2.50 jan - dec).

Tree work

We are lucky enough to have a Sustrans Tree Warden as one of our plotholders on Scarcroft, Iris Wells. Recently, Iris has been carrying out some pruning work on trees that are on the communal paths through the site, on a voluntary basis. She and her colleague have been removing suckers that were coming up from the base of the trees, thus making it easier for the paths to be maintained by the council and being beneficial to the trees and their appearance.  Below are some before and after shots.

Ash before

Ash after

Sycamore before

Sycamore after

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Profile of the Best Plot Competition SOUTH area winner

Malcolm and Gill Wignall Plot 33 Scarcroft are the winners of the City of York Council's Best Plot Competition 2010 for the South area i.e. the area which covers Scarcroft, Hob Moor and Hospital Fields.  I visited them on their plot to find out about them, the way they garden and what I might learn from their success.

Malcolm and Gill Wignall

According to Malcolm, he does 10% of the work and Gill does 90%.  She says he is good at mowing, edging and cooking, particularly cooking.  He says she is good at all the rest of it.  They have worked this plot on Scarcroft for the last 7 years, but have shared other plots on the site before that.  Gill told me that when she was first offered this plot, Janice, the previous site secretary, offered her one that was immaculately dug over and one that was a solid mass of creeping buttercup but had a lavender hedge and a plum tree.  The lavender hedge swung it.   It took her 4 years to get all of the plot under cultivation and flowers still play a large part of Gill's plot which she describes more as an vegetable garden. 

She loves every aspect of having an allotment, except the occasional thefts.  She is even keen on digging, 'I love the way a patch of land looks a mess and then you dig it over and all of a sudden it's all orderly and ready'.  Gill is a committed organic gardener and over the years she has worked on improving the condition of her clay soil with compost and manure.  The two main pieces of advice she would give to anyone new to vegetable gardening - 'get on top of the weeds and improve your soil'.  This year she says she has been really pleased with the Lady Chrystl potatoes recommended to her by the men in the allotment shop and her white dwarf beans. She described her approach to allotment gardening as 'I like to do a bit of everything, but I don't get too worried.  I like to try things but if it doesn't work I go on to something else.'  Well, from the look of her and Malcolm's plot something is definitely working!  Congratulations to them both.

Gill and Malcolm are happy for other plotholders to come and visit their plot, but please only go onto it if they are around.

I hope to post up similar interviews with the winners from Hob Moor and Hospital Fields but as neither of them are association members it is taking me a little longer to get in touch with them. 

Caroline Bush

Saturday, 14 August 2010

How courgettes punish you if you go on holiday...

Turn your back for a moment and the marrows will be upon you.  The barrow was needed to get this lot home.

Here's 2 courgette recipes I picked up recently.

Courgette and Feta Soup (as told me by Ruth Hodgins)
  • onions, garlic, courgette, veg stock and feta
  • cook the onions until translucent, add garlic, add cubed courgettes, add veg stock, cook til courgettes soft then crumble in feta. Easy and delicious

Courgette Tea Cake
  • 1 egg, 125 ml sunflower oil, 175g courgettes (grated), 150g wholemeal flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 175g sugar, 75g sultanas, 75g walnuts
  • Preheat oven to 180 C / gas mark 4
  • grease and line a loaf tin
  • beat egg and sunflower oil together
  • grate courgettes
  • add flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices, sugar,sultanas and walnuts to courgettes and mix
  • mix in egg and oil mix and pour into tin
  • cook for 1 hour and test with a skewer to check it is cooked (if it comes out clean it is).

The Special Projects Task Force Get To Work

Today a few volunteers (I like to think of them as the Special Projects Task Force) got together by the allotment hut to do Mike's bidding.  Our tasks were to clear the rubble by the shop and to search for the water mains so that we can eventually have running water in the shop, which will be much better for those that handle the fertilisers etc.  Well, after lots of bare chested sweating and tea and cake scoffing, we managed one of two.  The rubble is clear, but despite a lovely tidy archeaologically useful trench no water pipe was found.  We even played around with a metal detector for a while to see if that helped, but it didn't. Ah well we will return to fight another day.

Many thanks to all those who helped out:
  • Katy Brierley
  • John Brierley
  • Iris Wells
  • Graham Sanderson
  • Adrian Clayton
  • Linda James
  • Frank Rice
  • Caroline Bush
  • Mike Oldfield

After (its more impressive in real life, honest)

Searching for the mains

Hard at work

We are likely to have more special projects going on later in the year so if you would like to volunteer please contact the association on  The more the merrier.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Winners of the 2010 York Best Plot Allotment Competition

We have just received the names of this year's winners.  So congratulations to the following: 
Mrs Rebecca Rowan 5B Strensall
Mrs E Joy Taylor 24B Wigginton Road NORTH AREA WINNER

Miss Martha Moulson 149A Low Moor
Mrs Helen & Mr Paul Sellers 3 Hempland Lane
Mrs Jean Bearpark 37A Glen EAST AREA WINNER

Mrs Valerie Warren 16 Hob Moor

Mrs Valerie Warren
Mr Kevin & Mrs Sally-Ann Gatus 20 Hospital Field

Mrs Sally-Ann Gatus

Mr Malcolm & Mrs Gill Wignall 33 Scarcroft SOUTH AREA WINNER

Mrs Gill Wignall

Mr Ambery & Mrs Susan Dew 16 Carr
Mr Steve Jones & Mr Geoff Pearson 14 Holgate
Mrs Sarah West 21C Howe Hill
Mr Alan Hayes 9 Green Lane
Miss Paula Smith 13 & 16 New Lane WEST AREA WINNER
Beanpoles donated by Nick Milner to be presented to each of the 4 Area Winners

Well done to you all.