Spud & Slug


The clocks have gone forward, and spring is here, by whichever definition is used; astronomical spring began on 20th March whilst meteorological spring started earlier, back on 1st March. It’s a busy time on the plot with plenty to keep us occupied and this issue of the Spud & Slug contains the usual mix of news and suggestions. By the way, Happy International Carrot Day for the 4th April!


Please could we remind Fishergreen plotholders of the need to lock up. Not for the first time, there have been reports of gates at the site being left open and unlocked. Please ensure that the chains are put into the locks and also make sure that the combination has been scrambled. There have been problems in the past and it really does take just a few moments to lock up properly. Doing so will benefit all plotholders at the site. Grass Tracks. We may be heading into April and we’ve had some better weather, but the ground really has had a soaking in recent months, so please do exercise some caution and common sense and avoid driving on grass tracks when the conditions are just not suitable. Water. The start of April is when the site reps will turn on the water supplies. Our water supply is metered and the winter break helps us monitor the meter readings to check for leaks. With plenty of pipework across the various sites, we really have to do all we can to prevent burst pipes, and bitter experience has shown that we can still get some keen frosts at this time of year. Also, don’t forget, the water bill is the Society’s biggest expense. With many plots having sheds or greenhouses, there is plenty of scope for water butts. Water harvested that way keeps costs down and gives plotholders the ability to water seedlings at times when the water supply is turned off.


Although all onion sets and shallots have gone, there are still some seed potatoes left, varieties being: Arran Pilot, Foremost, Home Guard, Estima, Nadine, Desiree, Harmony, Maris Piper and Cara. Priced at £1.50 / 2kg, these are a bargain and it’s still not too late to get them started! The on-going restrictions mean the shop continues to operate on the ‘Load and Go’ system; please refer to Roger’s emails for up to date details of available stock and timing of pre-booked slots. Manure. In response to a number of enquiries about manure, here are the contact details for a couple of local supplies: ? Richard Taylor (01765 658480) will deliver. ? Martin & Vikki Barton have lots of well rotted horse manure, free for anybody to collect. Ring Martin on 07825 604046 or email vikkibarton@hotmail.com for more details.


We are pleased to welcome the following new tenants: George Cormack who now has plot KR13B and Sara Burgess on KR27A. Waiting List. At the time of writing (26th March), the waiting list stands at a total of 80 names, with a breakdown by site as follows: Kirkby Road 45 Fishergreen 38 Bondgate Green 30 Quarry Moor 24 Gallows Hill 23 Riverview 37 As mentioned before, there is a significant element of double counting, with the sum of numbers for each site far exceeding the total waiting list number. Many applicants indicated no preference, being happy to take a plot at any site and are thus recorded several times, on the list for each of the sites they indicated they would like. Waiting list enquiries should addressed to Gary Tulip: garytulip@gmail.com


Although there is limited scientific research to support the idea of companion gardening, there are many references to the concept in books and magazines. Clearly, the idea is not for everybody, but fact or folklore, many gardeners claim that it works well. Companion planting is the planting of two or more crop species together, in order to achieve benefits such as higher yields and pest control. It can offer an organic way to protect your crops from pests without resorting to pesticides, or it might help improve pollination of fruit and vegetable crops. Next month will look at specific planting combination, but for now, here are a few basic principles of combination planting. Avoid monocultures. Monoculture is the same type of plant grown en-masse or in rows, but it makes it easier for pests and diseases to find their favourite plants and then spread quickly. Use tall plants such as peas or sweet corn to create partially shaded conditions for crops prone to bolting, such as coriander, lettuce and spinach. Plant herbs around the plot, as many have strongly scented leaves which help repel insects. Inter-cropping. This is the idea of growing fast-growing crops (e.g. lettuce or radishes) between widely spaced rows of slower-growing crops (e.g. Brussels sprouts or parsnips). It utilises spare space and helps reduce weed growth. Insect-friendly or bird-friendly plants. Planting some of these amongst, or close to crops should help attract natural predators such as birds which eat slugs, hoverflies which eat aphids and bees which pollinate crops. Be cautious with some companion plants such as mint. Mint is a fast-growing plant and can quickly smother other crops. Always grow mint in containers to keep it under control.


It’s getting busier on the plot as we move through spring and here are some suggested jobs to be getting on with:
x When soil conditions are suitable, work winter dug soil, breaking up the clods and removing any weeds. Add a general purpose fertiliser of your choice and rake level.
x In the greenhouse, keep an eye on young tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers plants and when the roots are filling the pots move on into larger pots using a good quality compost.
x Space in the greenhouse at this time of year is always at a premium so make sure any rubbish which accumulated over winter is removed. Before planting the summer’s greenhouse crops in their final positions, use a warm dry day to wash the greenhouse glass.
x Sweet pea seeds can be sown now for a late summer flush. Plants from seeds sown in the autumn or earlier in the year should, if not already done, be hardened off and planted in their final positions. Ensure suitable support is provided.
x Tradition has it that seed potatoes are planted on Good Friday, but in truth, the date isn’t as important as the soil conditions which can vary year on year depending on the weather. The second half of April is fine for main crop varieties. The RHS notes that in northerly districts and during adverse weather, planting can be delayed up to mid-May. Potatoes need quite a lot of room - the rows should be 30” apart and the seed potatoes placed about one foot apart down the rows. If growing more than one variety make sure you label the rows.
x Prune shrubby herbs such as thyme and sage to make sure they stay compact.
x Fleece small fruit trees if frost is forecast.
x Rhubarb should now be ready to start harvesting, but do remember sticks should not be
pulled in the year of planting.


Here are some more suggestions for what can be sown in the next few weeks. But remember, a bright sunny day at this time of year can lead to frosty nights, so as always, patience is required. Sow seed outdoors (provided the weather remains reasonable): beetroot, broad beans, broccoli, carrots, Swiss chard, summer cauliflower, lettuce, leeks, radish, turnip, spring and pickling onions, parsnips, peas (or start them off in modules if mice are a problem), spinach, and swede. Always sow in well-prepared soil. Sow seed indoors: marrows, courgettes, pumpkins and squash. Also sweet peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, celery, celeriac, and globe artichokes. In the greenhouse/indoors. Prick out seedlings into pots or modules for growing on as soon as they have their first true leaves. Pot up tomato seedlings when they develop true leaves above the more rounded seed leaves, or alternatively, start to sow tomato seeds indoors, ready to plant out after all risk of frost has passed.


Below is an abridged message recently received from one of our suppliers. The good news for RCAS members is the shop has been re-stocked ready for Easter and other than problems with Clover multi-purpose compost (75L bags) and Clover Composted Bark, we seem well supplied. We have all experienced a difficult past 12 months and continue to operate under challenging conditions. The situation has continued to deteriorate recently, and we are now seeing many of our suppliers struggle with raw material availability, lower production rates, Brexit implications on imported goods and transport issues. These implications are now putting an added strain on ourselves as our stock levels reduce as demand increases. This means that continued supply to all our customers will become more difficult due to lack of product availability. The main areas affected are compost and growing media, bagged fertilisers, plastic pots, agro-textiles and seeds. We are continuing to work with our suppliers to minimise the shortages of products, but we cannot guarantee that all stock ordered will be able to be supplied. Many manufacturers are now quoting lead times on products of up to six weeks which has a knock?on effect of getting stock to our customers within a reasonable timeframe of ordering. Please be assured we are doing everything we can to get your order to you as quickly as possible, but the current circumstances mean we can no longer guarantee orders being delivered within a six-week timeframe. Fortunately, at the moment these issues are not causing any increases in product prices but as the year progresses there may be price increases to be passed on as raw material and manufacturing costs look set to rise. Other Shortages. There have also been stories in the press referring to shortages of compost. The Garden Centre Association notes there has been a shortage of mulch and bark chippings due to supply and demand issues across the compost sector. Where garden centres are able to source supplies, they are often finding it is selling out very quickly after delivery. On the other hand, although some garden centres have blips in their supply chains and are experiencing high demand, in general, it’s reported that there are adequate supplies of multi?purpose compost, especially peat-free. Peat Free Compost. However, if you want peat-based compost, you may run into difficulties because of the intensifying shortage of peat both in the UK and in Ireland (the latter produces 40% of UK peat-based growing material). Furthermore, with climate change to the fore, and environmental concerns over the use of peat, the Government is looking to speed up the phasing out of peat use in horticulture through the introduction of legislation. In November 2020, Monty Don joined The National Trust, Friends of the Earth, the RSPB, the RHS, and many other organisations by signing a letter to the Environment Secretary calling for a total ban on the use of peat by 2025. Get filling those compost bins - there has never been a better time to make your own compost!


First cultivated in China, radishes, along with onions and garlic, were paid as ‘wages’ to labourers who built the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids. Radishes are members of the Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage) family and are related to kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and horseradish, among others. They are also related to wasabi, a type of horseradish, which in paste form is a staple condiment of Japanese cuisine. Radishes are a very good source of vitamin C (plus various other healthy nutrients), which can help fight disease and increase immunity of the body. It is estimated that about seven million tons of radishes are produced every year, representing roughly 2% of global vegetable production.


With much rhubarb grown on many plots, here is an alternative recipe and a different way of ensuring it all gets used up. It’s a pretty straightforward recipe and can be served warm as a pudding with cream or custard, or goes just as well as a piece of cake with a cup of tea or coffee. Preparation time around 30 mins // Cooking time around 2 hours Ingredients: 200g/7oz softened butter, plus a little extra for greasing 200g/7oz caster sugar, plus 3 tbsp for the topping 3 large free-range eggs 1 tsp vanilla extract or almond extract 200g/7oz ground almonds 200g/7oz self-raising flour 1 tsp baking powder 300g/10½oz slender young rhubarb, trimmed and cut into roughly 2cm/¾in lengths Method: Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Grease a 23cm/9in springform cake tin with butter and line the base with baking paper. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla or almond extract, almonds, flour and baking powder in a food mixer or food processor. Beat until smooth and thick. Spoon the cake batter into the prepared tin. Top with the rhubarb, pressing it down gently. Sprinkle with the reserved 3 tablespoons of sugar. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cover with foil if the cake starts to look a little burnt or brown before it is cooked in the centre. Cool in the tin for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Serve warm or cold. Notes: Leave the butter to soften at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before using, or soften in a microwave but don’t allow to melt. This cake keeps well for up to 3 days and can be frozen when wrapped tightly in foil. Andrew Turnbull // ajturnbull@live.co.uk


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