The Organic Working Group (OWG)

Introducing a new initiative for Twenty Pound Meadow West Oxford Allotments:  The Organic Working Group (OWG)

At the last AGM a proposal to ban the use of Glyphosate at our allotment sites was passed.  Use of Glyphosate is now against allotment rules and publicity about this rule change will be sent to all members in due course.

But what about the broader issues of caring for and sharing responsibility for the soil, the bio diversity and the set up of Twenty Pound Meadow allotments? What about all the other chemicals we still use…especially those that might do damage to bio diversity, damage the soil, wash into other allotments during flooding and potentially create tensions between allotment neighbours?  What about managing and improving our soils organically over time, finding ways to enhance and support insects and helpful ‘weeds’?  In short, what about creating a positive community of hobby growers going 100% organic?

I have therefore proposed to initiate an organic working group for plot holders on the Twenty Pound Meadow (TPM) site. The aim of this group is to get to know other TPM veg growers who aspire to use zero chemicals on their plot, to share knowledge and discuss organic solutions to challenges occurring both in our individual plots, and to find ways to improve plant and animal diversity.  The group could also contribute ideas and proposals to decisions concerning all these issues regarding the allotment site in general and for future changes to allotment rules.

Everyone would be is welcome to join the group, even (or especially) if you are still using chemicals on your plot. Please join if you are interested in an organic approach to food growing and are open to learning and sharing. This is just a starting point to get those interested together, we could then decide as a collective what we wish to focus on.

Our initial session will be facilitated by Tobias.

To sign up or just to check it out, please email Tobias at  Subject ‘OWG’, and you will be sent the invite.  Once I have expressions of interest, I’ll propose a time and date for meeting, most likely somewhere on our site.

Thank you,


Allotments AGM – Thursday 13 May 2021

The AGM took place last night over Zoom and was well-attended by members from both sites.

  • The committee was re-elected for another year – with Nick Jackson as Association Secretary and Cathy Stewart as Association Treasurer.  Please see the Committee pages for further details
  • The meeting agreed with the Committee’s proposal for the Association to become an incorporated Cooperative organisation – more details to follow
  • The meeting also agreed a proposal to ban the storage and use of Glyphosate-based herbicides on both of our sites.  Members have one month to dispose of any of these that they might have and application of these is forbidden – the rules will be updated to reflect this decision

Invitation (went out 5 May): Just a reminder that the AGM takes place over Zoom next Thursday (13 May).  The agenda and paperwork can be found here. The meeting will start at 7:30pm so please try and connect a few minutes early where you will enter the waiting room.  We will let you into the meeting as soon as we can. You should have received the Zoom invite in an email today (5 May).  If you haven’t please email the Secretary.

If you would like to join the Committee there is a form to complete at the bottom of the agenda.

Carry on Composting & Wild Garlic and Nettle Fritters

Check out Ally’s latest post on composting and a recipe for Wild Garlic and Nettle Fritters:

What could be better on a much needed rainy afternoon than foraging for Ramsons (wild garlic) and nettles to make tasty spring-green fritters! Having just harvested four wheelbarrow loads of compost from my compost bin my heart is brimming over in appreciation and awe for the cycles of life and the alchemical processes that happen in darkness.

I wanted to find out more about the magicians who do their work in the darkness, recycling our food-waste, wilted plants, flowers and greens from the plot mixed with a little cardboard, to become the nutrients for the seeds and shoots to come…

Read more here.

Dealing with flooded allotments

It is that time of year again – with a number of weather systems moving in from the Atlantic, both allotment sites have begun to flood – the ground is now saturated and likely to remain so for much of this winter.

The National Allotment Society have produced a leaflet dealing with flooding on allotments – it can be found under the Resources for Members section here.

We also found this document from Cornell University which offers some guidance on dealing with flooded vegetable fields.

There is also this website providing advice on recovering from a flooded allotment. It suggests that fruit and vegetables that are eaten raw should be avoided for at least 6 months. This will give the plant enough time to recover and for any contaminants to break down naturally. Root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips, and edible fruit from trees above the flood water should be safe to eat in just a few weeks, but make sure you boil any root vegetables thoroughly before consumption

Please do take care when moving around the sites as it can be difficult to know where the edges of paths are and there are of course the usual trip hazards and upward facing pointy objects (canes etc.) that need to be avoided.

Earth’s Green Milk – a Tonic for Spring

Read some of Ally’s latest blog on Earth’s Green Milk – a Tonic for Spring:

“The days are growing longer and brighter as the Fire in the Sky waxes and the days are still cold. Taking care of our health and well-being is essential, particularly in these times, and we are fortunate to be surrounded by places of beauty to walk, forage and to give our appreciation to.

Earth’s green milk is the old name for the humble stinging nettle; an earthy, generous creature if ever there was one.  It’s leaves, new shoots and seeds are edible and the tough stems can be dried and woven into cloth or made into cordage.  Nettle is anti-inflammatory packed with vitamins A, B & C, iron, potassium and chromium”.

Ally Plot 77

You can read the full article here.

Extending the communal orchard on Twenty Pound Meadow

There are 10 new year-old apple trees on Twenty Pound Meadow, doubling the size of the communal orchard and promising a juicy harvest in a few years time.

When choosing which trees to plant, we went for a range: some for their Oxford connections (Oxford Conquest, Blenheim Orange) or because they were good juicers from close-by (Ashmeads Kernal, Winter King).  Some are historic, harking back as far as Roman times (Court Pendu Plat, Kidds Orange).  And some are just good all round ‘doers’ – Cox’s Orange Pippin, Pixie and Suntan.

Each new tree has a designated ‘adopter’ from amongst Twenty Pound members.  The ‘adopter’ has planted it and will prune and water regularly over the first year.

Soon, there will be signs for each new tree to tell its history, illustrate its apple, and explain its pruning requirements. We hope people will come and visit – the orchard is at the end of the main road, by the bonfire site – and perhaps visitors will return to watch them grow or to notice how and when to prune both new and established trees.

Many thanks to Gus Fagan who sourced the trees and created a handy downloadable planting and pruning guide.  Thanks to the many adopters, too. Planting these trees was a positive way to finish an often difficult year.

Jude Carroll

Elder at the Autumn Equinox

Read some of Ally’s latest blog on Elder at the Autumn Equinox:

The Autumn Equinox falls between 20th and 23rd September in the Northern Hemisphere.  This is a time for taking stock, garnering our harvest, thanks-giving and pausing.  All of the festival days on the old Celtic calendar are an invitation to pause, pay attention to what is actually happening within and all around, acknowledge community – of the human and the wider than human word within which our lives exist and depend upon, and to shower gratitude and appreciation for all that we have been given, including the moments in life that have tested us and enabled us to deepen, mature and surrender to something larger than our ideas about our selves and the world.

You can read the full article here.

2020 Allotment Plot Rent Renewal

With only a few days of August left it is time to remind you that all rents are due in September. As in previous years we will be collecting these on the first three Sundays – the 6th, 13th and 20th September – from 10am to 12pm.

However, 2020 has been a difficult year and there will, necessarily, be some changes to the way we collect rent this time. These are designed to protect you and to protect the Committee members collecting the rent:

  • We will be collecting rent outside the shop on the Twenty Pound Meadow site.  We plan to use the Association’s Event Shelters in case of bad weather – one for Botley Meadow and one for Twenty Pound Meadow. It should go without saying but please remember which site your plot is on and join the correct queue
  • We will expect members to respect 2 metre social distancing at all times
  • We will only accept payment using our contactless card reader.  If you are paying for more than 1½ plots (i.e. more than £45) we will ask you to make multiple payments.
  • Neither cash nor cheques will be accepted for reasons of COVID-19 hygiene
  • At our most recent meeting the Committee reconfirmed that we will not accept online bank transfers. These are sometimes difficult to attribute to an individual on bank statements, causing additional work for the Treasurer. More importantly, turning up and paying in person is often the only opportunity we have to address issues with members face to face.
  • Advance cheques sent to the Secretary, Treasurer or left in the Shop letterbox will not be accepted unless previously agreed by communication directly with the Secretary – and then only in very exceptional circumstances
  • We are aware that a few of you are likely still to be shielding and therefore unable to comply with the above arrangements.  If this is the case, please contact the Association Secretary, Nick Jackson, by email to discuss alternative arrangements.


Web articles about allotments in Oxford

Two web articles that may be of interest to members.  Tony Morris has produced a wonderful one on his Morris Oxford website – having talked to Wendy from ODFAA. It has some amusing anecdotes and opens with one referring to our own Association.

Another article forms part of a blog entitled Life in the Floodplain – about Oxford, as the author came to know it in new ways during the lockdown period 2020.

I would encourage you to take a look at both when you have some free time.

Improving Shed Security


Helen White on TPM has done a great job and has managed to get our local PCSO to organise a security event to help members:

Sunday 23rd August
11am – 13pm

  • Get advice from our local PSCO on shed security
  • Get your garden tools marked up to deter thieves
  • Hear about updates to general security at TPM

Following the spate of break-ins to sheds on our site we thought we would remind members of the guide to allotment security that the Fed (ODFAA) developed a couple of years ago.  This has been up on our website (on our Resources for Members page) since then and contains a number of useful tips.

There are a number of relatively inexpensive ways of making your shed less vulnerable to break-ins including the use of a proper security hasp and staple fitting on the door (secured with a coach bolt), a padlock of sufficient security rating (e.g. CEN grade 3), and fitting ‘hinge bolts’ to the hinged side of the shed door.  All of these will make the shed a less attractive option for opportunistic thieves. Your Secretary has installed all of these options on their shed and is happy to provide further advice!

The Committee is looking at ways we can make the site more secure overall, but with one boundary perpetually open to the river there will always be the possibility of thieves gaining access.  Therefore, making individual sheds less attractive to them is worth considering …

Looking after Lilies

I have been doing a bit of research on lily health and storing the bulbs (corms) over winter, as I am keen to ensure my Lilium Regale will be good next year.

Lily Health

I have been feeding mine weekly with liquid tomato feed, which has worked well.

I have also been on patrol for lily beetle. These are about the size of a ladybird, slightly more oval in shape and a bright orangey red. They are easily crushed between thumb and forefinger.

The real pests are their young. The adults attach the grubs (about the size of a large comma) to the underside of the lily leaves, and then coat them in excrement.

The excrement then provides the grub with a coating that allows it to slip down the plant into the soil, where is feasts on the lily bulb over-winter: effectively stunting or killing the plant.  The grubs can by crushed, or put into your brown in or landfill. I’d advise against composting, just in case….

Storing Bulbs over Winter

Until the autumn keep feeding the lilies with a high nitrogen feed (e.g. liquid tomato feed)

In mid -September cut the stems down to 3 ~ 4″ and remove all the leaves.

Keep feeding until the 1st week in November, when you lift them. Clean the bulbs as best you can leaving the roots intact. Then transfer them to a store.

To create a store either prepare a large poly bag by punctuating it with vent holes or enlist an open weave plastic box. Line the bottom of the bag or box with stones or gravel to ensure good drainage. Then half fill the container with compost, place the bulbs on this and then cover them to a good depth with compost. The strong warning I have read is not to use garden soil, rather compost. To this end the growbags on sale in the Allotment Shop would be ideal! And £3 at pop, a snip!

Store in a cool dry place.  I planted mine out in pots in May of this year and had a spectacular show in late June and most of July.

Anne James