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

Potato orders for next year

We will order potatoes from BHGS, as we did last year, by mid-November.  We will expect delivery early in the New Year.  We need your contact details, both to let you know when they arrive, and in case there is any query about your order.  You will pay for them when you collect from us, but if you fail to collect and pay for them within a reasonable time, we reserve the right to sell them in the shop.

If you are interested, please fill in the order form here and return it to Felicity.

Damage to plants from weedkiller present in some horse manure and compost brands

Aminopyralid is a weedkiller mostly used on grass and hay fields. The herbicide binds strongly to plant material. The poison can enter horse manure if the horses eat hay that has been sprayed with the weedkiller. Manure from animals fed on treated hay contains chemical residues sufficient to damage certain crops, especially broad beans, beans, potatoes and tomatoes. With the phasing out of peat, some commercial composts use manure which may have been infected with this weedkiller.

It seems to be a special problem in horse manure. Anyone buying fresh horse manure need to know whether the fields where horses grazed had been sprayed with this weedkiller.

The main symptom is new leaf growth that curls inward, yellowing leaves and stunted growth.

According to Charles Dowding, this is a growing problem:

“I am so upset to hear of increasing problems from this. It’s getting even more serious. The main identification is a deformation of plants’ growing tips. And crinkling/yellowing/distortion of older leaves. Labs often cannot measure the tiny amounts of this lethal poison, which are enough to damage our vegetable and fruit plants. Roses and apple trees suffer too.”

He claims to have seen weedkiller damage on plants grown in many prominent brands of compost. There’s also a video on the subject here.

Dowding lists a number of weedkillers where this aminopyralid is present: Banish, Forefront, Grazon, Halcyon, Pharaoh, Pro-Banish, Runway.

Gus Fagan

Blandford Fly Warning

Oxford NHS Foundation report that their Minor Injury Units have seen a significant increase in patients with bites from the Blandford fly – a bloodsucking black fly, 2 to 3mm in size, which gives a particularly nasty and painful bite. The Blandford Fly (Simulium posticatum) is usually found near slow-flowing rivers and lakes – meaning both our sites are likely to have them this summer.

One of our members recently sent in this report:

On Tuesday evening, I was doing some watering and had just filled a couple of cans when I felt an insect bite my arm. I looked down and saw a small [about 2mm long] insect. In my shed, I keep a bottle of Dettol™ and I swabbed the bite area. We left for home shortly after and I took another look at the bite. I could see something black inside. I swabbed it again with Dettol™ and investigated with my jeweler’s eyepiece and a needle. I managed to fish out what I presume was the part of the insect which was after my blood. It was about 1mm long. Again, a Dettol™ swab was used. Before going to bed, I applied some hydrocortisone cream and covered it with a plaster.

I had a suspicion I had been bitten by a Blandford Fly and a Google search seemed to indicate this possibility. If so, the results can be mild or quite serious but there appears to be no bad reaction today.

If it was indeed the Blandford Fly that bit me, then I would not be the first one on the allotment to be attacked. My advice is do not take chances and swab the bite as soon as possible with Dettol™ or similar. See if there is something to fish out and use a magnifier and needle, carefully. As these beasts like water, be careful near the water troughs.

Your Secretary has also been the unfortunate recipient of one of these bites and can confirm they are really quite painful. NHS advice on how to treat these bites can be found here.


UK set for possible drought

Despite heavy rainfall for some this month and widespread winter flooding, the UK may be on course for a drought this summer.

Find out more in the latest Hydrological Summary and Hydrological Outlook from the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.

  • The UK received less than 50% of the average rainfall for May 2020
  • For England and Wales, it was the driest May since records began (in 1910) with just 17% of the average rainfall, with some regions below 10% (Thames – 7%, Wessex 9%)
  • By the end of May, UK soils were notably or exceptionally dry – the driest on record for May (from 1961) and already at similar soil moisture levels to those observed in late July 2018
  • Rivers flows across the UK have been steadily dropping since mid-March, with some recording their lowest flows for this time of year since records began, 50 years ago.

Using Garlic ‘scapes’

Anyone who watched Gardeners World last week will have seen Monty Don dealing with his garlic, and removing the ‘scapes’ (the developing flower buds).

He mentioned that garlic often starts to flower following periods of dry weather and when I looked at my garlic at the weekend I found that all the plants of one variety had started to develop scapes.

Looking around the internet I found this recipe for using them in a soup – which we just made – and it is delicious.  Much better than tossing them on the compost heap!