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!

Oxford Hub: Allotment Volunteer Support

Oxford Hub are offering free volunteer support for people who are not able to maintain their allotments during lockdown due to vulnerability to Covid-19.

If you are aware of anybody who may benefit from this support, please ask them to fill out the form (or fill it out on their behalf, with permission).

Oxford Hub will then contact individuals and match them to a local volunteer for support. Please feel free to distribute to anyone who might be interested. If you have any questions, please email lizzie@oxfordhub.org.

Oxford Together is Oxford Hub’s campaign to provide support to those in need. Their volunteers are assisting people with shopping, collecting prescriptions, phone check-ins, and more.

The Association Committee discussed this offer of support at our recent Committee meeting and are happy for members to access this service should they wish.  If you do, please let the Secretary have the details of the volunteer(s) who will be accessing the site.

OCC ban on bonfires

Hi Folks.  In case you didn’t receive an email with this news, we have received the following from the Council via ODFAA

The Council is concerned about bonfires during the lockdown period when many people with pre-existing respiratory problems are stuck at home.
They are asking allotment sites to refrain from bonfires during the lockdown period. This coincided with a halt to their garden waste (brown bin) collection scheme while OCC staff are redirected to priority areas. (The ban has since been lifted and collections resumed)
Twenty Pound Meadow already has a site-wide ban on bonfires but this OCC request means that we cannot burn waste on the burn area to the north of the site. Please do not take waste for burning to that area as it will rapidly mount up and become unmanageable – please store it on your plot until such time as bonfires are allowed again.
For Botley Meadow, please do not have any bonfires until the restrictions are lifted – please store the waste on your plots as above.

Sorry for this inconvenience and I hope that it will only be a short time until we can proceed as before.

Nick Jackson (on behalf of the Committee)

Virtual Seed and Plant Exchange now LIVE


Sorry – there was a technical glitch that prevented you from replying to a post (either an offer or a request).  This is now fixed. Remember that if you are exchanging contact details, these will be visible to all members logged in so you might want to think about limiting it to“I’m on Twenty Pound Meadow, plot XX, I’ll there on Saturday morning and so on …”

Thanks for all the emails we have received expressing interest in a virtual seed and seedling exchange this year – during what are uncommon circumstances.

After an initial hiccup to do with website security we are now ready to launch the discussion board.  So please can anyone who has expressed interest in their emails to us please post offers/requests on the discussion board …

How this works:

  1. Head over to the website and click on Log In under the Topics tab on the top menu bar
  2. The first time you do this you will need to complete a short registration form and the Website will send you an email (from wordpress@westoxfordallotments.org) with a link to activate your account.

Once you’ve successfully registered you can find the Seed Swap discussion under Topics (the only Topic so far).  So – If you’ve been caught short by the Lock-down (or can’t find a firm that will deliver in time) and need seeds or seedlings please post a request, listing:

  • Your name
  • Your plot number (and which site you’re on)
  • What it is you’re looking for (tomato plants, beans etc.)

Then wait to see if somebody can match your request with surplus of their own.

Similarly, if you have more seed than you think you’ll need this year, or if you’re likely to have extra seedlings that others could use, please post a comment with the same details as above and wait for an answer.  Once you’ve exchanged your surplus it is worth adding a post to say that they’re all gone to avoid any more people asking!

After that it is up to you. The secretary will moderate this list but can’t and won’t take an active role in matching up requests and offers.

As we stated, this is a discussion board thread for members to communicate for the purposes of swapping seeds and plants. Please don’t use it for any other purpose. If you want a discussion thread for another topic please contact the site secretary to discuss.

And Finally! – We trust that members will abide by Government recommended ‘social distancing’ when exchanging seeds and plants!

WhatsApp Group for Twenty Pound Meadow

One of our Committee members, Cathy, has created a WhatsApp group for members on our Twenty Pound Meadow site:

There is a WhatsApp group for speedy exchange of information, this is the best way to communicate issues to everybody particularly with regard to guidelines for COVID-19.

Download WhatsApp to your phone and send a text to Cathy Feenan 07769 346066 with your name and plot number to be added

If members are interested we can look at a similar WhatsApp group for members on Botley Meadow

Community & Gratitude for Wild Greens

Read some of Ally’s latest blog dealing with Community & Gratitude for Wild Greens:

What extraordinary, challenging and creative times we live in!  Over the last few weeks life as we knew it has been turned upside down as the Coronavirus swept from country to country, town to town, community to community.

It is a time to be taking great care of our health and well-being and for supporting others in ways that are possible.  Amongst the deep challenges and loss that many have already experienced, we are also seeing that, ‘we are all in this together’.

Communities are springing up where there weren’t any, and where they already exist much kindness, compassion and gratitude is flowing between people. These times of challenge and creativity are reminding us of the interwoven nature of all life, (yes that includes us too).

Read the whole article here

Shop Update!

Dear Members

Following the latest COVID-19 guidelines and lack of stock, we are closing the Association Shop until further notice.

We will put a notice up on the shop door and TPM gates and add it to the Osney & St Thomas WhatsApp group.

Our delivery this week was only 20 bags of farmyard manure and 10 grow bags which we will keep.

The Committee will wait until the situation improves and then review procedures.