Chairman’s Report.

I have just read the report I wrote for the spring 2005 Sogs newsletter.  The style is a bit flowery but otherwise we could almost just reprint it for this newsletter.  It goes on about the potato day, which was our first, so now we have had 9!  It goes on about the flower show, we will be there again this year.  It goes on about the enthusiasm and commitment of Sogs members.

Most of all it just goes on.  But that is what I am not paid to do.  Which is the point I am labouring.  The enthusiasm and commitment and volunteering is what has made Sogs special; and continues to make it special.  In my last report I quoted that old saw, “If you want to be happy for an hour, get drunk; if you want to be happy for a month, get married; but if you want to be happy for life, then plant a garden”.  We should add  “If you want to be surrounded by happy helpful people; then join Sogs!”

The potato day this year became a bit fraught the day before, because we were let down on the delivery of the potatoes; but the point is we rose to the challenge and tapped in to an enormous pool of goodwill and we overcame and made it one of the best potato days ever; and...we have bonded with Mathew from Preston who will be very good for us in future years.  If we decide to do a potato day again that is, because it is your decision, as a Sogs member.  We were about 2 dozen workers on the day and we were rushed off our feet, so don’t hold back with the volunteering, you are needed.

Also get in free to the flower show, 9th and 10th August, just by volunteering to help with the Sogs stand.  The theme this year is weeds and how good they are.  Their uses and what a poor old world it would be if there were no weeds.  If you want to see what I mean, examine closely a crop of wheat, in a field, this year.  You will see that there is nothing there but wheat, and how sterile that is.  It may be necessary for farmers to do this to make a profit but we organic gardeners can have the best of both worlds, learn to love your weeds, all of which are either/and/or edible, medicinal, fertiliserable, mulchable, compostable, beautiful, steeped in history and folk lore, and generally usable.

As I type this I am realising that we are not SOGS volunteers; we are paid for our efforts - free entry to the best shows in the county, free food and drink on pot day, free coach trip in the summer, free being lectured at by me, and, best of all free smiles from Sogs members, money could not buy the pleasure that that brings.



From Carol: 

Shrewsbury Flower Show 9th-10th August – Volunteers needed to help man SOGs’ stall

It involves spending two hours meeting and greeting the public, and attempting to answer their queries - don’t worry about not knowing answers as there are information leaflets to consult, and if it is your first time as volunteer I will try to pair you with someone who knows the ropes. You will be met at any entrance at a time to suit you, and once in you will be free to stay as long as you wish courtesy of SOGs.

If this appeals to you please let Carol know the day and time you are available. Email:

Phone: 01902 373905      Mobile: 0771 727 3516

Nov 12th Gardeners’ Question Time 

November Question and Answer Meeting

The experts were Richard Bailey (SOGS) member, Martin Ford (lecturer) and John Gales (NSOGS member)

The questions began with one about potatoes which had been brown and rotten in the middle, which it was thought could be either a boron deficiency, commonly found on dry sandy soil or the virus Spraing.  This loves cool, wet conditions, just like last summer.  Crop rotation was thought to be the best way to control this as the spores live in the soil.  Plenty of manure to keep the plants growing strongly would help.  An added benefit would be that eelworm would be kept away by this.

There were no organic methods of getting rid of moss in lawns except for spiking and improving the drainage.  Richard looks after 23 lawns and announced they all had moss, so we have no chance.  Letting the grass grow a little longer was suggested with cuts, little and often and thorough raking of the thatch.  Sounds like hard work!

If you have problems with rabbits the only suggestions were Broad Beans and anything from the Courgette family.  A good fence or a gun might give you a more varied diet.

A seven year old non-flowering Philadelphus could be first offered some nice potash but failing that a shock with some root pruning was thought might work.  

Little black flies in the compost in your pot plants should be dealt a drop of the hard stuff, Fairy Liquid, (other brands are available) and if that doesn’t work, scrape away the top layer and replace with grit.  They don’t do much harm anyway.  

If you’re having no success with your Celeriac try planting in a trench and fill this with water once a week, as long as your soil is not heavy, and try this extra water on your beetroots too for bigger roots.  

Start your Sweet Peppers early; the end of February.

If your Rhubarb keeps flowering it is perfectly natural; just cut the flowers off otherwise it will go to seed.

A red mark with a brown mark in the middle on Pear leaves turn out to be Pear Blister Gall, not too dangerous for the tree and in an organic garden the natural predators around should deal with it.

If your onions don’t store too well make sure they are well dried before storing.  Commercial drying is done with hot air under mesh shelving.

And finally, if your comfrey bed is not producing too well it is simply exhausted.  After years of giving up its nutrients it needs a feed itself.

Sue Bosson

Pythagoras said in the sixth century BC: ‘Abstain from beans!’ 

This is Dean Swift’s explanation in the 17th century:

Keep them to wholesome food confined

Nor let them taste what causes wind:

‘Tis this the sage of Samos means, 

Forbidding his disciples beans.

Jan 2nd The Life and History of the Drovers of 

North Wales

A large number of members turned out despite this being so close to the Christmas and New Year celebrations. They were wise not to miss this wonderful evening in the company of a captivating storyteller, Idris Evans, with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the cattle drovers of Anglesey. If you were wondering what the subject has to do with organic gardening, the answer is, not a lot, but it turned out that a certain plant had a great deal to do with cattle droving. That plant is hemp. 

Droving was carried on for 1000 years until 1850 and the arrival of the railways. Idris became interested in the subject when he moved to a house in a village near Ruthin called Rhewl, which means cattleyard in Welsh. He took up metal detectoring, and after his hopes were first raised of finding treasure everywhere, he found that the bleeps were being caused by his metal toe caps. However, he did eventually find treasure in a way, because when he learnt how to use his detector he was turning up coins, Anglesey pennies, one dating to the 1400’s. Also he found small horse shoes of a peculiar shape, which he found out were actually cow shoes, two to each hoof, because the cows were shod for the long journey. His house was on the site of a huge gathering place of the drovers, before they set off for London. 

Just a few words about the many uses of hemp. It was used for making clothes (when mixed with wool it makes a waterproof fabric); for rope; for bandages, with its healing properties; and surprisingly, for paper and indeed for the very first paper money. 

As Idris spoke non-stop for a full hour, he covered so much of this fascinating subject that it could take up several pages here, so I advise you to read his book – (you can borrow my copy!). At one point he gave a truly piercing whistle to demonstrate how the drovers communicated with each other from front to back of the line of cattle, but no one was in need of being woken up - although all the chairs seemed to jump back several inches! 

Marian Byrne

From Clive Walmesley:  Further thoughts about what to call members of SOGS

SOGS: A concise, unambiguous, inimitable, easy to pronounce, easily recognisable, punchy and printable acronym.  It describes what we all are as a group, but what am I as an individual member I hear you ask?  A Sogian?  Is that pronounced with a hard or a soft ‘g’?  A Sogite?  Sounds uncomfortably close to a ‘Luddite’, who is opposed to change or improvement in working methods.  A Sogerian?  I feel I have suddenly aged twenty years!  

After this exceptionally wet year I could well be regarded as a Soggie but I’m not sure I always want to be regarded as a ‘wet’.  Perhaps an international touch would result in a ‘Sogi’?  Am I a Sog, do others think I’m a real Sog at times?  Is there a gender issue, for example, should a female Sog be a Sogette?  I quite like the term ‘Sogger’ and being close to ‘Slogger’ it encapsulates the qualities of many in the organisation who have got us to where we are.  This year I would have been a soggy slogging Sogger.  Oh Sog it!  Anyway it sounds OK to me! 

Talk, 2nd January on Cultivation of Potatoes:

The speaker, Derek Jones, was indisposed, but we fell back on member expertise. After finalising details of the running of Potato Day, which was to take place the following Saturday, Peter led a wide-ranging discussion of various aspects of the subject, in particular which varieties we had had most success with or thought the most worthwhile to grow.

Soggies’ methods of slug deterrence: eggshells, sharp sand, or coffee grounds in the planting hole.

Origin of name ‘Sarpo’ (pronounced sharpo): the Hungarian Sarvari family first bred these blight-resistant varieties, thus the Sar of Sarvari + po of potato makes Sarpo. 

Pronunciation of Ratte: its full name is Ratte d’Ardeche, so it is French and therefore pronounced like our word ‘rat’. 

Still on the  subject of potatoes, did you know that Alan Romans says it is not essential to chit potatoes?

Did you know that commercially grown non-organic potatoes have their tops sprayed off with herbicide?

For online advice about potato blight:                            Google ‘Potato Council blight leaflet’. This also has useful photos of the condition. 

Cuttings etc. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

From Carol Lovell - Shropshire Star 19.10.12 

Milk for the lactose intolerant! 

Richard Yapp, of Lawns Farm near Wem has a herd of specially selected British cows that produce ‘a2’ milk, which is good for people who struggle to eat dairy products. The cows’ DNA is free from a protein called ‘a1’that can lead to digestive discomfort. The milk is on sale in Morrison’s and Budgens, and will soon be stocked by Tesco.

And on the same page: Where do painted lady butterflies go in the autumn? This has been a mystery to scientists until now. The butterflies migrate to Africa, but out of sight of human observers, at a height of about 1,600 feet. 

Daily Telegraph 10.1.13 Giant Killer slug!

A new species of “killer slug”, arion vulgaris, was first identified in East Anglia last year, and has been found eating dead mice, dog mess and even each other. A similar species has caused havoc in Scandinavia, where slugs feasting on roadkill created so much slime that it became a road hazard. It is thought that both killer slugs and Spanish slugs arion flagellus can mate with native species including the smaller grey field slug. As well as eating popular garden flowers and vegetables, they could ruin the oilseed rape crop, worth millions to the economy.

D.T. 29.6.2012 Tomato flavour ruined for the sake of redness. Supermarkets to blame again – for insisting tomatoes should be bred for perfect, even redness. This has accidentally disabled a gene used in photosynthesis causing a reduction in the sugars which give better, sweeter taste.

Cuttings etc. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

DT 7.1.13

Further benefits from Lycopene

Made from tomatoes, lycopene had previously been shown to help unclog blocked arteries. A further trial has shown that it also made blood vessels more efficient, boosts blood flow and softened hardened arteries. It is hoped that it could result in fewer strokes and heart attacks, and that it could help in inflammatory diseases including arthritis.

DT 28.9.12

Try this if you’ve got time to spare, and lots of spiders!

Spider’s silk may protect gardens from pests. Draping five threads on each leaf of a green bean plant protected them from beetles, even though no spiders were present. (Five threads on each leaf! Ed.)

Letters page, DT 4.4.11

Caroline Cardew-Smith reminds readers that merely choosing plants that butterflies like is not sufficient – they need specific plants for each stage of their life cycle. 7 species need nettles, 6 need wild grasses, 6 need vetches and trefoils, therefore we need to plant a large selection of such plants, as well as the much-publicised flowers that attract butterflies.

Tomato growing advice we were given by Phil of Hopesay Organics:

Don’t get water on the leaves! De-leaf around the base, and water straight into the soil/compost. Do not overwater, and stop watering altogether at the end of August unless the plants are wilting, even indoors.


Eight Soggies gathered at a very cold Flaxivity Youth Centre one Sunday in December.  With small artists’ brushes, some sponge bits and left over paint, we went back to our pre-school years and covered a 4' x 8' board with flax. We then got arty, and added Bugs and Beasties. All done by 1pm.  True artistic talent.  The board is now on display with other community group boards outside the Flaxmill on the Ditherington Road, Shrewsbury, and has been a popular talking point amongst locals and those going past.  Well done, Soggies!

The Flaxmill is putting in for the final funding bid for restoration this month, and we have fingers crossed.  Meanwhile, I have flax seeds for sale at £1 a packet, and we hope to continue to grow, rett and process flax into linen.  Volunteers are needed to help on the Open Weekend May 11th and 12th, so do get in touch if interested with either myself or Friends of the Flaxmill.  We will be there breaking, scutching and hackling! Maralyn  (01743 874254)

Tasty Buds, Luscious Leaves and Succulent Shoots. March

talk by Rob Hurst of the Cottage Herbery, Tenbury Wells


A feast for the eyes, as Rob accompanied his talk with a series of beautiful photos of growing herbs. Food for the brain as well, as we tried to absorb all the information about growing and using a huge selection of herbs. Coloured leaves as beautiful as any blooms; flower petals as edible as any leaves; tastes subtle, zinging or eye-watering  - Rob enthused us with his illustrated list of the herbs and cottage garden plants he and his wife Kim grow in their nursery, and with his suggestions of what we could grow to make our meals more colourful and exciting. He had brought along a large selection of plants for us to buy. They have always grown their plants in peat-free compost, (Fertile Fibre), and until recently were members of the Soil Association and still adhere to all its principles. They have been gold medal winners at many flower shows, including Malvern and Chelsea, but now they are cutting back on showing.

Good varieties of plants with edible petals include Calendula ‘Indian Prince’ and nasturtium ‘Indian Ruby’. A good precaution is to spread some paper towel and put flower heads face down on it for a while, so that any ‘thunderflies’ drop out onto the paper.  Tasty and colourful leaves include horseradish (less pungent than the root), silver buckler leaf sorrel, Tashkent mint, red orache, Russian red kale and red mustard. Chicory is good for its beautiful blue flowers, as well as its leaves for eating, and its roots for roasting for ‘coffee’. Red orache makes a tall, striking plant in borders, and its red leaves can be added to salads. White-flowered borage also makes a good-looking plant, less floppy than the blue-flowered kind – only its flowers can be eaten, not the leaves.

Sue Boulding says her garden must be worth a fortune, as

nettle plants can be bought for £1 per plug (!) from However, the website is well worth looking at.

Recipes: Use up that glut of vegetables that is sure to be produced by the superb growing season to come. (Well, we can but hope!)

Courgette fritters:

To make 6: about 8oz courgettes

1 large egg

2 tablespoons plain flour plus more for coating

Half a packet of feta cheese, crumbled but still chunky

A handful of chopped mint, parsley & chives

Grate courgette into a clean tea towel then squeeze it into a ball over the sink to get all the excess moisture out. Tip into a bowl, mix in all of the other ingredients and heat some oil in a  frying pan. Place dollops of the mixture into the flour, coat on all sides, then fry until golden.

Beetroot Chutney from Carol Edwards

2lbs cooked diced beetroot            2 teaspoons chopped garlic

4 green apples , diced                               2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2 onions                                         1 tsp cumin

2 cups caster sugar                         2 tsp ground cardamom

2 cups white wine vinegar              1 tsp ground cloves

juice of 1 lemon                              2 tsp cinnamon

Place all ingredients except beetroot in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add beetroot, bring back to boil, simmer around half an hour or till mixture starts to gel and thicken. Put into sterilized jars and seal. Enjoy.

Sue Bosson sent this item about blight resistant tomatoes, from her friend Mike Farr. It is interesting that it is easy to take cuttings and thus save money on seed.

I have been growing the Tomatoes, Legend - Ferline -  & Fantasio  – all F1’s with good results even last year, when there was some blight – no spraying of course; see  below; the main problem is the cost of the F1 seed – but what I would suggest is to prop some from seed,  and then take cuttings(lateral shoots) – they root easily and grow fast - and then distribute the rooted cuttings free to others when potted. So only need to buy one lot of seed.

Tomato: Legend: crops August until first frosts

Bush (Determinate). Tomato Legend is a remarkable tomato variety, in recent trials showing impressive blight tolerance in a garden situation. Legend was bred in the USA by Dr. Jim Baggett at Oregon State University . Both Thompson & Morgan and Dr Baggett believe Legend could be the answer to many gardeners' prayers to help overcome this most destructive disease. 

A heavy crop of large glossy red fruits of up to 180g (6oz) in weight are produced on plants with a determinate (bushy) habit. The fruits of Tomato Legend are a slightly flatter shape, and almost seedless, early ripening, and have excellent flavour. Best grown outdoors but also suitable for growing under glass. Sow seed indoors 6 to 8 weeks before last frost - harvest mid summer to autumn. Seeds are in the RHS Vegetable Collection.

Sowing Instructions

Sow seeds April to May. Place seeds on the surface of a good, free-draining, damp seed compost and cover with a fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Place in a propagator at a constant temperature of around 18-20C (64-68F) until after germination, which takes 7-10 days.

Growing Instructions

Transplant seedlings when large enough to handle into 7.5cm (3in) pots. Plant in final situation when 20cm (8in) high, 45cm (18in) apart.


Plants do not require side-shooting, but best supported by cane or stake.

Kitchen Notes

Try 'French fried tomatoes' - dip slices in egg/milk mixture, then roll in breadcrumbs and deep fry for 1 minute. 

Tomato : Ferline F1 Hybrid

Cordon (Indeterminate) A remarkable tomato variety. In recent trials Tomato Ferline has shown impressive blight tolerance in a garden situation. Tomato Ferline could be the answer to many gardeners' prayers, to help overcome this most destructive disease. The vigorous, indeterminate plants produce heavy crops of deep red fruits of up to 150gm (5oz) in weight with a very good flavour. Suitable for growing under glass. Tomato Ferline is also resistant to fusarium and verticillium wilt.

Sowing Instructions

Sow seeds from late winter to early spring. Sow seed 1.5mm (1/16in) deep. Germination usually takes 6-14 days at 24-27C (75-80F).

Growing Instructions

Transplant the seedlings when large enough to handle into 8cm (3in) pots and plant out into grow bags, pots etc when large enough at 45-60cm (18-24in) apart.


Provide adequate support and tie in regularly. Remove all side shoots as they appear and restrict the plant to one main stem. Feed weekly with a high Potash Liquid fertiliser and water only moderately. 

Suttons Lycopersicon 'F1 Fantasio' (Tomato) Seeds  

A deliciously flavoured variety, ideal for outdoor growing, bearing a good crop of round fruits up to 200g (½ lb) in weight. Good Blight tolerance helps ensure that the leaves stay green and healthy! Shows resistance to Tobacco Mosaic Virus, Verticilium and Fusarium Wilts, and Nematodes too! For cultivation under glass or outdoors. 

CULTURE: For greenhouse crops, sow February/April under glass 18-21°C (65-70°F). Grow in well prepared borders, large pots or growing bags, removing laterals as they appear. For outdoor crops, sow April under glass 18-21°C (65-70°F). Grow in warm, sunny positions in well prepared, moisture retentive soil allowing 45-60cm (1½-2') between plants, and water regularly in dry periods. (16-18 weeks maturity.) 



Make a free website with Yola