SOGS Newsletter Oct 2012.  Chairman’s report.

It is October, the month of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom friend of the maturing sun; also it is when the days shorten and thoughts turn suicidal with sad disorder.  How best to combat this?  Why, with gardening of course!  A bit of vigorous exercise, get the blood going, excite the endorphins, plan for next year.  There was an article in the paper the other day about how some flabby 58 years old chappie was getting fit and sexy.  He joined a gym and got a personal trainer at a cost of £13,000 per year.  How much simpler and productive would it be to just go gardening.  The old adage has it that if you want to be happy for an hour then 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.  I agree with this; apart from the getting drunk and married bit, of course.
    We can beat the winter blues because Sogs has had a summer full of fascinating things to look back on and we have a winter of equally fascinating things to look forward to.  This is thanks to the hard work of our programme secretary, Siobhan.  And there you were thinking that I did it all; just because I make a lot of noise!
   With all the happiness and joy also comes sadness; we have lost Veronica and Gwen, both gone to that great garden in the sky, both much missed.  Gwen was old and full of smiles and joy; Veronica was young and full of smiles and joy.  Both loved their gardens and their families and in return were loved by their gardens and families.  If, one day, someone can honestly say the same about me I will be content.
  Also Peter Holden has gone to the great potato supplier in the sky.  For years Peter and Yvonne have supplied us with the seed potatoes for our potato day.  Peter died suddenly and now will not be able to supply our potatoes for 2013.  (He could have just said!)  We have found lots of interesting seed potatoes from another source, so the potato day is ON.  Even so, we will miss Peter.
  So, let us look forward to another year of rain and drought and frosts and sun and wind and blight and slugs and caterpillars and tasty potatoes and beans and raspberries and spinach and apples and cabbage like footballs and globe artichokes like hand grenades and Jerusalem artichokes like a different grenade:  In other words, a typical gardening year.  


May 6th- 7th Attingham Plant Fair

What a pleasure it is at any time to be in the walled garden at Attingham Park, which is well on the way to being completely restored with the help of a team of employees and an army of volunteers, which include some Sogs members. Oh, I nearly forgot the other workers, the Tamworth pigs, which do a splendid job of turning grassy areas into workable soil. The pleasure of being there is greatly increased when the garden is animated by stallholders and visitors for the annual Plant Fair, with colourful tents, awnings and parasols. Sogs members had managed to overcome climatic difficulties and had produced a large number of vegetable plants. These were very popular, and a large quantity were sold.                        M Byrne

Proposal for part-funding  costs of courses for members
Following suggestions from members, the planning group would like your thoughts on the following proposal: offering funding of possibly £50 each for a certain number of members to attend courses relevant to SOGS. Having been on a course, you would be asked to write a short summary for the newsletter to benefit other members on the knowledge and/or experience gained, or give a talk or demonstration, with help if needed to present it.
If you have any thoughts or suggestions for this initiative please contact Peter Anderson (Chair) before the next planning meeting when final details will be decided. The date for this will be arranged at one of the winter meetings – it is usually in late January/February. Please feel free to attend as it is open to all members. This is also the time when the summer programme is decided. New ideas are always welcome.
Bowbrook Allotments – Best in the Midlands!

Congratulations to the Bowbrook Allotment Community, Shrewsbury, who have been awarded the Level 5 Outstanding Award and also the Award of Distinction in the RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood awards. They will go forward to the national awards next year, so we wish them success, particularly as some of our members belong to the community.


Firstly, a very big thank you to all SOGS members who grew flax or took an interest in this project.  Over fifty small stooks were returned, (from SOGS and others) and quite a lot of this, after retting (rotting) on my lawn last year, has been broken, scutched and hackled at the Flaxmill open weekend, schools, SCAT, and talks. And of course SOGGIES at Peter and Maggie’s open day.
This has been spun into linen thread by myself, Cheryl from SOGS and others, and, although the same seed, has turned out a delight of different colours and textures depending on where it was grown, and how it was retted.  I learned so much on flax growing from your experiences, and am now passing this on.

Some of you came along to the Shropshire Yarns exhibition in September at the Gateway, Shrewsbury to see the tapestry being woven, and it was great to meet you all.  The other two tapestry weavers, Lindsey Marshall and Pauline Fisk also celebrated Shropshire using commercial yarns and our flax became quite a talking point. Our very own stook is being woven sideways with our very own linen. The background is handspun fleece, one from Jan Cafearo, also a member, and the other from Park Gate Farm, Kenley.

Once finished, the tapestry will be presented to the Ditherington Flaxmill-Maltings for a permanent reminder of the efforts to preserve this historic building.  I will also provide some of your flax in various stages of process for display.  This project has played a small part in the success of receiving the first round of the funding bid to restore the mill, as the heritage of the building is now recognised and understood. Well Done SOGGIES!!! And special thanks to Frank for doing well above his call of duty to make the project happen.

Check out youtube “FLAX TO FABRIC” to see your pictures of the project.
If you would like to see it being woven, get in touch.
Maralyn Hepworth

 Darwin’s  Garden, The Mount, Shrewsbury 1st July.

I did not join the group visiting the garden on this occasion, because I had had a private view of it a few weeks previously, when Sharon Leach had come across me in her road explaining to a group of friends how I had arrived just too late for the open day in February. Sharon kindly offered to show our little group round, and to our surprise she spent an hour or so taking us round her garden, showing us what remains of the “thinking path”, and taking us down to the ice-house. Although the houses of the street named Darwin Gardens are built on a large part of the original garden, with the help of an original plan it is easy to imagine how it all was in Dr Darwin’s day, when his son Charles was a growing boy there.

These are the amounts donated by SOGS this year:
Montgomery Wildlife Trust £200;         Shrewsbury Friends of the Earth £300;             Garden Organic £300;             Village Water £200, and  Self Help Africa £200.

From Maralyn:

In the last newsletter, Peter muses on what a group name for members of Sogs should be. He suggests Sogians, Sogites, Sogerians . . . and asks for ideas. Where has he been?  Surely we have ALWAYS been Soggies?  It may sound derogatory, but what other group gets excited at rain? What do you think?

Sogs’ Stand at Shrewsbury Flower Show

It is a wonder that in this most unhelpful of seasons Soggies managed to fulfil their brief of making a wonderful display for the SOGs stall. They were asked to grow any plant in a pot, have their photo taken with the plant, and the plant would be on show with the photo of whoever grew it. Would anyone manage to grow anything at all? This was the worry after a long period of nation-wide drought, as Mother Nature threw at us in succession torrents of rain, unseasonable cold, unseasonable heat, more rain, and so on, unleashing armies of slugs and snails as well as the dreaded blight. Despite all this, we had ample plants, most of them with the relevant photo, and filled our space in the Severn Marquee. The display was popular with the visitors, who enjoyed the personal touch of seeing the faces of the persons who had grown the plants.
An unexpected reward for our efforts: – we won a certificate, without being aware that any such award was on offer! “Highly Commmended, Specialist Society  display”.  See picture at bottom of page.
M. Byrne.


Hopesay Organics, Glebe Farm, 7th October

We had a lovely mild autumn day for our interesting visit to Phil Moore’s Soil Association accredited farm, where we saw growing in polytunnels and in the ground the tomatoes and vegetables which we are familiar with on his stall in Shrewsbury market hall. A pleasant way to spend a mild autumn afternoon, surrounded by hills and trees in this tucked away bit of deepest Shropshire. We particularly enjoyed seeing the very free-range poultry, and the newly acquired sheep dog showing off her skills as she rounded up five large lambs. Some of these were then subjected to the indignity of being upended while Phil explained about the breed (Lleyn) and aspects of sheep tending. If we had known beforehand that the farm runs a café, we would not have taken our own cakes. It would be worth visiting another time to enjoy the café and the views of the old church with its massive tower and wooden ‘dovecot’ type upper storey. You can find out more from Phil’s website:

*****Aminopyralid and Copyralid*****

Those of you who have seen the recent edition of Garden Organic’s magazine “Organic Way” may have spotted the news item and letters about these weedkillers. For anyone who hasn’t yet realised what an insidious threat they pose, this is a wake up call.

In chemical agriculture/horticulture they can be used on a wide variety of crops including brussels sprouts, swedes and turnips  plus animal feed crops and wheat, barley and oats. It is the latter group that might cause us a problem as organic gardeners because sometimes the temptation of some lovely manure is irresistible.

On our allotments a few members found out what can happen!!
If you get manure from an outside source or use straw (eg under strawberries) and compost it you are at risk. These weedkillers were supposed to dissociate in 6 months but they don’t.  Our problem was from the straw in manure. As is normal, straw had been used for animal bedding, stacked in the muck heap and then sold to us. By then it was 18 months since the chemicals had been applied and another 6 months on in the following year they were still alive and killing—our veg. Another year on they were having only minor effects so they were active for 3 years.
What makes it a very difficult issue is that your source of manure may not even know their straw is contaminated especially if like a stables they have bought it in, so you need to be extremely wary.

The lesson has to be - do not use manure unless you are confidently assured that neither of these related chemicals has been used - or simply stick to a closed system and import nothing.

Frank Oldaker

Extract from an old gardening book, sent by Silvi and Mike:

 “It is a lamentable fact that although the cultivation of onions is not difficult, it is all too frequently attempted in a very half-hearted manner, so that disappointment in the crop is a natural result.

The onion is a sun-loving object and delights in a well-tilled deep soil that has been in cultivation for several years. It is rarely successful on land that has been recently broken up.

During the winter months the land should be deeply dug and well manured, and if the soil is of a heavy, retentive nature, or the subsoil wet and cold, raised beds are preferable to beds on the flat.

Some of the finest onions in England are grown every year by an ardent amateur who has trenched the whole of his onion bed 3ft deep and buried at the bottom all the old iron rubbish he could collect; bedsteads, old bicycles, wire netting, barbed wire, pots and pans, have all gone in to make a perfect and permanent drainage system just below the normal working depth.”

So, there you are, folks – get out there collecting old iron!

Re Bees, from Frank

The problems that bees are having have been noted and discussed for several years. Various organisations have been researching, promoting good ideas etc but the government have no coordinated plan to deal with the issue, even though it is a real threat to our food supply. Friends of the Earth are asking the Government to come up with a National Bee Action Plan so that there is proper coordination of effort. The Welsh Assembly has already adopted a “National Pollinator Action Plan”. There is a petition to David Cameron on the FoE website to try and persuade him to adopt a similar approach.
The urgency was brought home in the past month by the reports that a commonly used group of insecticides – neonicotinoids – has been proved to be having a devastating effect on bees resulting in a ban in some countries – but not here.
On a happier note the photo shows a birdbox that was occupied by bumblebees this summer. The coarse material at the bottom was a sparrows’ nest in 2011 but the finer mass above was the bees efforts in 2012. It was a surprise not to find comb but as we aren’t sure what variety of bee it was that may be normal. A beekeeper informed us that a while ago the queen will have gone off to hibernate and the rest have died naturally. That fits with what we observed.
Anybody else got a bee story or can you shed more light on ours

Carol Lovell passed on a newspaper article by John Paul Breslin, about ants, which included a horror story about how his new greenhouse became infested with black ants. As he lifted a watering can, winged ants swarmed up at him, and in trying to escape he ran into a spider’s web covered in ants, which became wrapped round his head.
 He suggests this organic method of getting rid of them: Mix three parts baking soda with one part caster sugar, and spread it round where ants are active. Attracted by the sweetness they carry the mix back to the nest. Their bodies can’t process the gas created by the baking soda and as a result they explode.
(Don’t tell the RSPA! Ed.)

Visit to Tankerville Farm 8th July 2012

If, like me, you were not able to go on this visit, you can find out about the Jon and Cheryl’s farm on their website:

How to grow violas with the help (or not) of
your daughter

Back in the Winter I decided to plant up my troughs and sinks with violas.  I went off to the local nursery in Weston Lullingfields and purchased several trays of mixed violas.  When I returned home with them my daughter said she had a bucket which the horse had kicked a hole in, and would it be suitable to grow some violas in out by the stables.  I said yes and gave her half a dozen violas.  I duly planted my violas but Sophie said she was really busy and her friend who helps her with the horses would plant hers for her.  When Sasha arrived I gave her some compost and the violas, which she planted out.

The violas started to grow and flower.  Mine looked rather sad but Sophie’s, which she said she hadn’t watered, really took off and flowered profusely.  Mine seemed to shrink and didn’t thrive at all even though I tended them and watered them regularly.  One day the cattle came through into the stable yard and the biggest cow thought what were those tasty morsels in a bucket on the mounting block and ate them with relish.  Oh dear, was that the end of the violas?  No, they grew back even better and flowered even more!  And mine, you ask?  Well, they still declined to grow.

A few weeks later the cattle ate Sophie’s violas again and again they grew back with renewed vigour.  By this time mine had completely disappeared.  I think snails had a hand (or foot) in this.

The moral of the story: don’t grow violas, but let your daughter grow the violas and let the cattle eat them and they will be the best you’ve ever had!
Maggie Anderson

Programme Winter-Spring 2012-2013

Please note change of day for the first two meetings*:

*Monday 12th Nov - Gardeners Question time.
SOG's members can put their questions and gardening problems to a panel of expert gardeners who are Richard Bailey, Martin Ford (BBC Radio Shropshire) and John Gale, entomologist (or bug person!)

*Monday 10th Dec - Christmas bring and share
Bring home-made food, savoury and/or sweet, something to drink, and enjoy a convivial evening.

Wednesday 2nd Jan – “The life and history of the Drovers”
Talk by Idris Steptoes on the Welsh livestock drovers.

Wednesday 6th Feb - Cultivation of potatoes Talk by Derek Jones

Saturday  9th Feb, Potato Day at Montford Village Hall

Wednesday 6th March - "Tasty buds, luscious leaves & succulent shoots"
Talk by Kim and Rob Hurst of the Cottage Herbery, Tenbury Wells.

Wednesday 3rd April – AGM














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