What it means to be a SOGS member

 From Julia Bourne. Call me an old has-bean if you like, I was a budding gardener when I attended the inaugural meeting many years ago and since then I’ve blossomed. It’s been a lot of hard graft but I have become hardened to it. My children have grown up with SOGS and since they arrived life became so busy I might only appear annually at the Christmas bash. There was a good hoedown once, but never since. Once we played ‘hat’ musical chairs. My children Joe and Freya used to look longingly at the fantastic spread while fidgeting during the meeting, sometimes daring to pinch a crisp before the go-ahead. Now Joe is an adult and when he turns up, usually heads for the homemade wine table instead.

 Members have to do something with all that garden produce. Gardeners and cooks go hand-in-hand. How can you think of this group without imagining truckloads of cake? Beetroot, apples, carrots and potatoes all find their way into cakes. Especially at the Potato Day: a chance for members to shine in all their roles - always a great success due to their limitless enthusiasm and energy - I helped to organise the children’s activities at Nesscliffe Village Hall.

 Henry and I had our one and only open garden event back in 1992 I think it was. The tour included my mother’s garden opposite us and was so well attended that we ran out of chairs in the house afterwards. It was the first time we met Peter Anderson and were unlikely to forget him as he left us with a permanent memento – a dent in our portable gas heater he’d used as seating. After a while he became chairman, seemingly now part of the furniture, or should we see him as a figurehead gracing the bow of a ship, weathering years of SOGS meetings? Peter can always get the best out of people with minimum effort. He once asked if I knew where a particular woman lived and like a mug I replied that I did so he said well then I could go and get the key off her for the hall! And only Peter could come out with a comment like Eric was going in for an operation to have his sense of proportion removed.

 Some memorable meetings have included Sue Stickland’s Heritage Vegetables when I discovered that tomatoes came in different colours apart from red. A talk from Arthur Hollins revealed his most eccentric persona. Garden visits have always been good fun (as well as the cake) and you learned a lot. Like how to survive, from the experts. Biddy Myers ran a smallholding with a large number of enterprises. A member asked how she coped with it all but did not hear the reply properly. “Medication?” they queried. “No. Meditation,” Biddy repeated. Well, I think I would need medication. Or maybe a large glass of Dave Simpson’s homemade wine.

Chairman’s report, Autumn 2015

This has not been an easy report to write: why?  You might well ask!  I have looked at some previous reports and they all glow.  It is the glow that reflects the brilliance of Sogs, its members and our achievements.  So, why the difficulty?  It is because Sogs continues to be brilliant and I have run out of superlatives to describe it all.

We have had a summer of trips and visits and Flower Show that was varied and interesting and educational and we have a winter to look forward to that will have no discontent in it and after that will be another glorious summer.  I can make these predictions with some certainty because the team that does all the work and organises things (and me) is as enthusiastic as ever; and, as the old Chinese proverb that I have just made up has it, an ounce of enthusiasm is worth a ton of forced labour.

  Enthusiasm and support is not always manifest by pushing to the front and making a lot of noise, as I do (sometimes).  Enthusiasm and support can just be being there and chauffeuring and quietly helping on potato day and making sure that Marian is present and correct and ready to encourage us to write for the newsletter! 

 An idea has been solidifying.  It is that we should all be nice to one another.  In this instance the niceness should be in the form of offering to help in one another’s gardens.  If you are finding your garden a bit much and there are some jobs you need a bit of help catching up with then ask Sogs and 3 or 4 members will volunteer to come round for the afternoon and there will be tea and cakes and chatter and advice and laughter and hey-presto - jobs will seem to do themselves because it is a well known fact that 2 people working together achieve 3 times as much as one person alone.  (I am sure that there is a Chinese proverb to cover this but I have not made it up yet.)  This idea is in its infancy but let us give it a go and see how it grows up.


 What Soggies have said about SOGS:

 From Deborah Simmonds. "I loved being a member of SOGS. It was the first group that I joined when I moved to Shropshire mainly due to the warmth and friendliness of everyone; as well as sharing lots of organic gardening and general wildlife and conservation interests. I have made a lot of friends in SOGS over the years. Had a lot of fun, visited some amazing places and gained some very useful gardening tips and ideas. SOGs is a great group to join - the more you put in the more you get out". 

(We are very sorry to say goodbye to Deborah and her partner Yim, and wish them well in their future travels in their converted transit van. Please keep in touch, Debbie!)

Visit to Oak Farm, Ditton Priors, June 21st 2015.

We had a most enjoyable and inspiring visit to Oak Farm at Ditton Priors.  Until 2013, Oak Farm, which runs a day service for learning disabled adults in South Shropshire, was run by Shropshire Council.  However it is now a Community Land Trust and its 30 acres are owned by the parish council.  It has taken three years and a lot of time and effort by the small band of volunteers from the community of Ditton Priors working with Shropshire Council to get to this point.

Stuart Toulson, the manager of Oak Farm had given up his Sunday afternoon to show us round and tell us about the service he and his staff run.  They have a total of 50 learning disabled adults coming to the service weekly.  They have sheep, pigs, chickens, a Shetland pony and two dogs.  They grow vegetables and fruit during the summer, which they sell, and make jams and preserves in the winter for sale.  Their eggs are also in great demand. The students had made delicious cakes also for our tea on Sunday.

 This year is the 25th Anniversary of the Oak Farm day service, they will be holding a summer ball with a marquee on the farm! The Ditton Priors community is heavily involved in the life of the farm, their green waste is recycled there, the students go out into the village to cut hedges, mow lawns etc.  One of the fields has been transformed into thriving allotments rented to villagers.  The students also make up the hanging baskets and containers to decorate the members’ tent at the annual Burwarton Show. There is a forest school and local primary school children have an area in one of the polytunnels to grow vegetables.  Stuart and his team have worked hard to integrate the farm into the life of the village and have very much succeeded.

We were very struck by Stuart’s enthusiasm and commitment, even after 25 years, and felt very inspired!

Ann Bartles-Smith


 More What Soggies have said about SOGS

From Carol E. "Being a member of SOGS for generations!!! has been a great pleasure, not only the people but also the useful hints and tips over the years": "Many Minds Make sense sometimes".

From Silvi. "After several years of visiting the annual Potato Day, I finally became a SOGs member.  I really appreciate the friendliness of SOGs members and always try to think up a couple of questions to ask around more experienced gardeners.  Being a SOGs member has encouraged me to garden organically and enthusiastically.  I always enjoy the winter talks and get to as many of these and the summer visits as possible. Perhaps my favourite summer visit was to Sue Stickland's garden.  However, my all-time favourite event is still Potato Day.  I've found the most satisfying and successful way to 'get into' SOGs is to get stuck in and offer to help, with anything at all.  I've always believed that 'many hands make light work'.  Thank you SOGs for enriching my life, and my table!!"

From Frank. "Wow- SOGS in a sentence! . . . Unpretentious and sincere people getting fun and enjoyment always from everything that's done year after year."

 From Graham. "I've only been in Shrewsbury two and a half years but the warm SOGs welcome makes it feel a lot longer: I couldn't have asked to meet a more welcoming, helpful, sociable lot. For me the highlights have been ... too many to reduce to one: Potato Days - so buzzy, busy and fun; the Flower Show - getting the message out there; the visits to Berrington Hall - such interest and encouragement from such a knowledgeable and friendly group; the one event that had the biggest impact on my growing - the trip to the Sharpo Trust where 40 years potato practice got stood on its head! And it seems unfair not to mention bring-and-share December meetings, fascinating and rewarding visits, meetings worth cycling into town for on wet cold Winter nights ... and anything else I've missed out!"


Maralyn’s story about the making of Sogs’ Flower Show display.

 Having an ambition to design a garden with a gnome in began when I realised that they were banned at Chelsea.  A garden without a gnome?  Impossible. So the idea of “ Where there is Muck there is Magic” was born.  Having never designed a garden apart from my own, this was fun and exciting. I knew SOGGIES could do it.

By the time we got to the initial build at Peter’s Magic Workshop I was in severe pain with sciatica.  Drat.  But it really was a magic day.  Whilst I sat on my director’s chair and directed, around a dozen elves cut, sawed, painted, and produced a veritable feast outside in the rain, and we didn’t even get wet.  Before my very eyes the World War 1 house was transformed into Veggie Villa, the fence transformed into bright colours and even the Witch appeared apparently from nowhere.  Two Woofers from France and Hawaii complemented a second session with a few of us, and it was only left to put it all together.


  Frank’s windmill worked, Jack climbed his beanstalk courtesy of a Non-Soggie, Angie’s fairies have a fan club and Geoff, the BBC garden gnome gave us airtime on Radio Shropshire after four recorded interviews. We were too busy to hear them!

On May 10th Sogs supplied plants for a Plant Sale at the Moat and Gardens, Albrighton, which is an organisation giving recreation and education for people with disabilities. This is a letter from them.

 12 August 2015

 Staff at the Moat & Gardens are very privileged because they get the opportunity to see the benefit of acts of kindness. Every week volunteers give their time to support people who ask for very little and appreciate the kindness shown to them.

 Carol Edwards walked into our reception, introduced herself and explained she was a member of SOGS. I remembered her from a few years earlier when she had donated some tomato plants that gave an amazing yield. Carol explained SOGS would like to make a donation; and had we considered holding a plant sale at the Moat? There could be a possibility of SOGS holding one with the proceeds going to the Moat. Wow! What was there to say, except, yes, yes, yes.

 Plant sale day came, we weren’t sure what to expect and in hindsight we should have been better prepared; but never the less, it was a fantastic day. The weather was very kind to us, we raised money selling refreshments and some of our own plants, SOGS had fabulous plants for sale and their reputation brought in new visitors to the Moat and Gardens. Days like this help in so many ways, the money raised will help us continue to support the disabled, and special needs people have the pleasure of gardening but need some help to do so. What we cannot measure is how many more people know about us and what we do? and how many people may consider us a worthy cause to help in the future?

 Thank you SOGS! The day raised £530. If you ever want to do it again, we would love you to.

 Sandie Jackson Operations Manager at the Moat later sent this:

To be added to the end of the letter of thanks from the Moat Project (sent to you sometime ago). Thank you to The Column  allotments for their generous donation of £25.00. The date for next year’s plant fair at the Albrighton Moat Project is May 8th 2016, and all plant donations will be gratefully accepted. This will be under the SOGS banner.

SOGS’ Coach trip to Hampton Court Castle.

This is the one in Herefordshire, not Henry the VIII’s. The Herefordshire one is actually older, although much altered and restored, and it, too has a maze which was planted recently, and when its growth thickens up it will be a serious rival to the one down south.  Soggies triumphed over the maze, (no thanks to Jean, who was familiar with the maze, and leaned over the parapet of the stone viewing tower gloating over our confusion, refusing to shout any instructions).

The Castle grounds were extensive, and included a riverside walk, magnificent trees formal gardens and grassy areas with sculptures. Some of us did the tour of the interior of the Castle, but there was one

feature which took up a great deal of the available time – the Walled Garden. A huge enclosed space, here were the usual mellow brick walls, old glasshouses and espaliered fruit trees, (many of them unusual varieties), but what really enthused us and caused some of us to take out notebook and pen was the mixed planting. There were vegetables galore; there were flowering plants galore – but there were no vegetable beds as such. Every bed was densely packed with a mix of vegetables and flowers, with some obvious thought given to which would look good together, such as pale green nicotiana in front of  tall cavalo nero; towering amaranths and red orache with salad plants below, the former allowed to set abundant seed, as were the echinops. Sunflower heads had been plundered by birds for their seed, but still looked handsome. There was a herb bed which could be called formal as it contained only herbs, although its spiral cobbled path made it a most attractive feature.

Marian Byrne


For the last three years I've germinated parsnip seeds before potting and then planting them.  I got the idea from somewhere on the internet.

You need
kitchen roll or similar
ice cream tub or similar
clingfilm or similar
parsnip seeds - can use last year's seeds too


Cut the tissue into 2cm squares

Arrange squares not quite touching each other in bottom of container

Dampen the squares

Place one seed on each square

Cover loosely with clingfilm

Keep moist and check daily

As each seed germinates pot it up, barely covering with fine compost

Over to you...

Even More of what Soggies said about SOGS

From Sue F. Shropshire Organic Gardeners, SOGs......great abbreviation I changed to Share Our Gardening stories.......because this is my experience of the group of great people from all walks of life that have Gardening as their joy.

 ALL members are welcoming and willing to pass on their knowledge and fun. 

A memorable talk, I recall, was from the Worcester Probation Service. It had used a small holding (with the help of Monty Don) to help drug addicts recover. Some of the stories we heard were extraordinary, frightening, enlightening, tearful, and encouraging.  Pity that the Service was abandoned due to lack of funding. How short-sighted!!!

 From Judy Crook and Ian Thomas. We joined SOGS earlier this year having picked up a leaflet at Shrewsbury flower show.  We enjoyed helping to make the stand for the flower show this year, mucking in with other SOGS members and tucking into a delightful bring and share lunch in Peter and Maggie's orchard. We've found SOGS members to be a very friendly bunch and we're looking forward to enjoying more talks and visits in the future, learning more about organic gardening as we go.

  A look around the news columns

From Maralyn: Spotted in the Guardian magazine:

Some garden centres are collecting plant pots for recycling into labels and bird feeders.  Go to pottoproduct.co.uk to find out your nearest recycling centre.  

I did this, and there are none in Shropshire. Montgomery is nearest.

Of course, Soggies use all their pots  - or pass them on.  

 From Ann Bartles-Smith:

Which? have rated two peat free composts as best for container growing - the top one is Fertile Fibre (at 86%) multipurpose peat-free based on coir.  Buy at www.fertilefibre.com
The second one is Melcourt's Sylvagrow (at 84%) - peat free, made of conifer bark, wood fibre and coir. At garden centres, although the nearest it is available to Shrewsbury is a garden centre in Wrexham.

 Sunday Telegraph 6.9.2015. Home-brew

enthusiasts may be interested in the blog ‘twothirstygardeners.com’or they could request the book ‘Brew it Yourself’ by Richard Hood and Nick Moyle, the thirsty two afore-mentioned, for Christmas. (Watkins, £14.99).

 Shropshire Star, 2.9.2015. (From Carol L.) Quinoa being grown commercially in Shropshire.

Originating in the Andes, a variety of quinoa can now be grown in the British climate. Stephen Jones and his father Edward run the British Quinoa Company, and grow it on their farm near Ellesmere. It is also grown elsewhere in England and is on the menu in Pret a Manger, Nando’s etc. It is a superior alternative to bulgur wheat, couscous and rice, with many health advantages. It has twice the protein of rice or barley, and is a good source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, several B vitamins, vitamin E and fibre.

 Daily Mail 5.8.2015. (From Carol L.) Worms thrive on poison!

 Fallen leaves contain chemicals called polyphenols that are poisonous to many creatures. Earthworms produce chemicals in their stomachs called drilodefensins that counteract the polyphenols. This means they are key “ecosystem engineers”, performing a useful role in disposing of fallen leaves.

 Daily Telegraph 20.8.2015. Tomatoes in hot water.

 Chilling tomatoes degrades the flavour, and it has been found that dunking them in hot water for five minutes, letting them cool and then chilling them produces higher concentrations of various compounds and aroma components of the fruit. Growers may adopt this treatment for tomatoes destined for supermarkets, and the article states: “the same trick could help allotment owners and home-growers maintain the flavour of their fruit when storing them”.



Make a free website with Yola