GARDENING: Inspired by the joy of my uncle's allotment
It's National Allotments Week, run by the National Allotment Society, with the theme of Growing Together to emphasise its inclusive nature for all levels of society and ability '“ and the dangers it faces in this era of cutbacks.
Many allotment sites have been sold for housing, ignoring the erosion of green space.
I don’t have an allotment but my gardening was inspired as a child by my Uncle George, who had a double allotment near Gateshead’s Saltwell Park.
A report in May, commissioned by the National Gardens Scheme from the King’s Fund called Gardens and Health, wants more interaction between government departments responsible for health, the environment, planning and local government to exploit the potential of all forms of gardening.
The NAS aims to protect, promote and preserve allotments and has called for everyone to do their part in preserving land:
Allotment associations – protect your site, register as a community asset.
Allotment Federations – keep allotments in the public eye, make sure they are mentioned in the Local Plan and lobby your councillors and MPs.
Councils – preserve and value your allotment service, as it has the potential to deliver some of your public health targets.
Plot-holders – join the NAS and support your regional allotment network to promote the allotment movement.
Aspiring plot-holders – do not be put off by a long wait – sign up for a plot now; without waiting lists, allotment authorities cannot assess demand.
NAS President Karen Kenny said: “We are proud of the Allotment Movement in Britain and its continued success in offering opportunities for families to provide for themselves, whilst also being a valuable resource to diverse groups of people.”
For further information, visit www.nsalg.org.ukJOBS FOR THE WEEKEND
Pinks and carnations can be propagated by layering. Propagate irises by dividing the rhizomes if not done last month.
Rock garden plants, such as Helianthemum, Aubrieta and Dianthus can be propagated from cuttings at this time of year.
Keep picking flowers from the cutting garden to encourage more flower buds to form and open.
Mid- to late August is a good time of the year to apply biological controls for vine weevil. Grubs will be starting to hatch and soil temperatures are now suitable for the nematodes to be effective. Target vulnerable plants such as Rhododendron, Camellia and containerised plants including fuchsias.
Black spot on roses is very common at this time of year, and spraying will no longer be effective. Clear fallen leaves and burn them to prevent spread.
Mow lightly and frequently so that short grass clippings can remain on the lawn during hot summers to act as a moisture-retentive mulch. Excess thatch can be scarified out during autumn maintenance next month. Mulching mowers cut the clippings even finer than normal rotary blades, making the mulch less visible.
Start harvesting your main crop potatoes as the leaves yellow and die back. Try storing your potatoes in hessian sacks which exclude light but allow adequate ventilation.
Sweetcorn is ready when you can pop a corn with your thumbnail and the juices are milky.
On a dry sunny day, collect seeds of herbs such as dill, fennel, caraway and chervil and dry in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. Chervil must be sown immediately.
Keep an eye out for potato and tomato blight and remove and destroy any affected plants immediately to prevent its spread.
For more on these topics, plus cook what you grow, traditional recipes, North East information, environmental news and more, log on to www.mandycanudigit.co.uk (now smartphone friendly), www.sunderlandecho.com/gardening, follow me on Twitter @MandyCanUDigIt or you can like me on Facebook at Mandycanudigit