Monday 28 October 2019

Squash - Low Cal/Low Carb/High Fibre Alternative to Potato

Thompson & Morgan is launching two intriguing new winter squash varieties. Intriguing because when cooked, they taste just like mashed and baked potatoes whilst offering fewer calories, along with lower carbohydrate and higher fibre content.

As a type 2 Diabetic who needs some heather options and to loose some weight these are a couple of squash that I'm interested in growing next year especially as I will hopefully have more of the infrastructure on my second half plot in place. 

Squash plants are vine-like and will trail on the ground and are a god send come the annual  site inspection as they can cover areas you have not quite finished with if you are putting in a infrastructure of beds and paths. Both varieties typically produce 3 to 4 fruits of approximately 450-700g each.

The press release states that the cooked flesh of both squash is lower in carbohydrates and calories, and higher in fibre than that of potato. Per 148g portion, ‘Mashed Potato’ has 23 calories against potato with 110; 2.25% carbohydrate against 9%; 9% dietary fibre against 7%. 

Winter Squash ‘Mashed Potato’ is a white-skinned acorn-type with almost white flesh that when baked, scooped out, mashed and seasoned has the look and taste of mashed potato. 

Winter Squash ‘Baked Potato’ is an acorn-type with a pale butternut-coloured skin and off-white flesh that when cooked has the appearance, texture and taste of baked potato.

Peter Freeman, Thompson & Morgan’s new product development manager, said:

We’re excited to be offering these two new squash varieties for next season. Jumbo plugs and seeds will be available, enabling gardeners and allotmenteers to grow these highly productive plants. In staff taste tests, we’ve been amazed at how similar to potato the winter squash flesh is!”

Plants and seeds of both squash are available to order here:

A 10% discount is being offered when the hashtag #squashpotato is used when ordering from Thompson & Morgan’s website until 6th November 2019. 

Seeds ordered now should be dispatched in December. 

Cooking suggestion:

Both squash should be cooked in the oven, with the cut side lightly oiled and placed cut side down on a baking tray, at 200 °C for approx 30 mins. The flesh can then be scooped out and in the case of Squash Mashed Potato, mashed with butter, salt and pepper according to taste and enjoyed as you would regular mashed potato. In the case of Squash Baked Potato, the flesh can be eaten as you would that of a baked potato, with butter and cheese or any other filling of your choice.

Sunday 27 October 2019

Harvesting & Winter Cover Up

So having grown these Kiwano's and harvested them today as the weather is turning and we are due a frost soon they are still green and not yet turned orange, so where is the best place to leave these to ripen off or can you eat them when they are green? If you have answers please let me know.

Beetroots harvested, some are very large and I'm hoping not too woody 

Four mini white cucumbers harvested today, and the mesh climbing frame was dismantled the bed weeded and then covered over for the winter. Two Daleks have been filled to the brim once again with the vegetation from the Butternut squash beds, the kiwano and cucumber bed and from the comfrey which is now in the process of dying off. a layer of schreddings was installed between the green material.

With the clocks going back, and my daughter being around in the morning it did mean that I could get to the allotment by 8:00, however because I didn't reset the clock in the kitchen she was early for lunch so I still lost out on a further hour on the plot this morning. 

Then Facebook sent me a reminder of what my plot looked like 7 years ago, and actually it makes me not so worried that I still have two and a half beds of spuds to dig up and half of the beds on the plot to clear of weeds and cover for the winter 


Saturday 26 October 2019

Home Grown Pumpkin Picking Fun

It started with a phone call from my adopted daughter's son asking if he could have one of grandads pumpkins, so we went down to the allotment to harvest the three pumpkins I've gown this year for the family annual pumpkin carving competition. 

Fin had to help grandad cut them off the vines 

Fin with his prize on top of the wood chip heap on the edge of the plot. 

This years efforts 

Thursday 24 October 2019

Allotment Waiting List

Waiting List UPDATE 24th October

The London Borough of Sutton Site Reps have been waiting for invites to be sent out to the 124 people that have plots waiting for them as of September 2019, some Site Reps have been waiting since March this year for invites to be sent.

However the London Borough of Sutton is happy to wait and give priority during the next four month to invoicing and collecting the rents. Idverde are providing a single person for one day a week to undertake this task and the Adam Brind one of three Neighbourhood/ Contract  Managers for the London Borough of Sutton has advised that Site Reps should not expect the people on the waiting lists to be contacted until January 2020 to contact the Site Reps and arrange a site viewing.

Most Site Reps are not happy having vacant plots waiting to be filled, most of there have already developed weeds and the seeds of which have spread to neighbouring plots that are being worked.

If you are on a London Borough of Sutton Allotment waiting list and are waiting for a plot please complain to your Local Councillor, you never know you could be one of the 124 people out of the 429 people on the waiting list that a plot is just waiting for you to view and accept.

In terms of lost revenue as the vacant list are no longer shared I can be exact with figures as in previous years, but assuming the plots are a mix of 250m2 and 125m2 at one end and possibly 250m2 at the other the council is losing revenue of between £9,176 - £11,594 pa which would pay for an admin clerk.

Lost Revenue due to mismanagement of waiting lists

  £8,110 Actual Figure as at Oct 2017
  £9,618 Estimated Figure as at Feb 2018
£10,385 Estimated Figure as at September 2019

Sunday 20 October 2019

Sunday Short Visit

The problem being carers is that when the person you look after is not on a good day, week or month or at a point where they need more intensive care is that you don't get the time you would like or have historically had to tend your plot. 

The flip side of that is that you actually need some time away from the home environment to mentally and physically recharge your batteries. Today is such a day when by the time I was able to safely get away there were only two and a half hours until I needed to get back as we had someone coming around in the afternoon.

Allotments, gardening and getting out and into the natural environment is beneficial to your mental and physical well being no matter how short a time you are there. I would like to get more regular short visits in, but I'm not always in control of my freedom to do so.  

View up plot 1A from the boundary with Plot 1 looking at beds  2-5 on the left and 11-7 in the middle with 14-16 on the right.  Bed 10 Beetroots and weeds, Bed 9 Kiwano, Mini White Cucumbers and two Pumpkins 

The two Pumpkins in Bed 10

Pumpkin on the path between Bed 16 & 15 

All the Butternut squash foliage has been removed from bed 9, it just needs weeding and the winter full bed sheet on to replace the planting sheet. 

Bed 5 partly cleared of potatoes and recovered with planting membrane sheet so I can see where the seed potatoes were planted when I dig the rest up. I basically ran out of time but came home with potatoes in a trug which I will was dry and store out in the brick shed. 

Friday 18 October 2019

Dig For Victory - 1940

From the collections of the Imperial War Museum. Produced by the Ministry of Information and then Ministry of Agriculture - an appeal to the public to grow vegetables

The Worst Winter in 50 Years

With 3 beds of potatoes and an allotment plot to put to sleep for the winter what I didn't want to read was a weather forecast that says:- 

The worst winter in 50 years is on the way as a bitter cold snap will see temperatures plummet. Forecasters are also predicting snowfall in October and wind spread frost.The brutally cold spell with go into November and December too.

"Through the weekend and into next week it looks like heavy rain at times and strong winds at times, Similar methods have allowed us to identify some previous record-breaking cold weather events such as those seen in 2010 and 2013 when cold weather lasted into spring."

It's rained every day for the last week but looking at the BBC Weather forecast for the next 13 days there is some hope.

Wednesday 16 October 2019

A New Hobby

(Photo credit to the very talented Dean Croome)

My wife and daughters and son-in-law think that I need a new hobby as according to them my only topic of discussion is my Allotment, so I have decided to return to my youth and start making models again !

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Seed Storage

This was my seed storage arrangement a couple of years ago, one toolbox for unopened packs of seeds, another for open packs of seeds that now went into small zippy bags in credit card boxes and Brother labels in a tray, with a small box for taking what need to go to the allotment.

during 2018 - 2019 the storage system grew 

There are now three toolboxes of seeds but due to the expanding collection of tomato seeds there is a transition box from unopened packs to opened and in zippy bags 

Box 1 Unopened Packs 

Box 1 Unopened and Opened Packs 

Box 3 Opened and Saved Seeds 

Tomato Seed Bank Collection 

The forth toolbox contains all the brother seed labels that I have created based on my seed collection to date. These labels last and are cleaned and stored by type vegetable and in alphabetical order ready for the next growing season.

The loss of Wyevale has meant that I didn't top up at the 50p seed sale this year and I missed the Wilko seed sale, but looking at what I have in my seed boxes I'm OK for the next couple of years. 

How do you store your seeds?

Sunday 13 October 2019

Wet Weather Work for the Allotment

When the weather is so bad that you can't get down on the allotment and do anything productive then you have to fall back to what you can do for the allotment. The seeds are now dry and need bagging up.

Friday 11 October 2019

Ryobi Battery Operated Soldering Iron

Introducing the 1st 18v Soldering Iron into the Ryobi One+ family of tools. As the R18SOI-0 forms part of the One Plus range it can run off your existing 18v Batteries or you can purchase additional batteries and chargers

The R18SOI is the ideal tool for automotive and craft applications due to its compact size and has a cable length of 83cm to give you plenty of maneuverability. 

What Ryobi had not thought off is that it's actually ideal for allotment holders who want to cut/weld weed membrane sheets on their allotments. I have been thinking about how I was going to deal with cutting the weed membrane for the Dalek army when I move all the daleks into the area along the boundary between Plots 1 & 2. I now have the perfect solution to the problem.  

It is capable of reaching 480°C in approximately 50 seconds. The pencil grip has been designed to provide user comfort and precision control. A fully charged 5.0Ah Battery will give 180 minutes of power 

This model features an LED light to indicate the status of when the tool is heating up and cooling down.

Weed membrane cut to bed size and holes cut/ burnt with the soldering iron to prevent the sheet from coming unwoven and shaggy

Planting Membrane sheet made for walking onion bed  

Thursday 10 October 2019

Amendment to the Draft Parks Strategy

Received on the 10th October 3 days before the end of the extended consultation period from one of the Neighbourhood Managers 

Dear Site Reps 

thank you for your feedback regarding bonfires on the allotment sites following the feedback gathered please see the amendment to the draft parks strategy. If you wish to raise any concerns regarding the proposal please respond to the neighborhood services email address by the 13th October.

Policy P22
From 1st January 2020 open bonfires are not allowed on the council’s allotment sites. However waste material that cannot be disposed of by composting or other means may be burned in an incinerator or clean oil drum during the period 1st October to 15th March.  Fires should not be lit more than 2 hours before dusk and are not permitted on Bank Holidays during this period. Material that is damp or green must not be burnt until it dries out fully. See the allotment Gardeners Guidelines for more information on how to dispose of material without burning and never burn materials such as plastics that may cause pollution.

Note that by law you could be fined if you light a fire and allow the smoke to drift across the road and become a danger to traffic.  If you cause a nuisance by frequently having fires or allowing smoke to drift into neighbouring properties the Council can issue an ‘abatement notice’ and you can be fined up to £5,000 if you do not comply with the notice.  In addition, failure to abide by this policy will result in termination of the allotment agreement. 

 This Policy supersedes the guidance in Version 6 - 2018 of the Allotment Gardeners Guidelines.

Saturday 5 October 2019

Wedding Stops Play

No Allotment this weekend as Emma & Andy'd big day has finally arrived 

Thursday 3 October 2019

Woodchips for Paths

Many moons ago I found a web site Arbtalk set up to put Tree Surgeons in contact will people including allotment plot holders who are looking for woodchip for their paths or if very leafy to use as a mulch on their plots. 

I should have asked the driver to back up a little more as half of the load went on my plot and the other half went on the communal path (see top two photos) So whilst I was waiting for him to bring back a second load to go into the drop off and pick up area for anyone else who may need woodchip's on the site, I shovelled the heap off the path as much as possible. I so love the plastic shovels for doing the kind of thing so light weight and easy to use for a long time. 

Next week weather permitting I will eat into the pile from the main path side and start wheel barrowing it along the path between myself and my neighbour to form a margin to the kerb stones I put in a couple of weeks ago. 

Second load in the drop off and pick up area for all on the site to share 

Wednesday 2 October 2019

Fires on Allotments - My Preferred Option

Following my article about Bonfires on Allotments are a contentious issue and the research I did over a number of Allotment Facebook groups that I sent to Mark Dalzell the Head of Parks and Open Spaces for the London Borough of Sutton I received an email in reply that said 

"Thank you for this comprehensive round up of all the options.  Which of these options do you think do you think would reduce the likelihood of nuisance complaints and what is your preferred option?"  

Here was my reply:-

From you initial email it would appear that you favour more limited months of burning, the main problem with this as I see it is that Idverde have not performed I have now been waiting for 8 weeks for them to send out invites to the next two people on the waiting list and currently according to their figures issued after the meeting and not before as promise last year there are 124 people (See here) on the waiting list with plots waiting for them to view NOW. And we have been informed that no invites will be sent out until they have processed the invoices.

Because Idverde were late and did not process the no cults and notices to quit in a timely fashion we have many plots in the borough that are now extremely overgrown so key to preventing a massive burn is to keep Idverde on track with the service they should be providing and aren’t. and to get new plot holders on overgrown and vacant sites as soon as possible. Let’s prevent the cause of most of the problems first before dealing with the symptoms

Ideally we (Parks Team and Site Reps) should make any decision about reducing the time more than we have at the moment based on the information re timing and magnitude of the complaints from environmental health over the last five years, once you have acquired and shared them.

Because people on the waiting list are unlike to get an offer, meet the rep and view, complete the paperwork and if they are lucky get a key in less than 4 weeks which is the longest ldverde have taken so far to supply a new tenant with a key. It is likely that they will need the period between December and the end of February if one was going to consider restricting fires to October, November and March.

I would suggest that this year we look at improving knowledge and educations and the guidance within the Allotment Gardening Guide and I attach the first draft of a replacement page for the Guide that I have created and uploaded onto the Site Reps Facebook Group for comment. I have suggested that once agreed we place this on notice boards ASAP. I I have assumed some actions that we can take to improve the situation, but these need to be considered and discussed and agreed upon i.e.

That large and open fires be banned and that we insist that incinerators or clean oil drums are used as they help keep a fire hot and reduce smoke emissions.

At the moment I have said ideally that fires should be started no earlier than 2 hours before dusk as this allows for an reasonable period of time to burn on site and stay to watch that the fire is out before leaving. Currently we don’t provide and restriction on what time of day fires can be set.

I suggest that we agree as soon as possible as we are now into fire burning season that the guidance I have created be distributed and placed on gates and notice boards.

That the Allotment Gardening Guide is updated with respect to fires and the other necessary amendments

Historically as newsletter used to be sent out with the invoices, I wonder could the bonfire guidance be sent out with the invoices this year?

That we monitor the situation this year and concentrate on educating the plot holders, and that we review the situation in April 2020 and discuss as a group at next year’s annual meeting if we actually need to restrict the burning period further.  

Dig For Victory - Making A Compost Heap

Tuesday 1 October 2019

Good Bonfire Guidelines

Bonfires are currently banned on allotment sites from
1st April to 30th September.

Sutton Council are considering banning fires completely on Allotments.

Your Site Reps have protested as there is a legitimate need for the use of fires on allotments. Local Councillors and the Park team have listened and are currently looking at how we can improve and reduce complaints, and not have a total ban on bonfires.

Thus it's important that every plot holder be considerate and follow the Good Bonfire Guidelines below and reduce the amount of complaints so that we may continue to have fires without further restrictions or a total ban.

·         Remember to check for hibernating hedgehogs and sleeping pets!
·         Large Open Fires Not Allowed only Incinerators or Oil Drums to be used.
·         Allotment Fires are Only for Allotment Debris Do Not bring items from home
·         Ideally start your fire 2 hours before Dusk
·         No Fires On Bank Holidays
·         Avoid lighting in unsuitable weather conditions.
·         Avoid burning when the wind will carry the smoke over roads or into other people’s property
·         Be Considerate to your neighbours - have they windows open or washing on the line, if so don’t light the fire
·         Only burn dry material that is clean e.g. not oily or painted
·         Never burn household rubbish, rubber or anything containing plastic, foam or paint.
·         Never use old engine oil, mentholated spirits or petrol to light the fire or to encourage it.
·         Keep the fire small and hot and feed it a little at a time to maintain the heat - this minimises smoke emissions. If the fire is kept hot a large amount of material can be burnt in a short time. In this way a fire should last no longer than an hour
·         Never leave the fire unattended or leave it to smoulder – douse it with water, sand or soil if necessary. 

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, it is an offence to emit smoke, fumes or gases which are a nuisance. Allowing smoke to drift over nearby roads may also lead to prosecution under the Highways (Amendment) Act 1986 if it endangers traffic. Remember that smoke from bonfires can be annoying to neighbours, ruining their enjoyment of their gardens, and preventing them from opening windows and hanging out their washing. Bonfires can damage the health of children, the elderly and those with asthma and other breathing problems. Continuing to cause a nuisance in this way could lead to termination of your agreement. Please consider other ways to dispose of your rubbish.