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Glasgow Allotments Forum Newsletter
Issue 6: March 2021

 This newsletter is distributed  to all addresses on the GAF email distribution list as well as to individual subscribers.   If you are on this list as an officer of a Glasgow Allotment Association then please forward the newsletter on to your members.   We hope they will eventually save you this job by registering themselves as individual subscribers.  This can be done through a link at the bottom of the newsletter.

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Peat Free Compost at GAF Potato Day shop
The GAF Potato Day Shop is still doing its best to serve Glasgow's allotment community.  They have acquired a consignment of the brilliant peat free  Wool Compost produced by Dalefoot Farm in the Lake District.  It is being sold  at more or less cost price.  To find out more about this visit the potato shop web page on the GAF web site or visit the GAF Facebook page and look at the announcements.

On April 8 Jane Barker, co-founder of the Dalefoot compost business will be giving a webinar for GAF on how they developed their compost and their major contributions to the restoration of peat bogs.  There will be a Q & A session.  Full details on how to participate are available on the GAF website.
COVID and the Allotment
based on the experiences of a Glasgow site

One year on from the first introduction of lock down seems like a good time to look back on how allotments have fared.  The early part of 2020, like every other year saw allotment plots being prepared, seeds germinated on window sills or in greenhouses. potatoes chitted and just waiting for the right planting weather when, BANG, on March 23 2020 lock down was introduced and everything changed.  At first there was serious concern that plotholders would not be allowed to visit and work on their plots.  However good sense prevailed and, supported by their local authority officers, allotment organisations were able to persuade the government that allotments could be the ideal venue for open air socially distanced healthy exercise.

New rules had to be introduced so as to ensure safety.  For example my site introduced a members only rule - no friends or even family allowed to visit, and members only allowed to go straight to their own plot.  Communal facilities were closed,  tool sharing was strongly discouraged and members were encouraged to keep supplies of hand sanitiser and cloths in their sheds.  It was recognised that some members would have to shield and be unable to work their plots, so all plot inspections were cancelled and it was agreed that members would not be penalised for uncultivated plots.  

As the weather improved people grew accustomed to the new normal and started to work their plots seriously.  The closure of garden centres was a big nuisance for anyone who had not ordered their seeds and other supplies beforehand, but many people turned out to have excellent web skills and most managed to source what they needed one way and another.

The exceptionally sunny weather that continued throughout the spring brought home to us all how lucky we were to have allotment plots.  The nearby public parks were so inundated that social distancing was extremely dubious.   We, on the other hand, were able to work securely on our own plots while chatting amicably and peacefully to neighbouring plot holders safely distanced across the separating paths.  This has to have helped us all avoid the social isolation and depression which seems to have afflicted so many people in the past year. The closure of  many alternative activities meant that plotholders were 'time rich' and able to work more on the plot, growing more, renovating sheds and generally trying out new vegetables and techniques.

There were definite down sides however.  We were unable to hold Open Days or any of the fund raising and other little social activities that used to go on inside the allotment sites. although some sites (see the article below on an allotment calendar) organised successful socially distanced fund raising activities.  I am not sure whether it is a cause for sadness, or for smug satisfaction,  that innumerable people passing the allotment gates would ask how they too could get an allotment.  They had to be told that, well, they could put their name on a waiting list but it was a ten year wait.  Maybe this experience will have raised the understanding of the value of the allotment for health, mental wellbeing and good food and will encourage our Local Authorities to increase the supply of allotment land.

Looking back at FebFest
Scott Ramsey

We started off the year by bringing people together with FebFest, a celebration of allotments and growing here in Glasgow (and beyond!). We’re ready now to launch the bank of recordings.

Over the course of 10 days on Zoom, we had 14 events featuring 42 presenters, with 456 free tickets going out to 217 unique attendees based anywhere from Springburn to the South of England, and generating almost 3000 words of questions and discussion in the text chat boxes.

Topics ranged from apples to sheds, from birds to bees, and from accessibility to allotment activities for kids.

We made recordings of almost all the sessions, so you can see what you missed and pick up tips (or just rewatch your favourites) over at glasgowallotments.org/FebFest.

Each talk was packed with inspiration. Watch them to learn something new, to see some new faces, or just to have a peek at what other people get up to on their plots. Each one was around an hour long. We want the sessions to have been as helpful and impactful as possible, so feel free to share them as far and wide as you like.

We’ll be highlighting the individual session recordings over the next few weeks on our Facebook Group. If you’re on Facebook and you’re not already following us, head over to facebook.com/groups/GlasgowAllotmentsForum and keep an eye out!

Most also had a roundtable discussion afterwards with a Glasgow City Council member from one of the various political parties, sometimes with Council Officers too. They discussed the city’s green priorities, and listened to us as allotment holders talking about the value of these spaces and the direction the city should be going in (you can read more about Glasgow’s Food Growing Strategy and Open Spaces Strategy over at https://glasgowallotments.org/calendar/minutes-and-reports/). The roundtables also featured reps from some other community growing groups, such as Propagate and Urban Roots. We haven’t included the roundtables in the main batch of recordings, but we were delighted to have so much engagement from local government.

We’d love to offer more online allotment sessions like these, whether for the benefit of growers who want to share ideas and learn, or to raise awareness and get allotments on the priority list at the city level. This might be a particularly good time to get the Council’s attention with the UN COP26 conference coming to Glasgow in November. If you’ve got an idea for session topic you’d like to see covered, or if you’ve got some expertise you think other people would enjoy hearing about, get in touch.  You can email gafnewsletter@gmail.com



COVID activity: South Western Calendar
Doreen Grainger

In 2020 two plotholders approached the SWAA committee for agreement to produce a new plot calendar for 2021. This was partly to engage with other plot holders, but also to give people a focus in taking pictures throughout the year, something to look forward to and some normality in these uncertain times.

Members were invited to send in their plot pictures under a variety of monthly themes. While some plotters chose to spend quality time at their plots last year, others had to work on the frontline, to shield or to self-isolate. For those members not in a position to attend their plots, permission was sought to take pictures of their plots to show the diversity of style and growing within the Association, as well as humorous situations. Popular calendar themes continued to be ‘plot pets’, wonky veg and the birds and the bees!  

An initial run of 100 calendars was pre-sold before delivery so another 20 calendars were ordered, also pre-sold. As a result of Covid restrictions, contact was made with only about 2/3rds of members for calendar sales. Feedback from members who bought calendars was very positive. One member ordered two calendars but, upon flicking through it, asked for another four as they thought it was very colourful and uplifting.

A profit for SWAA was made on the sale of the calendars and some spectacular photos have already been taken for the next one!

 



What to do in April
Jenny Reeves

Our plot is in a bit of a frost pocket so seed sowing direct into the ground only really starts for us towards the end of April. The earlier part of the month is taken up with caring for the seedlings that we have germinated indoors, gradually moving them outdoors to harden off before planting them out. We used to use plastic cold frames to do this but now that there’s a greenhouse on our plot this is the time of year that the shelves begin to fill up with young plants.

It’s critical to care for these youngsters as those that get off to a flying start, with strong and vigorous growth, will do so much better for you. That means, in our case, trying to get the balance right between protecting seedlings from the weather on a warm windowsill and getting them into out into full daylight so that they don’t end up spindly and starved.

We have fava beans and round peas in the ground already because we’ll be growing these all through the season to harvest dried beans and peas in the autumn for stews and soups over winter. (We use a netting cage to start with which protects the plants from both the weather and the birds. (It will have to come off later to let the bees and other pollinators do their work once the flowers arrive.) Likewise, onion sets and shallots, broad beans and leeks which are relatively hardy can be bedded out under fleece.

Otherwise, it’s a case of finishing off the preparation of the beds and eliminating any weeds that dare to show their heads – it’s particularly important young plants aren’t having to compete for food and light as part of the good start we mentioned earlier.

You can also just lean on your hoe from time to time and enjoy the spring flowers and blossom.

 

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GAF Newsletter · Garnethill Multicultural Centre · 21 Rose Street · Glasgow, Lanarkshire G3 6RE · United Kingdom

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