Affiliated to the B.F.S., N.D.S., N.S.P.S. and R.H.S. Gleanings from the Winter 2014 AUTUMN SHOW DELIGHTS VISITORS Like the Summer...
Author: Julian Richards
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Affiliated to the B.F.S., N.D.S., N.S.P.S. and R.H.S.

Gleanings from the

Winter 2014

AUTUMN SHOW DELIGHTS VISITORS Like the Summer Show, the Autumn Show again provided excellent chances for visitors to admire the green fingers and creative qualities of our members.

Paul Heydon who masterminds our Shows said, "This was probably the best ever for the number of exhibits. We had 38 exhibitors (including five new ones) presenting 290 exhibits, I have checked previous years and cannot find any higher.

Our President, Graham Tapp, enjoying the cake exhibits.

Some of the lovely dahlia entries

Particular favourites for visitors were the wonderful displays of dahlias and the huge variety of

excellent vegetables, which were exhibited. Everyone, especially Paul, sends grateful thanks to all those who helped organise the event and particularly those who assisted on the day itself. There were plenty of wonderfully-detailed and creative entries in the handicraft section, which has proved to be very popular, since its recent introduction.

section. The judges commented on the excellent qualities and the interesting variety of entries. We are sorry to note that this was the last show for David Walker, who is retiring from work and moving out of the area. David has been judging fruit, vegetables and flowers for us since the early 1990s and he will be greatly missed. The LDGA Committee send their sincere thanks for his work for us over the years and our best wishes for a happy retirement. GARDENING WITH WILDLIFE Some of my readers, especially those from Stotfold or Fairfield, are aware that your editor also writes a monthly column on Gardening with Wildlife for the Stotfold news magazine. This enables me to combine my great love of gardening, with my increasing fascination with - and concern for - the future of our wild creatures and plants.

One of the amusing handicrafts

Not having recipes to follow and allowing everyone to make their favourite cake produced some mouth-watering results in that

Many years ago now (1984 to be exact) Chris Baines, presented a television programme, followed by a book entitled Wildlife Gardening, which I thoroughly recommend. (If you cannot get hold of this, there are a number of other good books around. The Wildlife Trusts, in

association with the Royal Horticultural Society, have recently produced an excellent book: Wildlife Gardening for Everyone.) Chris Baines is a qualified horticulturalist and landscape gardener, who taught landscape design and management at Birmingham Polytechnic and also worked as a consultant, specialising in involving children in their environment. He was the founder and first chairman of the Urban Wildlife Group Chris' message terrified and inspired me. He documented how increasing urban development, greater use of pesticides in gardens and agriculture, climate change and other threats were all placing native plants and animals, which we love, but take for granted, at risk of total disappearance. One of his details particularly struck home. At the time the combined Wildlife Trusts only owned 100,00 acres of land. Private gardens and allotments covered one million acres, so gardeners and allotment holders could make a huge difference to the future of wildlife in this country.

By 2014 things have improved somewhat; the amount of land looked after by conservation groups, including the National Trust, the Royal Horticultural Society, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and others, has increased, as they try to ensure that wildlife has corridors to move along as climate change alters our environment. New housing developments usually have some green spaces and gardens, even if they are limited in size. However, as we come under increasing pressure to build more houses and motorways and more pressure is placed on our farmers to produce ever cheaper food, Chris Baines' main point is still very important today. If all of us, as ordinary gardeners and allotment holders, became more wildlife-conscious we can do a massive amount to ensure many of our prized native wildlife survive. It seemed blindingly obvious, once someone had said it. So from that time, I have followed Chris' ideas - and tried to encourage as many other people as possible to do the same.

What not to do And, the great thing is, that it isn't difficult. To some extent, it means not doing things. The big thing to avoid is slug pellets, which don't just poison slugs and snails but all the helpful creatures who may then feed on them - blackbirds, thrushes, hedgehogs, toads, frogs and newts - and then die themselves. There are many alternatives to slug pellets and I hope that, like the ban on DDT, which means we now have red kites flying over this area once again, use of pellets will disappear also. Alternatives include surrounding your plants with bran, sand, coarse bark, gravel or egg shells, none of which slugs and snails enjoy crawling over. There are special proprietary brands of slug repellent on sale in good garden centres or online, which are wildlife-friendly also. One easy thing to do is to start young plants indoors and only put them out once they have grown a second or third set of leaves, when they are much less attractive as slug snacks. Molluscs particularly like fresh new leaves. Also, look out for varieties of vegetables which slugs do not enjoy. They don't seem to like my heritage variety

of climbing French beans, nor red lettuces. And, of course, there is the traditional beer trap - irresistible to slugs. Sink a plastic cup into the ground near your crops, almost fill with beer and then cover with some stones - so you don't end up with drunken hedgehogs staggering round and wait for the slugs to drown. Remove dead slugs and then rebait your cup with fresh beer. Please note: throwing your slugs and snails into next door's garden does not work. The creatures have a great homing instinct and will soon be back! Don't be too tidy Another thing to stop doing is not to be tidy in all parts of your garden. All of us have an area out of sight, whether behind a shed or under bushes, which can provide ideal hideaways for creatures of all sorts. You can easily amplify its attraction to wildlife by piling dead leaves or twigs and logs in the corner. It won't spoil the look of your plot, but will keep a lot of wild creatures happy. It will also help to keep your slugs and snails well fed and less likely to invade your vegetables.

Many of the creatures who live in our garden are helpful to gardeners, so helping them, helps us also. The creatures mentioned above which are killed by slug pellets will keep your plot balanced if you allow them to, so that you avoid the need for slug pellets anyway. Ways to encourage wildlife are relatively easy, too. All you need to do is provide them with shelter for nests and hibernation, if possible have a source of water and ideally food sources whether pollen and nectar or berries. Don't cut hedges in the nesting season; give your birds a chance to breed safely. Leave some perennials and shrubs unpruned in the winter so they provide additional shelter for overwintering insects and birds. Shrubs for food and shelter Make sure you have some winter-flowering shrubs or trees. They will not only feed hungry birds and insects, but provide wonderful scent and colour in the dark days of winter. All shrubs can be pruned to be kept to your ideal height. A few highlyrecommended winter-flowering shrubs follow:

* Viburnum bodnantense. A deciduous shrub with wonderfully scented pinky-white flowers in the depths of winter. Plant it near a path or your front door to get the intense perfume on winter days and watch early or late insects enjoying the pollen and nectar. * Mahonia media An evergreen, spiky shrub, which makes a great informal fence, It has spires of yellow, highlyscented flowers during the Winter, or early Spring, followed by black berries, which birds love. A great plant. * Viburnum tinus. A dense, evergreen with panicles of pinkywhite flowers that again flowers throughout the winter. *Winter-flowering box (Sarcococca hookeriana digyna) A small, evergreen shrub with tiny, but very sweetlyscented flowers throughout the winter. Mine is planted near my front door, where its fragrance is a constant delight. Evergreen shrubs provide privacy, can make good hedging and can hide unpleasant views, but also are great nesting sites for birds and hibernation shelters for insects. Pyracantha, holly, ivy, cotoneaster, yew and junipers are all good for this and many of them also have flowers

for Spring insects and Autumn berries to feed birds. If you only have room for one of these shrubs, you are still doing a lot to help local wildlife. I know ivy is really classified as a climber, but old ivy plants become thick enough to justify inclusion. We have an ancient wire fence thickly covered by a coating of ivy, which is greatly valued by our nesting birds. In addition to its value as shelter for birds and overwintering insects, it has other advantages. Though the flowers of ivy are inconspicuous, they provide wonderful food for any insects which emerge on sunny winter days and the black berries are gourmet delights for many birds. (Despite its bad reputation, ivy will only damage old or damaged mortar; all you have to remember is to keep it away from roofs, gutters or wooden fencing.) Companion planting If you have an allotment, or a vegetable garden, try companion planting to maximise your crops. French marigolds planted next to tomatoes and other vegetables susceptible to white fly or aphids will help deter the pests. The ordinary marigold (Calendula Officinalis) apparently is disliked intensely by eelworms,

so plant these near your onions, potatoes, or any other crop under threat. Growing flowering annuals near your veg plot, not only looks lovely, but also encourages pollinating insects and helps to ensure a better crop. Working with nature actually is an advantage to gardeners; if you use insecticides you are likely to kill off some of the insects who would otherwise pollinate your crops. To protect your fruit and brassicas, instead of using insecticides or pesticides, put netting over them. (It also helps keep off hungry birds.) If you have problems with mice or moles, try planting spearmint near your crops as this seems to deter them. Water for life We all know that plants need water to survive; so do birds and other wildlife. If you can, provide some water throughout the year. At the very least, have a shallow bowl of water, which is kept clean and filled regularly. Especially in dry times, this can make all the difference to wildlife - and you have the additional bonus of seeing birds enjoying

drinking and bathing at relatively close quarters. If you have space for a pond, put one in. It needs to have plants or shrubs at the margins, to encourage shyer creatures like frogs and toads to have places to hide. Plant waterlilies or other aquatic plants to provide shelter for toads, frogs and newts and flag iris for dragonflies to lay eggs on. Beware of some of the plants sold in garden centres that can be very invasive, so read up on these before you buy. Above all, while you will be doing your bit to help protect our native wildlife and help them survive, you get a tremendous amount back in return: the delight in watching the first brood of "your' blue tits learning how to use a peanut feeder; of seeing a dragonfly larva unfurl on your pond; listening to the contented humming of bees as they feed on your flowers and so much, much more. MEET YOUR COMMITTEE One of the committee who most members will know is our very busy and very efficient Membership Secretary, Jo Schurch. Jo has lived in Letchworth all her life and said resignedly that she has "learned

to live with heavy clay" something many of us can sympathise with. Her gardening interest started when she was about ten and "helped" a neighbour with her gardening. Jo went home with some plants as a thanks for the help, cleared a patch of the lawn and planted them. "I was not very popular that day," she said. Her involvement with the LDGA began because of her interest in allotments. The allotment holders wanted to manage the site themselves, but were told by the council that they needed to be part of a recognised gardening organization to get a grant. Jo "was volunteered" to join the LDGA Committee, then she said ruefully, "We dropped the idea of self-management and I was left on the Committee!" Her past job as an IT Manager means she has excellent computer skills to help with managing the membership database. Jo confessed her favourite job with the LDGA is growing plants for the Summer plant sale. "In fact', she said, "that's my favourite bit of gardening in general. I love sowing seeds

and taking cuttings, often from friends' gardens; my greenhouse is full of stuff all year round." ENDNOTES **How to Prune Fruit Trees** A special talk and demonstration by Graham Tapp at 7 pm, 15th January 2015, at Tapps Garden Centre, Baldock. Graham is an expert in this field, so this is vital if you grow fruit. (It may be cold, so wrap up warmly.) * Threats to allotments Your Committee, especially our Chairman, Maureen Hersee, are involved in many of the negotiations and discussions, which are taking place on this issue. We hope to have further news for you in the Spring edition. * Coffee Mornings. A reminder of the monthly coffee mornings at Tapps Garden Centre in Baldock. These take place on the first Wednesday of each month from 10 am. There will be expert advice on topics of gardening interest, so if you have a gardening problem or query that you would like solved, send this in to our Secretary to add to the list for 2015. Please remember to have your current membership card with you, if you wish to claim the 10% discount on plants etc.

* Updating addresses. If you have not been receiving paper or email copies of Compost Heap, this probably means we do not have the correct contact details for you. Please get in touch with our Membership Secretary and check we have your current addresses. Also, please remember if you get a new email address, do let us know, so we can continue to ensure you get news from the Association. * The very last words for 2014 Best wishes for a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year from everyone on your Committee. CONTACT DETAILS (all 01462) *Maureen Hersee (Chair) 742475 or [email protected] * Jo Tofts (Secretary) 677465 or [email protected] *Paul Heydon (Shows) 686630 or [email protected] * Jo Schurch (Membership) 674195 or [email protected] *Pam Manfield (Editor, Compost Heap) 733309, 34 Astwick Rd, Stotfold SG5 4AU or [email protected] For LDGA information, including events, times of Store opening and much more, visit our website: