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Happy New Year!
January can be a frustrating month for gardeners, but it's the perfect time for plotting and planning.
Read on for details of our new NAS ambassador, who has some fantastic tips to help you plan your allotment for the forthcoming growing season. We also have some great suggestions for speeding up your winter composting, details of sustainable gardening courses, a classic book recommendation and more.
Meet Our New Ambassador
We are excited to announce that RHS multi-award-winning garden designer, Zoe Claymore, is now on board as a National Allotment Society Ambassador.
She brings with her a wealth of experience of designing gardens for growing and hopes to share some practical tips to help you plan your plot and planting. Zoe is currently developing her own allotment and you can follow her journey on her Instagram account @my.rented.garden
Zoe won the 2023 Gold Medal, the ‘Best Get Started Garden’ and ‘People’s Choice Award’ at the 2023 RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. As well as being NAS Ambassador, she sits on the editorial board of The Garden Design Journal, the Society of Garden Designers publication. She also offers garden design, planting design and garden consultation services to clients across the UK.
For more information, take a look at her website https://www.zoeclaymore.com/
Zoe has written an article for our next membership magazine and is currently sharing her knowledge in a video series 'How To Plan Your Plot' - viewable on social media and on her YouTube account:
Speed Up Your Composting
As the temperature falls, the composting process slows or stops.
Composting expert Rod Weston, gives us 5 ways to combat the cold and speed up composting for brilliant soil to feed your allotment next year:
1. Insulate your bin
Keep your bin snug with a jacket or reclaimed materials, whilst wooden bins should be as big as possible. Containers filled with hot water can be buried to act as hot water bottles to boost a new bin.
2. Shred & cut materials
Shredding and premixing exposes the surface area of material to microbial action - use a lawn mower or long handled shears. 1-2inch lengths is ideal, turning regularly for 3 weeks. Or compromise by cutting to 6 inches and turn weekly.
3. Aerate your bin
Oxygen is essential. Increase airflow by adding a layer of sticks, straw or scrunched cardboard at the bottom. Inserting plastic downpipes can also help. Turning compost will introduce oxygen and air spaces, allowing microbes to multiply.
4. Kick start & activate
Activate with a layer or two of soil or finished compost. Natural activators can provide additional greens. Manure will also introduce microbes and worms. Coffee grounds, comfrey, nettles, freshly cut grass and seaweed are also effective.
5. Manage moisture
Water logging can reduce temperature and a slow composting. Squeeze a handful - if it makes a ball and a small drop of water appears, it is just right. If too wet, add more browns like cardboard, shredded paper and dry autumn leaves.
Rod Weston is an organic compost expert, who operates a composting site with over 30 composting bins and wormeries at Stokes Wood Allotments in Leicester. He is author of ‘A Gardeners Guide to Composting Techniques' and manages our composting Facebook group:
A Classic Allotment Read
This classic book was originally published in 1988. Now with a new introduction by Olivia Laing, 'The Allotment' is a story that is just as relevant today and an essential read for those interested in social history, land ownership and gardening in twenty-first century Britain.
Allotmenteering started with The Diggers in seventeenth-century Surrey, in response to the Enclosure Acts which deprived ordinary people of access to land. But the idea spread, first across England and the British Isles, then through Europe and the world. 'The Allotment' is the classic study of allotments. Encompassing the oral recordings of plot-holders alongside descriptions of regional variations on the plot itself, such as pigeon-fancying, seed collecting or leek competitions, it looks at British society and history through the prism of allotments.
Build a Composting Loo
Fancy learning how to build a composting toilet for your allotment site?
The Sustainability Centre in Hampshire offers a selection of sustainable gardening learning opportunities, including this one-day composting toilet course on Saturday 3 February.
The day will will teach you how to design, build and manage an outdoor composting toilet, provide knowledge of rules and regulations and give an understanding of composting toilet practicalities.
Other courses available include gardening in a changing climate, introduction to permaculture design, composting and mushroom cultivation. For those needing overnight accommodation, The Sustainability Centre offers a selection of comfortable stay options including bed & breakfast, eco-hostel and glamping yurts.
For more information see The Sustainability Centre website:
Plot Your Allotment on the Map
There is still time to plot your allotment on the map to help NAS and Ordnance Survey (OS) make UK allotment data the best it can possibly be.
OS is asking NAS members up and down the country to take part in online crowd sourcing to fill in missing blanks about allotment names in its records. Britain’s national mapping service hopes to collect as much information into an interactive map - specifically designed to capture allotment names. OS has created a WebMap that shows the allotment sites and community growing spaces they have data for, as well as any names already stored.
OS is encouraging NAS members to look at their local allotments and help identify any of the following:
• Missing names for unnamed allotments or community growing spaces;
• Missing allotments or community growing spaces;
• Suggest any corrections to names incorrectly recorded; and
• Identify any allotments or community growing spaces that no longer exist.
Emergency services rely on OS data when they respond to incidents such as accidents or heart attacks. By having updated allotment name data available to 999 switchboards, response times to any incidents on allotments will be quicker. Improving the data will also benefit local authorities, the NHS and central government to help better understand residents’ access to greenspaces.
OS believes crowdsourcing allotment information with the support of NAS members would make collecting data much faster and more accurate. Once the data has been submitted and OS has verified it, the data will be open for the NAS to share. Any questions please email Ordnance Survey: email@example.com