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Allotments a big hit in Parliament

Phil Gomersall, President of the National Allotment Society went down to Houses of Parliament at very short notice on Monday 25th June to give a condensed presentation along with some other groups at the launch of the newly created Parliamentary Evidence Week.

We were a huge success and our message was a big hit with all MP's in attendance.

Phil Gomersall feels that in future this is a field we can contribute to at Government level.

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left: Norman Lamb MP, Chair of the House of Commons’Science and Technology Committee, the launch of the Parliamentary Evidence Week

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right: Phil Gomersall with Mary Creagh MP, Chair of House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee and Anne Pike, Somerset Beekeeping Association.

Congratulations
President of National Allotment Society, Great-Britain, awarded British Empire Medal.

Her Majesty the Queen graciously approved that Philip Gomersall of Rawdon be awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to Horticulture in Yorkshire in the Birthday Honours List 2018.

GB180619_1Phil Gomersall has many roles in the allotment world from President of the National Allotment Society, Chairman of the Yorkshire Allotment Gardeners Federation, Publicity Officer of the Leeds Allotments Federation and Secretary of Victory Garden Allotments Association, Rawdon. He also represents the English allotment gardeners in the International Office du Coin de Terre et des Jardins Familiaux.

 

He has promoted and advised on the many benefits that allotment gardening has to offer, over many years, and is a very hard working hands on and quite jovial kind of person.

He was instrumental in the creation of many allotment show gardens at the Harrogate Flower Shows, Great Yorkshire Show and even Chelsea.

GB180619_2In addition to the above, he is also the Vice Chairman of Rawdon in Bloom, an organisation improving the local environment where he lives.

Phil Gomersall says: "there are many others like him promoting and advising on allotment gardening up and down the country but his approach may be slightly different and have a little more gusto and bravado in promotion of the many benefits of allotment gardening".

He is immensely proud to be awarded the medal and is still reeling from the news, but never the less was still out planting up planters, in his village of Rawdon, the following morning.

The Day of the Garden was again celebrated on 10th June
You cannot find anything greener!
The reason why we celebrate the day of the garden

In Germany the towns are getting bigger and bigger. The allotment gardens are a means so that we do not need to live in deserts of concrete, but that the green areas can still increase. “The person, who wishes that our towns, with an increasing population, remain nice to live in, cannot omit allotments” explains Peter Paschke, president of the German allotment federation (BDG) the central federation of the German allotment gardeners. Allotments are still part of all our towns and communes in Germany, but this is changing in rural areas. In the larger towns, however, their development is steadily increasing. In fact they do not only save money, but they also bring people together, stimulate a healthy diet and offer recreation from the stressful daily life. They even have an additional value because they constitute compensation grounds for the urban climate, are a place to breath for the citizens, biotopes of biodiversity and a centre of knowledge for gardening aptitudes. Allotment gardeners have always spread their knowledge further than the boarders of their sites – and that is a fact the day of the garden wants to make people aware of.

Many of the nearly 15,000 allotment associations, which exist throughout Germany, encourage everyone to have a look at these green oases on this day and to discover the nature in town. Nature in town? Yes, of course. Nature friendly gardening has been a priority of the allotment gardeners for a long time. Instead of trying to get the greatest possible harvest, the gardeners want to get quality: Many associations renounce on a voluntary basis to use pesticides, cultivate old species and kinds of plants and so contribute to safeguarding biodiversity. Well trained gardening advisers in the associations help the garden newcomers to learn everything that is worth to be known about a nature friendly gardening. The central federation works hard to reach that the allotment gardens, especially in towns, are considered as an essential part of the green infrastructure – and are not considered as potential building grounds. Because extending towns where nothing is allowed to grow anymore, will not for a long time remain towns that are worth to be lived in.

That’s why we always celebrate the day of the garden on the second Sunday in June. This day should make people become aware of the importance of the allotments for the well-being of people and nature in urban and in rural areas.

With the celebration of this day of the garden, the allotment gardeners want to sensitise the population for the joy of urban gardening and try to get new supporters for the allotment idea.

This year the Day of the Garden was organised on 10th June. The official opening took place in Munich.

Author Thomas Wagner, scientific member of the central German allotment federation

Biodiversity in Viennese allotments

On behalf of the central federation of allotment gardeners in Austria a three-year biodiversity study has been taking place for two years in 40 gardens in the four most important climate zones of Vienna.

kescherThe focus is on the survey of trees, shrubs, perennials, vegetables and herbs (except for lawn, wet biotopes and potted plants) as well as on bugs, cicadas and phytopathogenic fungi. The gardens are checked and scooped up several times a year.

It was interesting to note that depending on the climate area between 172 and 250 plant species or genera from up to 82 plant families were found in the gardens.

Among the plant pathogens, there was even a worldwide first description, a Peronospora Albugo Brévia (Mildew), named the “Asteromella forsythiae Bedlan” which was found in the 14th communal district of Vienna. Additionally there was a first finding of an already known fungal disease for Austria and several first findings for Vienna.

For the bugs and cicadas found and determined up to now, it turned out that around 56% of the domestic country bug families living in Austria and around 50% of the domestic cicada families can be found on our allotments.

During the coming autumn the findings of this extensive study will be finalised. The evaluation and assessment of the results will probably not be available until 2019.

 

Soil builders: a rich yet misunderstood biodiversity

We are all very aware of the importance of the soil in a kitchen garden. Without good quality soil, it is difficult to yield a good harvest without using chemical plant protection products. A soil that lacks nutrients is not a gardener's only fear: a shrinking biodiversity (particularly when using pesticides, fungicides and other chemical products) can be catastrophic for crops.

That is because under our feet, a multitude of creatures go about making the soil, which is so dear to us, of a better quality. Without this biodiversity, the soil would die. As an inert material, soil needs this fauna to regenerate itself. So, you ask yourself, who are these soil builders?

What is soil?

In pedology (the science of studying soil), the soil is not only studied in terms of composition, but also life, as one cannot exist without the other. From the biodiversity present comes the chemical composition, the quality, and from this quality comes the biodiversity. Hence, soil works in a cycle, which results in its strength and its weakness at the same time.

01In his “Guide to the experimental study of soil”, Albert Demolon, a pedologist, defines the soil as the following: “the natural formation of ground, with a moveable structure and varying weight, resulting from the transformation of the underlying bedrock due to various processes – physical, chemical and biological – in contact with the atmosphere and living creatures.”

Without going into detail on the soil’s composition, as here we are more interested in the soil’s biodiversity than its composition, we can nevertheless have a simple overview.

Biodiversity has an essential role in the soil's fertility, the protection of species, the battle against soil erosion, good drainage of resources or nutrients by water, and can even play a role in decontamination.

 

02But what is soil biodiversity made of?

Soil biodiversity can be divided into four families:
-     Mega fauna found on the surface: toads, snakes, moles…
-     Macro fauna, visible to the naked eye: earthworms, ants, larvae…
-     Mesofauna, visible under a magnifying glass: mites, springtails…
-    Micro fauna, visible under a microscope: protozoa, nematodes, fungi, bacteria, algae…


03Each of these families has a specific role in the soil’s structure. The macro fauna that gardeners know well, such as earthworms or ants, are known as “physical engineers”, that’s to say that they are in charge of the soil’s renewal: they build habitats for other organisms in the soil, and are responsible for spreading organic matter and good water distribution.

04


Mesofauna play the role of “regulator” with regards to the population of microorganisms living in the soil, and so are predators that can save our crops from various diseases linked to having too many fungi or bacteria in the soil. These micro-organisms that make up the mesofauna are the “chemical engineers” of soil. They are in charge of decomposing organic matter, thereby supplying nutritional elements. They are also capable of attacking some pollutants.

 

How do you promote this biodiversity?

• Avoid ploughing the soil

How many gardeners use a tiller in their gardens? Far too many. We know that as gardeners grow older, working the soil becomes very difficult, but did you know that if you do it right, your soil will rediscover its balance and you won't have to work so hard to have loose soil? What's more, when you use the tiller too deep, you can dislodge species from their natural habitat, so everything will be upside down and nobody will be able to find where they are. That's without considering the death of many worms and other creatures. Remember, an earthworm cut in two inevitably dies.

• Balance the amount of organic materials

Gardeners like us know that it is important to watch the amount of organic materials (such as compost, for example). As well as bringing nutrients thanks to the biodiversity in them, it also allows us to protect our soil and thereby improve its ability to retain water.

• Don't use chemical products.

With us, it's all biological! We can never repeat it too often: stop using chemical plant protection products. The biodiversity that maintains and works your soil will never thank you enough for it, and your crops will never look better. These days there are many biological solutions to help you fight against potential invasions or infections.

• Use green manure to minimise erosion

Bare soil is sensitive to all kind of things, notably the weather, whether it is rain, wind, drought, etc. In the growing season, don't skimp on ground covers and mulching. As well as conserving the soil's heat, these covers will allow water to be conserved for longer. In periods of drought like last year where the rain gauge remains low, this will give the garden a helping hand.

If you decide to leave a flowerbed bare in a less prosperous period or in case of absence, don't hesitate to use green manure (e.g vetch, mustard, etc.) which will nourish and protect your soil and will ultimately act as ground cover for your other crops.

Malvina Beauclair

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