Newsletter March 2022
A hot box for winter germination
Graham Jardine is making the argument for installing a hot box and tells us about his experience with one.
A hot box is easy to build and has the advantage that you can germinate seeds during the winter months. The temperature in a hot box is around 12 to 18 degrees Centigrade in winter, much warmer than in a a greenhouse where the earth temperature is around 8 degrees or below.
Graham says: “Currently, I’m growing salads. Already through are lettuce, beetroot, radish and spring onion. In the past I’ve had winter salads and melons growing in the summer.”
If anyone is interested, Graham offers to help with advice. Just get in touch with him on plot 29A.
Paving slab or cement and sharp sand ………….for base
Reclaimed pallet wood ………………………………..for frame
Straw bale………………………………………………….for warmth/base
Top soil/multipurpose compost …………………..growing material
Well rotted manure
- Set the hard base, if using slabs as opposed to a cement/sharp sand base, then put a plastic liner under the slab to stop weeds growing through the joints.
- Build frame to size required, as big or small as you want, as a hot box can be whatever size you want, in fact it can be a flat top not angled as Graham’s is.
- Once built to size, place the straw in base and compact. The golden rule is 2/3rds straw bale for warmth and 1/3 growing material. Don’t forget to allow for plant growth. Ensure the straw is compacted right down.
- Then mix the growing material in a wheelbarrow and add on top of straw. Graham says: “I use a 50/50 mixture of top soil/multipurpose compost and add a few handfuls of well rotted manure.”
“My hot box has been in place for five years. I change the growing material annually (takes 5 mins) and use elsewhere and replace with new.”
This Guardian article – Dank, ancient and quite fantastic: Scotland’s peat bogs breathe again | Scotland | The Guardian – tells the recent history of Flanders Moss in Scotland, a peat bog that has been under attack for centuries. More recently, however, work has been done to restore it.
“A healthy bog is a bit like a malfunctioning compost heap. With a compost heap we keep throwing stuff in and it all rots and breaks down, but with a bog, it doesn’t. It just keeps accumulating and accumulating,” says David Pickett, who manages the site, which is a National Nature Reserve. It is now recognised that peat bogs are among the greatest stores of carbon.
Despite restoration efforts, Flanders Moss is still a net emitter of carbon. Scotland’s bogs emit about 10m tonnes of carbon equivalent, which is almost as much as the transport sector. Stopping these emissions and preventing further degradation are the primary objectives of the restoration project.
We can all help Flanders Moss and the other bogs by exclusively buying peat-free soil.
Update on legal case
As explained in an earlier newsletter, Pointalls has applied for permission to appeal elements of the judgment that was handed down by the Court in December 2021 (this is the first step in the process of appealing any elements of a judgment – if permission to appeal is granted by the Court, then the appeal hearing itself will follow thereafter). The claimants have also applied for permission to appeal in respect of the elements on which they were unsuccessful. Both of the parties’ applications for permission to appeal will be considered at the same time by the Court in due course.
In the interim, the Court has granted Pointalls a ‘stay’ (this is effectively a ‘pause’) on all of the aspects of the order which relate to the payment of costs, until Pointalls’ application for permission to appeal is heard (and, if successful, until the appeal itself is determined). In other words, until Pointalls’ appeal is determined, Pointalls is not required to make payment of the interim payment of £20,000 that was part of the costs order made in early January 2022. In addition, the Court has ordered the parties to consider mediation to resolve the issues between them and Pointalls has indicated its willingness to engage in such a mediation to see if a resolution is possible.
Pointalls continues to be represented pro bono by a firm of solicitors and a barrister in respect of these matters (including the application for permission to appeal (and any subsequent appeal)), meaning it will not incur legal fees.
Normal service resumes
The ‘stay’ on the costs order means that we can return to normal service for all plotholders.
By the weekend, we will hopefully receive a delivery to re-stock the trading shed and offer again all our products at the attractive prices that you know and love.
We will be letting empty plots to reduce the waiting list. And the green skip will be replaced with a new one as soon as possible.
Heritage seed growing
Why grow the same old mass produced corporate varieties when you could sow some endangered heritage varieties with lost flavours which are biodiverse and help the planet at the same time? Franchi Seed’s Paolo Arrigo shares his thoughts on whether it is best to grow heritage or mass produced veg. “Some 94% of our heritage veg has been lost in just one century, and Franchi supply about 200 varieties of the remaining 6%. We specialise in heritage and endangered, but we also have hundreds of newer (ethically produced) varieties,” says Paolo.
“The best way to save these 6% varieties is not to put them in a seed bank – that is just an insurance policy, but it is to grow them. Take our endangered Spinach Viroflay as an example. There are just a few growers left and if they don’t make a profit producing it or retire, that variety is lost forever and yet if you compare that to a mass produced corporate variety like Gardeners Delight, then there are hundreds of producers.”
“There are enough people growing the mass produced varieties and these 6% varieties need our help. The San Marzano 2 is a case in point – grown by hand on the slopes of Vesuvius, it would have been picked by hand and canned by hand. But because it has thin skin, it doesn’t favour mechanisation, so it is no longer produced commercially and is now on the slow food endangered list. So by growing it the producer makes a profit and will continue.”
And there is the oldest pumpkin in Europe. Berrettina Piacentina comes from the Veneto region and is based on a wild pumpkin that was brought back from the Americas in the 15th century. It has been grown ever since and you can become the latest grower of this tasty variety.
Jennie, thank you for this contribution.