At this time of year parsnips are putting up flowering stems and lots of greens. Care is needed when handling these, especially on sunny days. The greens contain a chemical which can cause nasty blisters on the skin if exposed to sunlight (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsnip#Toxicity). Wear gloves, and keep your sleeves rolled down. Whatever you do, don’t attack parsnips with a strimmer!
I am very sorry to have to tell you that Peter Blakey died on Wednesday, 8th May, after a short bout of pneumonia.
Peter joined Hollin Lane Allotments in 1981 and became an important member or our community from early on. He served as Secretary and managed plot lettings for many years before passing that job on to Rosie. He finally retired from the Committee in 2014. Throughout this time, and until his death at 89 years old he quietly looked after cutting the grass on our footpaths, even when he was in considerable pain from his knees.
Peter was an excellent gardener. He won our Best Allotment competition many times, and was a formidable exhibitor of vegetables, often winning prizes at our little show, and at others around the city. I happened to raise the subject the other day and he told me that his exhibits had won 31 first prizes last year. He also contributed to the Leeds Allotments Federation’s winning exhibits at some of the Harrogate and Great Yorkshire shows. He was keen for us to improve our own exhibits and showmanship, and composed a handy guide to showing some of the main classes.
In recent weeks Peter did a huge amount of work turning over his whole plot and ridging it in readiness for the new planting season. His latest project was a massive hot bed – a pit filled with hot strawy manure with a cold frame over it to provide summery heat for growing in cold weather. Not being able to see the conclusion of this experiment will be just one of many reasons I mourn his passing.
Peter was always looking for new ways to improve things – not just his own gardening, but the state of Hollin Lane Allotments as a whole. He loved being here, and did much to make it the happy place it is. We will miss him hugely.
I am sure you will all join me in extending our sympathy to Peter’s wife Kathryn and their family.
The horrible little allium leaf miner flies are still active through November, so it is a good idea to protect crops like leeks and autumn planted garlic and onions with fine mesh, as recommended by the RHS.
Winter pruning of apples and pears is best done while the trees are dormant, usually between November and early March in the UK. Here are three useful articles from the RHS that explain what to do for different types of pruning:
Several people have pointed out that the itv article was incorrect (thanks!), and we are allowed to water our food crops with a hosepipe:
A hosepipe can be used for watering food crops but not for general flowers and plants. Where you can, we’d encourage you to use a watering can to save on the volume of water which is used through traditional hosepipes. It’s best to water in the morning or evening, as that means the water won’t evaporate quickly in the sunshine.