Archive for July, 2011

Allotment Comedy at the Edinburgh Festival

Friday, July 29th, 2011


What exactly is the point of slugs? How do you make perfect compost? Why is Alan Titchmarsh so attractive to women? Find answers to all these questions and more in Can You Dig It? the musical comedy show about the joys and pitfalls of growing your own.

Sprouting from the fertile brains of comedy songwriters and real-life allotment gardeners Jo Stephenson and Dan Woods, Can You Dig It? features a wheelbarrow-load of songs on topics including an evil pigeon called Derrick, annoying allotment neighbours, vegetable theft and digging (of course).

Highlights of the show, which is on at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, include a rap battle between an angry gardener and a slug, a 1980s-style power ballad to everyone’s favourite cuddly gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh, and a virtuoso performance on the cucumber trumpet.

Can You Dig It? will appeal to both vegetable-growing novices and seasoned cultivators, as Jo and Dan delve into the mysterious and competitive world of vegetable shows, launch a campaign to give sprouts the recognition they deserve, and ask: John Innes – who is he?  With more and more people in the UK growing their own, Can You Dig It? is both timely and topical. There’s even a song for people who don’t like vegetables, poor things.

Can You Dig It? by Jo Stephenson and Dan Woods is at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (Patrick Geddes Room) from 5-29 August (not Tuesdays) at 4pm. Tickets, priced £12, are on sale at, or the Fringe Box Office on 0131 226 0000.

Edinburgh adds to its plots

Friday, July 29th, 2011

On Monday 25th Edinburgh City Council announced the opening of three new allotment sites – at Stockbridge, Pilrig and Dumbrydon – creating a total of 68 new plots across the city.  This is will make a small dent in the current waiting list of 2,500 would be allotment gardeners, but it is still very welcome.

Even more welcome is that Edinburgh has stated its firm intention to identify and prepare yet more sites.  It is not cheap to create a new site.  For example the Stockbridge site, which was created from an overgrown area of old derelict tenements, cost £90,000 to convert into 21 plots.  We must hope that Edinburgh continues to recognise that the benefits in increased social wellbeing and physical health enjoyed by allotmenteers are well worth the investment.

Musselburgh Allotments Open Day

Monday, July 25th, 2011

musselburgh AllotmentsMusselburgh Allotments Association held their annual open day yesterday, Sunday 24th July. It was a great day – the sun shone all day and there was no wind to blow away the gazebos.  There was a stunning array of produce for sale, including loads of interesting potatoes, multi-coloured lettuces, garlic, including elephant garlic, and some seriously good fennel bulbs.
It’s all about getting people to have a wander round the plots and see what we get up to and how pretty it all looks, as well as raising some funds for improvements

Allotments Feature in a House of Lords debate

Friday, July 15th, 2011

The following statement was made by Lord Greaves during a debate in the House of Lords on 7th July.  Lord Greaves is a Liberal Democrat peer based in Lancashire and is a local councillor for a Lancashire ward, but his remarks are as applicable to Scotland as to England:
I wish to relate one more anecdote. There is a piece of former wasteland in the ward I represent that has been wasteland for 40 years. For a lot of that time we have wondered what on earth could be done about it. It has now been transformed by a partnership between local residents, the borough council and the town council into new allotments and a new mini park. It is a brilliant scheme-the sort of scheme that everyone would look at and say, “It is a wonderful, south-facing site, superb for new allotments”. Why did it never happen before? That is because the resources were not there to do it. Why has it now happened? That is because it happened to be part of an area that was included in a housing market renewal priority area and we were given money to carry out environmental schemes as part of the housing market renewal work. It was possible because public money and public resources were put into it and made it happen. I hope that it will be a brilliant scheme for the next 100 years. There is no way on God’s earth that the local community in areas that are in the top 5 or 10 per cent of deprived areas will be able to raise whatever it costs-say, £35,000-to remodel that land completely and put up new fencing. The resources are simply not there; they are poor areas.

If that piece of land was situated in a rich suburban village, the community may have been able to renovate it, but having a system tht is useful only in richer areas full of retired professional people who can devote their time to such projects is no good. A system must apply across the country in the inner cities, suburbs and former textile towns such as the one where I live. This proposal has very little to offer to the kind of areas in which I live and represent on the council.

Oatridge College gets Awards for All cash to run allotment courses

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Oatridge College in West Lothian has received support from the National Lottery-funded Awards for All, to set up a community demonstration allotment where anyone, from schoolchildren to experienced allotment societies, will be able to learn, free of charge, from the experts.

Ann Burns: course tutor The Oatridge team is headed by Ann Burns who has been responsible for a string of winning entries to the annual Gardening Scotland show in recent years. She says: “A lot of people are coming to realise the benefits of having an allotment: The physical activity is really good for you and is a real stress buster: you are getting fresh fruit and vegetables, grown locally; you’re saving money on your food bills and our courses will emphasise sustainability, composting and organic gardening. We’re keen to capture the enthusiasm for allotments and make sure that everyone gets the best from their plot.”

Oatridge’s plan is to use the Awards for All cash to cover the construction of an 11×32 metres plot, which will include a greenhouse, shed and fencing and the purchase of plants and seeds.  Over the six months of the project, workshops for schoolteachers and pupils will focus on what fruit and veg to grow in a school allotment, cultivation, types of soils and rotation. Amateur classes aimed at beginners will show them how to design an allotment so that they get the best of it year-round.  There will be masterclasses for local and national allotment societies  dealing with subjects like organic growing, pest and disease control and plant selection. In addition it is planned to stage healthy eating classes and “Green gym” sessions for senior citizens on growing cheap and nutritious food.

The demonstration allotment will be constructed on the Oatridge Estate near the village of Ecclesmachan. Preparatory work is already underway and it expected that the plot will be ready by the autumn. At least 150 people will attend workshops during the six months of the project. More details are available be phoning the College on 01506 864800.