December 2011 Allotment Diary

“We should stop polluting and exploiting nature. We must, for our own survival and for that of the coming generations. Nature is a kalpa-vrksha, a wish-fulfilling tree, that can bestow prosperity on us. However, our lot is like that of the fool who tried to saw off the branch on which he was seated.”
Amma’s Message, Matruvani September 2011

Om Namah Shivaya

Recycling at Amma’s London Programme

In accordance with Amma’s instructions about disposing of waste responsibly, one of the Seva’s at the London Programme was working in the recycling team. This involved three main Seva’s. The first was setting up labelled recycling bins around the venue, to encourage people to separate their rubbish into recyclable and non-recyclable materials. The second was collecting the recyclable rubbish and bringing it outside to the yard and transferring it into large bins for collection. The final recycling Seva involved supervising the recycling points to help people put the right rubbish into the right bin.
The recycling team managed to collect approximately 24,000 litres of waste for recycling this year. This was made up of 15,000 litres of paper and cardboard, 9,000 litres of plastic, cans, glass, foil and drink cartons, 2,500 litres of raw and cooked food waste (which is the equivalent to 2,500 kg), and 1,950 litres of flower waste.
Every year what we can recycle changes, which can make it very confusing especially when we only find out a couple of days before hand. This year was no exception, for example last year we could recycle plastic bags but this year we could not.
The recycling team was very small but worked really hard. We have been very lucky in having a regular crew of about 5 of us which gives continuity and confidence. Having recycling points, with people supervising what went into what bin seemed to work well, although at busy times it was very challenging. We hope next year to have more people on the team.
We thank Amma for helping us to do this Seva effectively. However, the figure of 2,500 kg (or 2.5 metric tonnes!) includes waste from the juice stall, waste from food prep and food that people have bought, but not eaten and thrown away at the washing up area. The third category, although we think it is a smaller quantity than last year is still a concern. Amma does ask us not to waste food. I am sure that many of us throw food away at some point (we know we do), but this does seem to be an area that could be improved. At least the farms that get the food after it is made into compost will be happy.

Forests and Woodland

Amma says that forests are an indispensable part of the earth. They purify and prevent the overheating of the atmosphere, they keep the soil moist, and they protect and preserve wildlife. Forests in the UK are particularly beautiful at this time of the year, with lots of dramatic autumn colours. Here is a photo of a forest in Sheffield near to where we live. We hope that you also have woodland near you that you can visit and see nature’s beauty.

Allotment Diary

At this time of year, things are very quiet and some of the maintenance jobs, for which there is no time normally, can be done. It is safe to prune trees and hedges now for 2 main reasons. Firstly, trees and shrubs are dormant this time of the year, which means among other things that the sap is not flowing (the sap is the liquid which flows inside a plant, and is the way the plant moves sugars, minerals etc around itself). If you cut a branch now the sap will not all leak out (a severe loss of sap can kill the tree or shrub). Secondly, birds are not breeding, so you will not accidently disturb a nest with eggs or babies inside it.

Beds with no overwintering vegetables can be cared for in a number of ways with the aim of protecting the soil from nutrient run off. We seeded up some of the beds when they became vacant in late summer or early autumn with green manure plants. I am sure we have written about these really wonderful plants before. They help in a number of ways such as protecting the soil (as already mentioned above), adding organic plant material to the soil when they are dug-in in the spring, and finally if they belong to the legume or pea family the roots are fantastic at concentrating nitrogen in the form of nodules which will break down into the soil. We use winter tare, which is tolerant to our clayey soils and northern climes and this year have also tried grazing rye grass and field beans. We will update you on whether we think they have worked later in the year.

Another way of looking after beds is to cover the soil with a mulch of fallen leaves. Again this protects the soil and adds organic material. We have put it down about 8 to 10 cm thick.

As you can see by the photo below (which shows both leaf mulch and green manure) it may look at bit of a mess but hopefully the beds are happy with what we have managed to do for them.

The greenhouse is nearly empty with just the tomato plants remaining. There are still green tomatoes on them and we may either leave them there or bring them in to ripen. We then plan to clean the green house properly with mixture of vinegar and garlic to ensure there are no nasty fungi etc lying in wait for next year.

Outside we also have leeks, kale, perpetual spinach, swedes, salisfy and our last beetroots and carrots. We are eating a lot of hearty soups and are using our new dehydrator to dry some of the roots for use early next year. This dries vegetables and fruit at a lower temperature than an oven, but a lot warmer than room temperature. It’s a bit like putting them out in the sun in a country like India. We will tell you how this goes as this is something we have not done before. Here is a photo of the leek bed.

As always at this time of the year, birdfeeders are out and are being emptied at a ridiculous pace. Sometimes when we are there and have just filled them there is a veritable swarm of birds visiting them, sifting through the seeds to find what they really like (ie. the sunflowers seeds) and chucking the rest away. Luckily the dunnocks and robins are not so picky and search for these discarded seeds under the feeders. We have also put up two grass tightly woven roosting nests for small birds to sleep in overnight as they loose heat very quickly. Although the roosting nests are small they will probably fit well over 8 of some of the littler birds at any one time. It is also important to provide birds with water, so we have placed a small bird bath near the feeders.

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