In this week’s gardening news we’ll be talking about National Allotments Week, the effect of weather on butterflies and a new technique to enable plants to source nitrogen from the air.
National Allotments Week 5th-11th August
The National Allotment Society’s yearly celebration of allotments is back and, in their own words, they want allotment societies and associations to “dust off their bunting and BBQs, spread the word and hold a jolly good knees-up!” The aim of the ‘Party on the Plot’ is to show the local community why allotments are so important, not just for the people who garden them, but for families, schools and wildlife too. Visit the National Allotments Week website for more information.
Andrew Tokely, who gardens a plot in Suffolk said “Allotments are a great source of information for gardeners wishing to grow vegetables. Whilst looking around a site you will spot different ways crops are being grown or protected. All plot holders are always happy to give help and advice. Many sites, including ours, also have a wildlife area with a dipping pond that is always of interest to children who visit the site. Plus they can see the crops growing on site rather than something on a supermarket shelf or served on a plate.”
Big Butterfly Count helps to determine state of butterfly populations
If you haven’t taken part in the Big Butterfly Count yet, there’s still time. It runs until 11th August and you can download and print an ID chart to help you. Simply sit in a sunny spot for 15 minutes and count how many butterflies you see. Last year’s survey showed that 15 of the 21 species included in the count had declined, which is a massive blow for butterflies in the UK. The cold, wet spring hasn’t helped, but experts are hoping that July’s hot weather has helped populations bounce back, which is another reason why the Big Butterfly Count is so important.
Bacteria to fertilise plants?
All plants need nitrogen for optimum growth. Some like peas, beans and other legumes manage this themselves, but others rely on the addition of manure or synthetic fertilisers to provide the correct levels of nutrients. A bacteria found naturally in sugar cane juices traps nitrogen and could be the end of synthetic nitrogen fertilisers, which are made from fossil fuels. Scientists at the University of Nottingham have developed a way of introducing the bacteria into plants’ roots by coating seeds or inoculating seedlings. The plants are then able to convert nitrogen from the air, taking away the need for additional fertilisers. Field tests are being carried out on tomatoes, wheat, maize, oil seed rape and grasses and the experts behind the project claim that the technology could become commercially available within three years.