Digging with VPA.

There is still time to Create a Flowered Bonnet, Hat, Crown or Tiara and enter the VPA Spring Competition on Saturday 10th April. For details Contact Blewbury Post Office or Maggie Maytham in Upton (850126) or email   vpa.in.bl.up@gmail.com  or call Eileen on 0777 518 5322

I’m sure everyone has been getting to grips with the weeds, cutting the grass and planning what is going into the veggie plot this year. Here’s some food for thought on how to go about preparing your vegetable plot.

Five reasons not to dig – 1 Digging encourages soil-living creatures like worms to do the spadework for you. 2 It reduces the loss of moisture.  3 It protects the soil structure. 4 It prevents weed seeds being brought to the surface. 5 It’s easier on the back.

Five Reasons to dig – 1 Digging breaks up heavily compacted soil, allowing it to breathe. 2 It kills surface weeds. 3  It exposes pests to predators and the cold. 4 If you don’t, you’ll need a lot more mulch to grow potatoes as you will not be ‘earthing up’. 5 It’s good exercise for those who want it.

I’ve actually tried a semi-no-dig method this year. I’ve hoed the plots and have gone down about four inches.  This has loosened the soil and weeded it at the same time I can then go a bit deeper when I start planting, I hope this works –watch this space!

We are hoping that the VPA will be able to hold the Summer Show this year on the 10th JULY – it will depend on what Covid restrictions are still in place.   We will keep you informed through the Bulletin.

DID YOU KNOW –Peppers contain up to five times as much vitamin C as oranges. The highest levels are found when the peppers are in the early green stage of ripening.



VPA Spring Competition

Village Produce Association
After the success of our December competition, we’ve decided to hold another one on Saturday 10th April. Have a go at our Spring Competition which is open to anyone of any age.
Create a Flowered Bonnet, Hat, Crown or Tiara.
The headwear can be any size for a lady or gent, boy or girl.
It can be an existing hat or hand-made and any shape.
Flowers can be fresh or hand-made (NOT artificial bought flowers). Whatever style of headwear it can include accessories.
If you wish to enter, please record your name, address, phone no/email by Wednesday 31st March at either Blewbury Post Office, Maggie Maytham at Toad Hall, Upton (Tel: 850126) or send your details to the VPA email address: vpa.in.bl.up@gmail.com
Place your name and details in an envelope and attach them to your entry.
Bring the entry between 10.00am and 10.30am to Blewbury Village Hall.
Collect at 12 noon.
The winners will be advised of the result on collection of their entry and prizes presented for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places. The result will be announced in the next edition of the Upton News.
Covid-19 restrictions/regulations at the time of the event will be strictly adhered to.
For the safety of the Committee organisers the competition will not be open for members of the public to view the exhibits. We will take photographs. If there is a total Government lockdown again at the time of the event, it will have to be cancelled.
If you have any queries or require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact Eileen Bracken at the VPA email address: vpa.in.bl.up@gmail.com or call on 0777 518 5322.

VPA Latest News

Well, at last there’s light at the end of the tunnel – with the Covid-19 vaccines being distributed throughout Oxfordshire. However, we must still remember to help the NHS by washing our hands, wearing masks and social distancing. Let’s hope that there is easing of the current lockdown in the not too distant future.
We’ve been very lucky not to have suffered too much with the recent Storm Christoph. I’m sure our sympathies go out to those living in the North of England who have been flooded, some of them not for the first time.
The past few weeks have been pretty cold in the chicken run and to add to the problems Defra has advised the outbreak of avian flu. It means that all chickens must be kept under cover so wild birds cannot gain access. Fortunately my hens have always had an enclosed run, not only protecting them from wild birds, but keeping them warm and dry. Their outer run is covered with butterfly netting which prevents even the smallest of birds getting inside. They are fussy with greens – they like broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts but are not very keen on kale. They’re spoilt!!
Life on the allotment. The allotments are waiting for Spring – very soggy at the moment. The good news is, I have sweet peas growing in the greenhouse, together with some garlic and six lovely lavender plants, all are waiting to be planted out. It won’t be long until it will be seed planting time. My seed potatoes arrived by post this week, so are now chitting in the spare bedroom!!
DID YOU KNOW? Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) the famous horticulturalist and garden designer said ‘ There is no spot of ground, however, arid, bare or ugly, that cannot be tamed into such a state as may give an impression of beauty and delight’.
Happy Gardening, Keep well, Keep safe.

Banksian Medal Awarded by VPA

Well, on the 12th December, despite Blewbury Village Hall refurbishment not being complete, we managed to hold the Banksian Medal Competition outside the hall under a VPA gazebo. Thank you to Andrew for helping me put it up – I hadn’t got a clue which pole went where! We had nine entrants and all of them deserved to win. Well done to Rosie and Mathew Phillips (the youngest entrants) for taking part. The most unusual entrant was Tony Sibley’s whose table decoration displayed his skill as a woodturner and included wooden Christmas trees, snowmen and bells. And, congratulations to our entrant, 90 years young, who was placed 2nd by the judges – which proves you are never too old!!

The judges, Joanna Fielden and Alex, had great difficulty in choosing a winner as so much thought and work had gone into all the wreaths and table decorations. The final decision was:

1st place – Kornelia Hearman. (winner of the Banksian Medal)

2nd place – Helen Bennett

3rd place – Graeme Gettings

Highly Commended – Rose and Mathew Phillips

The judges asked the Committee to pass on congratulations to all the entrants for their beautiful entries, so, Congratulations to you all!

It is hoped that when we have the Summer Show in 2021, all the entrants in this competition will take part and put entries into the floral art section.

Well, we’ve now been locked into the Covid-19 Tier-4 and goodness knows how long it will be before we have freedom again. Let’s hope the vaccine which is now being given out will do its job and it can be distributed to everyone as soon as possible.

Despite the restrictions, the VPA will be preparing for the Summer Show, to be held in July 2021.

In the meantime, maybe we can hold another competition at the beginning of April – how about “An Easter Bonnet with Spring Flowers.”

There’ll be an update on the allotments next month. Just to let you know, the hens are surviving the mixed weather we’re having and still laying well.

Did You Know “It is said that marigolds, particularly the Mexican variety ‘tagetes minuta’ will control Ground Ivy, Horsetail and Ground Elder.  It may be disconcerting to the visitor to see a dense crop of marigolds blazing in some unsuitable part of the garden, but if this remedy works as effectively as turnips against couch grass, who cares?

Happy Gardening – Keep well and safe.

A Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Year from all the Committee Members of the VPA.



VPA review 2020

You still have time to enter our Banksian Medal Competition, the deadline is December 12th. Details are available at Blewbury Post Office, from Maggie in Upton on 850126 or send me an email to VPA.IN.BL.UP@GMAIL.COM  and I will send them to you.

Don’t forget we have had to cancel our Christmas Social this year.

I can’t believe we’ve almost reached the end of 2020 and what a year. A wet, wet  spring and a hot, hot summer, with windy storms in between. I won’t mention the stressful months caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reviewing 2020:  As the VPA has been unable to do anything during the past year because of the pandemic, I have offered some ramblings about my Didcot allotments. My allotment sites have been kept open throughout the year by the Town Council, whilst conforming to the various coronavirus rules. These plots are my ‘green gym’. I don’t know how far I walked each day during the summer carrying two 2-gallon watering cans backwards and forwards from the water trough to keep the plants alive!  At the end of the season most of what I planted survived. Surprisingly the main crop potatoes (Cara) were superb and I’m now enjoying lovely baked jacket potatoes with plenty of butter. The main disaster was the sweetcorn – I don’t know why – I kept them watered and weed-free, they produced cobs but dried out and died for no apparent reason. I’m waiting to see what is going to happen to the Brussels sprouts – they don’t look too good at the moment as they seem to have blown and look like mini-mini cabbages.

Well enough about the allotments – they have now been put to bed until the spring.

The hens did really well this year, despite the hot summer. Their inner run is enclosed with a recycled roof from my old conservatory roof and keeps surprisingly cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It also gives them a dry run in the wet weather. I did have to take Holly (she’s nearly 7 years old!) to the vet recently, she had lost feathers around her face. She was given a complete overhaul and guess what – the vet decided it was her hormones, given her age! However, since then all the hens (Shallot, Pumpkin and Bortlotti) have received lots of tonics for their feathers, bones and general health. They all look in fine form and are still laying well. They’ve also had lots of treats including cold water melon in the hot weather!!

On behalf of the Committee Members of the VPA may I take this opportunity to wish everyone in Upton an enjoyable, safe and happy Christmas and New Year together with best wishes for 2021.

Did You Know?  Battersea Park in London was once the site of a giant asparagus field, with over 260 acres set aside for its cultivation.

Happy Gardening, keep well and safe.



VPA Looking to the Future

I’ve been sorting out my laptop recently and checking my word document folders to try and reduce some of the volume. When I checked the VPA files I couldn’t believe that I’ve been writing on behalf of the VPA every month for the last five years.

Looking through the files in previous years it was clear that the VPA was busy with monthly meetings including speakers, plant sales, summer and autumn shows, outings, AGM and an end of year social. However, given the reduction in support of our events and activities over recent years we have had to reduce our events to a Summer Show, an occasional outing and a Social in December in order to keep the VPA going. Please remember – all Upton and Blewbury residents have free membership to the VPA.

With the lockdown and other Government restrictions it has become apparent that more residents are becoming involved in ‘grow your own’.   So, maybe when this ghastly coronavirus has been dealt with and we can get back to some sort of normality, we will be able to build up the VPA as it was a few years ago to help and support budding gardeners in Upton and Blewbury.

It has been so disappointing that because of the Copid-19 pandemic we had to cancel our Summer Show which should have taken place in July and with the current ‘Rule of Six’ restrictions in operation we now have to advise that we are cancelling our planned Social in December. It is unlikely that things will have improved sufficiently by the beginning of December to take the chance of having (or being allowed to have) a large social gathering.

But, don’t forget we have organised a special competition to take place on Saturday 12th December. The details were in the October issue of the Upton News and are also available at Blewbury Post Office or from Maggie Maytham at Toad Hall (850126). If you want to take part, register your details at the Post Office by the 30th November or if you want more information, you can send an email to vpa.in.bl.up@gmail.com. Please support the VPA and take part

Did you know:-The average tree will drink roughly 2,000 litres of water each year and did you know wood from the pear tree is still used in the manufacture of high-quality woodwind instruments.

Happy Gardening, keep well and safe



VPA Banksian Medal Competition

The Banksian Medal competition will be held on 12th December. In order to enter you need to make a Decoration for the Christmas Lunch Table and also a Wreath for the Front Door.

The table decoration can be any size and shape with all types of decoration and accessories. The wreath can be any size and include all types of accessories. Both items must be entered into the competition which is open to everyone in the family so it can be a combined effort.


  1. If you wish to enter, please record your name, address, phone no./email etc, by MONDAY 30th NOVEMBER at either Blewbury Post Office, Maggie Maytham at Toad Hall,Upton (Tel: 850126) or send your details to the VPA email address: in.bl.up@gmail.com
  2. Place your name and details in envelopes and attach one to each of your entries.
  3. Deliver your entries between 10am and 10.30am on Saturday 12th December to Blewbury Village Hall.
  4. Judging will take place at 11.00am
  5. Collect your entries between 11.45am and 12 noon.
  6. The winner will be advised on collection of their entries and the medal presented. It will be also be announced in the next editions of the Blewbury Bulletin and Upton News.
  7. All Covid-19 restrictions/regulations at the time of the event will be strictly adhered to.

For Covid-19 safety the Committee will NOT be opening the competition for members of the public to view the exhibits.   We will take photographs.  If there is a total Government lockdown again at the time of the event, it will have to be cancelled.

If you have any queries or require any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact Eileen Bracken at the VPA email address: vpa.in.bl.up@gmail.com  or call on 0777 518 5322.


VPA Banksian Medal Competition

As you know, because of Covid-19 the VPA was unable to hold its 2020 Annual Summer Show. We are an Affiliated Member of the Royal Horticultural Society and we purchase the Banksian Medal to award to the Exhibitor who achieves the highest points in the Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Sections. Because the Banksian Medal is engraved by the RHS with the year it is awarded we are not in a position to roll it over to 2021. The Banksian Medal was first issued in 1922 in commemoration of Sir Joseph Banks and “to encourage exhibitions of various garden productions of excellence, merit or novelty “.
The Committee is pleased to announce it is organising a competition so the 2020 medal can be awarded. The competition which will be held on 12th December and is open to everyone in the family is to make :-
A Decoration for the Christmas Lunch Table and A Wreath for the Front Door
The Table Decoration and Wreath can be any size and shape with any type of decoration and accessories. Both items must be entered into the competition. Full details will be available in the October edition of the Upton News. Please support the Village Produce Association so that we can find a winner for the 2020 Banksian Medal
The VPA Social booked for Saturday 5th December is still in the diary. It will be organised in accordance with any Government rules regarding Covid-19. Please make a note of the date. More details next month.
Happy Gardening

Latest from V.P.A.

Gosh, we’re halfway through 2020 and at least some of the lockdown has been eased. We still all need to very careful and I must admit that, personally, I’m pleased we have to wear masks in shops. Anything that can give a tiny bit of protection must be good. I’m just glad I’m not a politician, having to make decisions to try and protect us from something that we know so little about. Sorry, I know this is nothing to do with the VPA and gardening, but there is not a lot to update you with regarding the VPA during the lockdown.
To update you with one VPA activity. Given the lockdown, you know we had to cancel the Summer Show scheduled in July. However, our Xmas Social at Upton Village Hall in December is still in the diary and instead of the usual quiz and games we plan to hold a skittles evening with a meal, but we will have to be guided with what happens with Covid over the coming months.
So, here are a few more Didcot Ramblings.
At least we have started to get a bit of rain over the past couple of weeks. I’m convinced my arms are two inches longer from carrying the watering cans to water the allotment – we’re not allowed hosepipes which is perfectly understandable. Still, the allotment is doing well and I’ve had pickings of French beans, runner beans, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower and I had my first tomatoes a couple of days ago. The beetroot have done really well so I’ve been pickling some for the winter months.
I have a small section of one of my plots where I grow flowers. Each year I grow gladioli and last year because of the wet weather I wasn’t able to dig up the corms. However, this year they have done really well, in fact the best they have every been. So, I’m going to take a chance and leave them in over winter this year and see what happens. I sowed a row of California poppies and they are amazing, they’ve really enjoyed the hot sunny weather.
I had a fig tree in a very large pot in my garden which wasn’t very happy but unfortunately I didn’t have room to plant it in the ground. As I didn’t want to compost it I decided to plant it on the allotment. I had a space next to the greenhouse and adjacent to the greengage tree. It’s been there for about two years and is surviving well.
The hens seem happier now it’s not so hot. I had to do a running repair on their run roof – a slight leak – so one of the lads on the allotment very kindly got up on a ladder and filled the roof joint with mastic. It’s worked a treat and the inner run is nice and dry again.
DID YOU KNOW? Lavender, (Lavandula), comes from the Latin Lavare, ‘to wash’, because its oils were often used in cleaning clothes. To make one and a half pounds of Lavender Oil, you’ll need to harvest almost a quarter of a ton of flowers.

May note from the VPA

Well, has much changed since the last newsletter? Not a lot! A slight improvement on the lockdown, but I do find it strange why only one family member can make a visit! Let’s hope everyone is still keeping well and safe and staying alert!
Nothing to do with the VPA – I’m Secretary to the Thames Ridge Scout District Executive Committee which covers Didcot and Abingdon. As a result of the lockdown we were unable to have the meeting planned for the 21st May, so in his wisdom the Chair decided to hold the meeting via ‘Zoom’. Now I’m sure that many of you are totally conversant with this system and are using it regularly to contact family and friends. Unfortunately, my expertise relating to technology only goes as far as email. So, you can imagine, I’m not looking forward to this ‘Zoom’ thing. Will keep you posted on the outcome.
Back to gardening. The weather wasn’t very kind in May, with a couple of nights of a minus 2 degree frost in Didcot. Fortunately I had fleeced my early potatoes and earthed up the main crop, so escaped damage. I did, however, have a good bit of damage to my borlotti beans which were doing really well, (I must admit I did plant them out a bit early), so I’ve just
planted some beans directly into the ground and hoping for the best. I love borlotti beans because I shell and freeze them and in the winter I add them to my vegetable casserole which gives it a bit of body.
On the allotment we all complained about the wet winter and now we’re complaining about the lack of rain. I’m sure my arms have stretched 2” carrying watering cans, we’re not allowed hosepipes on our plots. It will be nice to see some rain as it really does make the plants grow better than when watered with tap water that’s full of chemicals.
DID YOU KNOW? An ingenious and handy way to preserve garden herbs such as basil, tarragon and chives is to freeze them, as soon after picking them as possible, in ice cubes. When they have frozen solid, transfer the cubes into bags and put them back in the freezer. Larger-leafed herbs like mint and parsley can be frozen in bags as they are.
Happy Gardening and Keep Safe