Time to put the Allotment to Sleep

Well, it looks as though the Indian Summer is over and autumn is well on its way. The date and venue for the VPA Annual General Meeting will be announced in the November issue of the Upton News and Blewbury Bulletin. A notice will also be in the Blewbury Post Office. It doesn’t look as though Covid is going away any time soon – so please keep yourselves well and safe.  We won’t be holding our Christmas Social, given that so many people are still observing social distancing.

Meanwhile, this is the time to start putting the allotments to sleep. It’s been a bit harder this year because I’ve given up trying to compost. The problem is there’s not enough variety and mixture of vegetation to help with the composting and it therefore takes a long long time to decompose. The problem is it also becomes a nesting site for rats (not my favourite rodent). We all know that rats are commonplace on allotment sites but I do try to keep them away from my plots.

Despite the strange weather pattern we had this season, the allotment has provided some pretty good produce. Unfortunately, the tomatoes were hit with blight but I had managed to pick some green ones beforehand and made a few jars of tomato chutney. Surprisingly the potatoes were not affected. I have dug up four rows of potatoes this weekend (last weekend of September) and was delighted at the size and quality – if I store them properly I should have enough to see me through the winter. I have three more rows to dig – the ground is so hard because of lack of rain it’s taking longer than usual.

I have a bit of sad news. Pumpkin, my little white hen was taken ill last month. It was all very sudden – she was very quiet on the Sunday and I put it down to it being because it was one of the very hot days. On the Monday morning she didn’t run up to me like she always did and I could see that she was having a problem breathing. I took her to the vet and was given the news that Pumpkin had a respiratory infection and there was nothing they could do for her. She is now in chicken heaven. Fortunately, the other three girls didn’t catch it and are all fighting fit. I think they missed her initially but have now settled down as a threesome.

On a happier note, I picked 6lbs of plums off my tree yesterday and will be making some jam when I finish writing this newsletter. They’re not Victoria plums and I need to find the label to see what variety they are – the tree is only three years old and this is the best crop I’ve had.

I’m hoping the weather holds so I can put the plots to bed before it gets really wet – the soil is clay so you can probably imagine what it’s like!

DID YOU KNOW?  Blackurrants contain more than four times as much vitamin C as oranges and Dried Figs contain about 60 percent sugar, making them an excellent energy snack.

Happy Gardening – Keep Safe



VPA Update

It’s a while since I last put pen to paper on behalf of the VPA. As you are all aware, because of Covid-19 the VPA has been unable to hold its summer show for the past two years and very little else besides. We did have a Christmas craft competition last December and a spring bonnet competition this year. However, neither of these events were particularly well supported. The Committee will be meeting soon to decide the future of the VPA and the decision will be announced at the Annual General Meeting which will be held in November.
Although I haven’t been busy with the VPA, the allotment and hens have had to be tended daily. The veggies have struggled with the strange weather we’ve had through 2021. It hasn’t stopped the weeds growing in abundance!! However, the peas were great and broad beans were successful after battling with blackfly – they didn’t like being dosed with washing up liquid!! and a good supply has gone into the freezer. Courgettes and marrows (the real thing) were coming out of my ears and it’s amazing how difficult it is to give them away. Onions have done well and are currently completing their drying in the greenhouse. Blackcurrants and gooseberries were good and most of them are now sitting in the cupboard as jam – I love toast and jam – although not too good for the waistline! Potatoes and leeks are doing OK and the sweetcorn is coming along nicely. For some reason French beans, carrots, beetroot and tomatoes are not so good this year. Still, one has to be grateful for what has grown well.
The hens are doing well, but they are affected by the variants in the weather and they certainly don’t like it when it’s windy. Pumpkin, (I recently discovered she’s called a dominant amber), is in the process of moulting and there’s white feathers all over the run. Holly who is nearly eight years old is still the boss and keeps the other three in order. They are great fun and are pets more than egg producers.
DID YOU KNOW? Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) wrote: “I plant rosemary all over the garden, so pleasant is it to know that at every few steps one may draw the kindly branchlets through one’s hand and have the enjoyment of their incomparable incense”.
Happy Gardening – Keep Safe

V.P.A. – Not much has Changed.

I’ve been having awful problems with my technology to the extent I’ve had to invest in a new laptop and while waiting for it to be set up I’m using my very, very old HP machine. I was browsing through my Word folders and found the VPA news folder for June 2020. This is what I had written then. “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!” Given that in June 2021 the Govt has delayed the full unlock until the end of July, it’s fortunate that the VPA Committee decided to cancel the Summer Show. It would have been such a shame if everyone had worked hard to provide exhibits and then not been able to show them. Hopefully the unlock in July will be successful.
However, the weather wasn’t quite the same. In June 2020 I wrote “The weather wasn’t very kind in May, with a couple of nights with minus-2 degrees of frost in Didcot. We complained about the wet winter and now we’re complaining about the lack of rain. It will be nice to see some rain as it really does make the plants grow better…”.
So, hot and dry in May 2020 but wet and cold in May 2021. My friend in London who usually helps at the Summer Show told me (when I was Skypeing her) that in May they had 15 consecutive days with rain!
So, 12 months on and not a lot has changed – Covid-19, with the added Delta Variant, is still with us and the weather is still as unpredictable as ever. Fortunately we have had a bit of summer in June 2021.
DID YOU KNOW? Grasses and cereals are wind-pollinated plants so they don’t have the colourful flowers or distinctive scents that other plants need in order to attract insects. Grasses and cereals produce an enormous amount of pollen, which explains why pollen allergy has come to be known as HAY FEVER.
Happy Gardening – Keep Safe

VPA Cancel Summer Show

The VPA Committee has been required to give serious thought as to whether the Summer Show should go ahead in July, the main concern being the current status of Covid-19. Will it ever come to an end? Things start to look up and then another Variant appears on the horizon. A big worry now is the Indian Variant which is proving more virulent than any other so far. The Government continues discussions on lockdowns, easing, and more recently, suggestions of ending social distancing and no more masks, etc. Many decisions and arrangements will not be confirmed by the Government until the end of June.
Careful consideration has been given by the VPA Committee to various problems. These include the limited time left for the Committee to organise the event, the entrants having only five weeks to prepare their exhibits by the 10th July and most importantly, the currently unknown safety aspects required relating to Covid-19.
It is therefore the decision of the Committee to cancel the 2021 Annual Show.
We will keep everyone updated over the coming months with regard to the future of the Village Produce Association.
A couple of Did You Know? to cheer you up: 1. Dried nasturtium seeds were ground into a powder during the Second World War as a replacement for pepper. 2. Claude Monet (1840-1926) said “I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”

VPA Notice of Summer Show

Whilst writing this article, it’s great that partial lockdown has taken place and we can meet up outdoors in restricted numbers and go shopping again. Let’s hope everyone observes social distancing and we don’t have any spikes of this horrible pandemic again.

Our Spring Bonnet Competition took place in April and it was rather disappointing that, although we had been advised there would be a few entrants – only ONE turned up on the day!! Thank you to Myra, from Chilton, who entered the beautiful bonnet with all the flowers coming from her garden.

We are hoping that the VPA will be able to hold the Summer Show this year. The date is booked in the Village Hall diary for Saturday 10th July. To remind long standing residents and inform newcomers, here are a few details about the event. The VPA  Summer Show takes place annually and allows all residents from Blewbury, Upton and surrounding villages to take part in a competition and exhibit their home grown fruit, vegetables and flowers and/or show their cookery, handicraft and photography skills. The details of the various sections are listed in the Show Schedule which will be available next month from the post office or from Margaret Maytham in Upton or on-line via the VPA email  address vpa.in.bl.up@gmail.com. Entry into the Show is open to all residents and there is also a Children’s Section. There are lots of trophies to be won in all the different sections of the Show. However, to make a success of the Show we do need your support. Your fruit, vegetables or flowers could prove to be perfect winners! Have a chat with Karen in the Post Office and I can assure you she will tell you that it’s great fun to take part in the Show that has been running for years and years. I’ll include a few more details about the Show next month. As you will appreciate it will have to be organised in accordance with whatever Covid-19 restrictions are still in place in July.

As we couldn’t hold the Show in 2020 because of the pandemic, for this year we will be using the Show Schedule from 2020 which had already been printed.

DID YOU KNOWIn 1813 Thomas Jefferson said: “The soil is the gift of God to the living.” and, Vita Sackville-West (1892 – 1962) said: “The more one gardens, the more one learns; and the more one learns, the more one realises how little one knows.  I suppose the whole of life is like that.”

Happy Gardening



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.