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This Gardening Group was started in May 2009 with the intention of visiting members and public gardens and discussing relevant topics.  

Typical topics discussed are
pros and cons of organic gardening, pest and weed control techniques, climate change, gardening for the credit crunch, etc.

Other discussion topics will be wine making, and techniques, such as bottling, freezing, etc that are successful for dealing with excess produce.

At each meeting members describe their current activities in the garden and discuss plants being grown, pests encountered, techniques and supplies used, and their successes and failures.


Members also share seeds, cuttings and coordinate the purchase of seeds and plants.

In October we met in Jackie's house.  Jackie showed us a collection of photographs of gardens that she has visited all around the world.  It was a very diverse group of stunning gardens.  Mike showed us photos taken at a recent visit to the Trebah Gardens in Cornwell.  This delightful garden has a well-established collection of plants in a lush, sheltered valley.  We also talked about jobs to be done this month and made the usual tour of the hosts' garden.
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One of our members, Irene, did well in the Berriew Show and submitted a few photos or her  show entries:
Irene2  Irene3  Irene1

Irene4  Irene5  Irene6
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Anne, one of our members, has produced a few notes about the effect of the unusual weather this year has had on the gardens. It has been much too hot for runner beans and tomatoes in the greenhouse and keeping plants watered sufficiently has been a challenge.  Anne has lost one tree to drought and notes that autumn coming early has causes plants such as Euonmyous Alatus to change colour early.  Trees have been dropping their leaves early to cope with the heat.  It has, however, been a good year for fruit trees and berries and Mediterranean plants such as herbs.
These are photos of some of the plants in Anne's garden this summer, Clematis, Japanese Anenomies, Paeonies, Rhododendrons and Rudbekia:
clematisAnenomesPaeoniesRhododendronsRudbekia
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In September we met at Irene's house in Berriew.  Irene told us about a recent visit to Windy Ridge, Little Wenlock.  It sounds like a great place to put on our visit list for a group visit next spring.  She gave us copies of the list of plants at this garden and web site that provided the scupltures.  Irene told us about a report in 'The Garden' about the search for a biodegradeable alternative to foam for florists and flower arrangers.  The best currently available is Bio Floral Foam,  available from Smithers-Oasis.  A recent article in the Telegraph describes the transformation that Claire Austin has achieved on the pub in nearby Sarn.  She has re-opened this pub and, together with husband Ric Kenwood, is adding a restaurant, garden shop and plant centre featuring Claire's perennials.
The meeting continued with general discussions, sampling of Tony's famous scones and a tour of Irene's garden.  
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In August we paid a visit to Winterbourne House and Garden. the  house and garden.  This is part of Birmingham University in Edgbaston and a small group of us went there by train and bus.  This Edwardian house was built for  John Nettlefold and  was furnished in the Arts and Crafts style, much of which is retained today.  The 7 acre gardens are now the University's Botanic Garden and is used for teaching and study.  It contains many specimen plants and trees and a number of well used greenhouses.  We all enjoyed the visit to this interesting and tranquil space in this busy city.
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In July we had a combined event with the Walking Group and all visited Hurdley Hall, Churchstoke in the morning.  This lovely, diverse garden was spectacular with colourful borders, irises and wild flower meadows.  The raised veg plots, greenhouse and many fruit trees are in good shape too.  The woodland walk, while a little muddy, was also well worth a visit.  This was a return visit to this lovely location well kept by Simon and Simon.  
hurdley
While the walkers and walking gardeners spent the afternoon going up the nearby Roundton Hill and Todleth Hill, the gardeners carried on to visit Argoed, an open garden run by Roger and Jane.  As usual refreshments were enjoyed here too.  
argoed
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The May meeting was a visit to two very different gardens, Aulden Farm and Stockton Bury, both near Leominster.  Aulden Farm is a 3 acre garden developed over 20 years by Alun and Jill.  This enthusiastic couple have turned a bare field into a delightful garden full of hidden corners and very diverse areas.  It also includes a nursery and the National Collection of Siberian Iris, unfortunately not yet in bloom.
Stockton Bury is a four acre more formal garden, open to the public with a restaurant and plant sales.  It has a kitchen garden, an attractive water garden and an interesting garden museum.  For both visits the weather was excellent, always a help in enjoying gardens.
Auldenfarm
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The April meeting comprised mainly of an illustrated talk on his recent trip to Machu Picchu in Peru.  Apart from the stunning scenery there were many interesting and exotic shrubs and flowers and we realised how little we know of the flora of South America.  We had some discussion on our various planned garden visits and agreed to open them to all.  The visit on July 9th has now been confirmed as Ceunnant.  We will try to recruit some new members for our dwindling group.  Finally we had a short discussion on an article by New Scientist investigating some common gardening myths.
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At the March meeting Judi gave us a presentation about the Hardy Plant Society showing its history and current activities.  She also gave us a virtual tour of her garden showing before and after photos and describing the work she has done to recover this neglected, terraced garden.  Very impressive.
The future meetings and visits were all agreed apart from the change of date for the Hurdley Hall visit to June 4th.  The planned visits to Llandinam are not possible so Jackie will investigate visiting Ceunant or Cwm-Weeg.
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We talked about the bee friendly initiative, see Bee friendly site: https://www.biodiversitywales.org.uk/Wales-Action-Plan-for-Pollinators.

There is a new initiative to plant Black Poplar plants in Newtown.  Details later.
At this meeting we planned future group meetings and visits as follow: 

March 12th. Meeting at Judi’s, presentation on the Hardy Plant Society.
April 9th  Meeeting at Nick’s, presentation on Fauna of Peru.
May 23rd Visit to Aulden Farm morning, lunch and afternoon visit to Stockton Bury.  Judi to arrange.
June 11th.  Combined visit of Garden and Walking Groups to Hurdley Hall in the morning.  Mike to arrange.  Afternoon Walking Group will go up Roundton Hill, Garden group, lunch Bishops Castle, visit to Argoed House, Irene to arrange. 
July 9th.  Possible visits to Llandinam, Little House and Neuaddllwyd.  Judi to arrange.
August 13th.  Visit to Winterbourne House, Birmingham.  Nick to arrange, Mike to organise mini bus.
September 10th, meeting at Irene’s.
October 8th, meeting at Jackie’s.
November 12th, visit to see autumn colours.  Details to be arranged later, maybe Batsford.
Finally, Mike gave a short presentation about the Palmeton of Santa Cruz, Tenerife.
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The December meeting was held at Judi's house in Newtown.  Judi provided us with a nice selection of lunch snacks, tea, biscuits and apple crumble.  Nick contributed some of his home made wine.  Judi also gave us a well illustrated talk on the plants of New Zealand following her recent trip there.
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The November meeting was at Nick's and consisted of a wide ranging discussion, hints on activities for the month and some photos from Nick's recent visit to Peru.  Nick served an excellent lemon drizzle cake and we toured his garden.  Many flowers still flowering, notably the Michelmas Daisies and sweet peas.
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The September meeting was at Irene's house in Berriew and was largely taken up by a presentation by Irene of flower arranging.  Irene had just won a number of awards at the Berriew show.  One arrangement came first in the 'My Favourite Container Class' and was awarded the cup for Best Arrangement in the Floral Class.  
flowerarrangement
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The August meeting was a visit to Hurdley Hall in Churchstoke and the Hollies in Clun.  These are both excellent gardens to visit and quite different to each other.  Hurdley Hall is a 16th century house with 20 acres of land around it.  There are excellent borders, ponds, fruit trees, veg beds, etc around the house and large meadows, a stream and woodland adjacent, all extremely well kept.  The Hollies is a smaller property with the challenges of gardening at 1000 ft elevation, which they have mastered excellently.  They also have a stream and woodland with formal beds, fruit and veg and lots of ornamental grasses. Both properties have badger sets on their land.  Between the two visits we had an excellent lunch at The Maltings Cafe, Clun.  A good day out and no rain.
visitAug17
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The June meeting was cancelled and the July meeting took the form of a garden visit to Copper Beeches in Gobowen and Gwynt Newydd in Pant.  In between these visits we had lunch in the restaurant in the Derwen College, Gobowen and a look around their gardens and garden centre. A good day out and the weather cooperated too.
gardenvisis 2017
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We had a good meeting today (May 8th) at Sheila and Allan’s and welcomed 2 potential new members, Eileen Costello and Linda Davies.
We also discussed possible garden visits now that Judi has contacted the owners of one garden.
We are suggesting either Wednesday July 19th or Monday July 24th.   The idea is to visit Copper Beeches near Gobowen in the morning and nip next door to the Derwen College for lunch and a garden visit there in the afternoon. This visit would replace the normal July meeting. 
We also discussed Judi’s other suggestion of a visit to The Hollies, Clun.  We are thinking of going there instead of our normal August meeting on August 14th.
Please let me know asap if you want to come to either or both of these visits and, if so, which date in July you prefer.
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There was no meeting in February and no notes for the March meeting but the meeting in April went well with a good attendance.  Seeds were exchanged and members reported on a recent Hardy Plant Society sale.  We also discussed the idea of making Newtown a Bee Friendly town.  We'll get more information on that.  Members described their current gardening activities, it seems as though we are all gearing up for the growing season.  We talked about making another group visit to open gardens this summer and Judi will  explore possibilties with some of her contacts.  
After the usual delicious tea and goodies we toured the Allen's very colourful and well organised garden.
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The January meeting comprised a very interesting talk by Judi on the Hardy Plant Society.  Judi told us of the history, structure and activities and showed images of the various shows that they participate in.  There were lovely photos of plants and gardens to whet our appetities for the summer to come.  More information can be found at www.hardy-plant.org.uk and on the Shropshire Group at http://www.hardy-plant.org.uk/salop.
Judi also told us about the annual potato fest to be held on Saturday 4th February, 9 am - 3 pm at the Montford Parish Hall.  Details at www.shropshireorganicgardeners.org.uk
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The December meeting at Mike and Paula's started with a viewing of part of the first section of the You Tube video presented by market gardener, Jean-Martin Fortier.  This French Canadian has made a very successful business on his small plot.  He presents his methods in a series of 16 videos, recorded during a day long presentation.  He shares a lot of good successful ideas in terms of crop rotation, pest control, organic gardening, and is of interest to any gardener.  The first video is at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BH0NkN6zHs
which has links to other sections.
We also viewed a video on apple tree pruning and discussed monthly garden activities.
The tea and coffee came with a couple of home made treats, including the ever popular Matrimonial Cake:

This is an odd name, because it is hardly a cake and there's no obvious connection with weddings.  The origins are lost to obscurity but was probably from the Arab world, since it is made of dates.  The contrast between the salt and sweet is also oriental.  It could probably be made with raisins or dried apricots too.

Crumb mix
1/2 c butter
1/3 c  sugar
1 1/3 c rolled (flaked) oats
, the quick cooking breakfast kind
1 c flour
generous pinch of salt.

Filling
3/4 c dried dates, pitted
3/4 c water
1/4 c brown sugar

Mix all crumb ingredients together.  Mix filling ingredients, mushing and breaking up dates or put them all together in the blender for a quick whizz. Spread about half the crumb mix in the bottom of a shallow baking pan, about 30 by 15 or 20 cm.  Spoon over the date mix and top with the rest of the crumb mix.  Bake in a moderate oven for 25 min.

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The October meeting at Judi's started with a pub quiz on gardening.  Most of the questions answered successfully by the members.  A discussion on things to do this month were less contentious than usual.  People talked about problems with tomatoes and successes with colourful flowers for this time of year.  Anne told us about the Derwen College near Oswestry being a good place to go for wildflower and other plants.  It also has a good cafe, worth a visit.   Mike mentioned a really good site for information about wildflower gardening:
www.plantlife.org.uk/wildflower_garden.  It was agreed that if new people wanted to join the group we would accept them although it might be difficult to have meetings in some of the members' houses.  Judi served brownies and flapjacks with tea and coffee.   The meeting ended with a tour of Judi's challenging, very steep garden.
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The September meeting at Irene's house in Berriew started with the good news that Irene had won a prize and cup in the recent Berriew garden competition.  Well done Irene!
We discussed the NGS gardens that we have visited during the last couple of months and everyone agreed that they had enjoyed this and we will plan to visit more gardens next spring/summer.  We talked about the possibility of getting involved with a garden show in Newtown next year.  The group felt that it was an idea worth exploring, probably led by other interested groups.  This led to a discussion of the use of open spaces soon to be transferred from Powys County Council to the Newtown Town Council.  The group wish to be kept informed about this interesting project.  Paula told the group about her success in using branches of herbs, such as rosemary, alongside brassicas to deter cabbage white butterflies.  It has been highly successful as has been the use of nematodes to control slugs.  Unfortunately, these nematodes do not control snails.   Judi raised the question of the use of wood ash and was told that it is an important source of phosphates, good for encouraging flowering.  
After tea and coffee with scones ets baked by Tony, we toured the well kept garden and admired the many flowers and shrubs.
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Following our successful NGS garden visit in July we visited another garden in August.  This was Castell y Gwynt near Montgomery.  It is a delightful place with formal gardens around the house, productive veg plot and many acres of wildflower meadows and woodland.  It is in a very elevated position so somewhat exposed but also means it has magnificent views. The owners, John and Jacqui, served up delicious homemade cakes with tea and coffee. Most of the group enjoyed lunch at the Dragon in Montgomery afterwards.
Castell y Gwynt
The group at Castell y Gwynt, 8th August, 2016.
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In July 10 of us visited two very different open gardens.  The first was Holly Cottage near Wentnor.  This is a delightul garden, well thought out and organised with lots of variety.  They have a woodland, very productive veg garden/allotment with a poly tunnel and formal gardens with a pond and rockery.  The visit was enjoyed by all and most of us went to the local pub, the Crown, and had an enjoyable meal there.  In the afternoon we visited a very different property, Shoothill House at Ford.  This is a victorian house set in extensive grounds largely set to lawns, meadows and woodland with a large pond.  The formal gardens are next to the house and in the walled garden which contains an orangery/greenhouse looking sadly in need of TLC.  Cake and tea was served on the terrace in the sunshine.  
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The June meeting at Nick's was well attended and we had quite a discussion about NGS gardens to visit.  In the end we decided on Holly Cottage in the morning and Shoothill House in the afternoon.  We will share cars and take packed lunches.  Judi sends weekly emails to various people listing open gardens and will now include our gardening group on the circulation.  We have heard about someone who rescues hedgehogs and is always looking for good homes for them.  Several of our members would love to provide such a sanctuary and we will find out the requirements and availability.  After tea and cakes, baked by Sally, the members toured Nick's garden and were impressed by the progress he has made in the limited time he has been there.
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The May meeting was held at Sheila's house in Mochdre.  It started with a discussion on the perennial problem of slug control.  No one has a fool proof solution.  Mice attack on seedlings were also reported. The usual discussion on tasks for this time of year showed that, in general, garden activities are well behind usual timing.  Hopefully, we can all catch up as the weather improves.  The possibility of a visit to an open garden in July was well supported and will be investigated.  Sheila served tea and coffee and a couple of excellent home made accompaniements.   ____________________________________________________________________________________________
The March meeting was cancelled due to illness.
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The meeting in February was at Mike and Paula's house in Newtown.  Members were reminded of the Cultivate seed swap which is to take place in the Newtown Market Hall on Saturday 27th Feb, 11 am to 3 pm.   All are welcome.
 
The meeting started with a quiz relating to gardening and plants and someone in the group was able to answer most questions.  One interesting fact emerging was the Saint Dorothy is the patron saint gardeners, horticulture, florists, brides and brewers.  
We discussed garden activities that should be done at this time and, unusually, we agreed with many of those listed on an organic gardening web site.  
Anne told the group that modern and heritage sweet peas are available from Easton Walled Garden.   She also pointed out that the most common source of vitamin C in the UK diet comes from potatoes.
Matrimonial cake and a very rich chocolate cake accompanied the usual tea and coffee.

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The meeting in November began with Anne talking about her favourite plant, Euonymous.  They have a number of these attractive plants.  Mike then told us about
Tropeoleum, his favourite which apparently grows well in this area.  Judi told us about plants that can be grown in gardens but should not be allowed to spread into the wild.  These include the invasives such as giant hogweed but also includes such things as some of the cotoneasters.
Judy served tea and coffee with flapjacks and a delicious almond flour cake, recipe at 

http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/apple-and-almond-cake-for-passover-and-any-other-time-3204 
Judi said that she separated eggs and whisked half of the whites and folded in and that the cake took longer than 45 minutes to cook.

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In September a smaller than usual group started the meeting with Judi telling us about her favourite plant.  It is Sinocalycalycanthus Raulstoneii 'Harltedge Wine' which is a hybrid of Chinese and American Calycanthys that has produced a shrub with glorious wine coloured blooms.  It is still not very available in this country but Judi has planted one and will keep us informed of progress.  Other favourites discussed were Caryopteris (Nick) Artichokes (Paula) and Lavender (Mike).   The group also discussed successes and failures of this year's gardening.  It was universally agreed that tomatoes have been a disaster this year, presumably weather related.  When talking about green manure Paula mentioned Caliente Mustard that has biofumigant properties. (Biofumigation is the suppression of soil borne pests & diseases by the release of naturally occurring gases).  Seeds cannot be planted directly into the soil after this manure but pests and bacteria are controlled while adding nutrients. 
Tea and coffee was accompanied by Paula's apple, almond, maple syrup, ginger cake.
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The August meeting at Jackie's started with a talk on Natural Pest Control by Paula.  She told us about identifying ladybird larvae that should be enouraged for their appetite for aphids.  Tool cleanliness should be practiced to avoid spreading disease around the garden. Paula also extolled the virtues of nematodes. Details of all of this pest control can be found on the Growing the Future web site at http://www.growingthefuture.co.uk/  Anne told the group about the Nettle Cordial which is part of the foods for free approach. The recipe for this and other good stuff can be found on the Eatweeds web site at http://www.eatweeds.co.uk/   The group toured Jackie's garden and were impressed by the top garden which is well controlled and the lower garden which needs a bit of work to make it a more accessible wild area.  As usual plants were distributed by various members.  The group expressed their best wishes to member Graham who is no longer able to join us.
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The July meeting took the form of a trip to Edge Villa and Bowbrook Allotment Cooperative.  Members shared car and although it was a dull day the visits were very interesting and informative.  The chocolate cake also was highly praised. 
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The meeting in June was at Mike and Anne's.  It started with a tour of their very colourful and tidy garden with lots of interesting plants and shrubs.  They also have a limited quantity of beans, peas and tomatoes.   Mike demonstrated summer pruning of a 5 year old apple tree to open up the structure and improve yield.   A slow release, pelletised ferilizer, high in N, P, K is Q4, recommended by Mike and available from Charlies.  Charlies also sell pyrethrum.  Natural pyrethrum is permitted as an insecticide in organic gardening but commercial pyrethrum products may contain chemical additives.  Some people recommend growing pyrethrum (Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium of Chrysanthemum coccineum
and making your own spray. The question of hedge trimming when birds may be nesting came up.  It is an offence to take, damage or destroy a bird nest so hedges should not be trimmed if nests are present or being built, impossible to be certain of course.  The RSPB recommend not cutting hedges between 1st March and 31st August.
We discussed the way that the Welshpool U3A garden group operates, viz. no meetings in the winter, not generally visiting each others gardens and we agreed that we like our format better.  The Welshpool group have invited us to participate in any of their trips if any of group would like to.  
Anne served tea, coffee, cheese scones and coffee cake.  We talked about eating the young broad beans in their pods and Paula suggested the following salad recipe from Claudia Roden:
1 kg fresh broad beans
1 – 2 spring onions
150 g strained yoghurt
Cumin, a pinch   
Salt and pepper

Remove the beans from their pods and boil in water until just tender.  When cool, add the rest of the ingredients.  Toss to mix and serve.
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The May meeting at Judi's consisted of a very wide ranging discussion, including a review of the Malvern Show by Judi, visited by her this week.  We also discussed no dig gardening, which Sally practices and recommends.  A report that tested identical beds with conventional and no dig gardening, both with the same amounts of organic matter, found that: no dig favoured spinach, lettuce, endives and potatoes while conventional cultivation produced better results with brassicas and leeks.  Judi served tea, cake and flapjacks and gave us a tour of her challenging garden.
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The April meeting at Joan's houise comprised a discussion on the current status of members gardening, specifically what seeds have been planted indoors, outdoors or in greenhouse.  Quite a large deviation was apparent so we'll compare results as time goes by.  There was also a discussion about the use of grass clippings which are apparently useful under hedges or around raspberries, currants and gooseberries.  A preliminary discussion has been held with the gardening group of the Welshpool U3A about possibly sharing trips to various gardens.  We are thinking of visiting places like the allotment cocoperative near Shrewsbury, gardens around Clun or the NES on the Wirral and will see if the Welshpool group are interested.
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The Gardening group made a presentation to the Newtown U3A on 1st April, outlining the work of the group and showing members' gardens and our activities.  It was well received and generated some interesting questions and comments.
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The meetings in February and March were both held in Nick's house and concentrated on preparing for the U3A presentation on 1st April.  This will be completed in the next few days and reviewed just before the April presentation.
Judi suggested the Bowbrook Allotment Communitty as a possible venue for a future group meeting.  This will be explored later in the year. Aarticle about a couple in Yorkshire who were successful growing old varieties of veg, based on the Dig for Victory was discussed.  Varieties included Drunken Woman lettuce, Feltham First peas, Tendergreen beans, and Table Dainty marrows.  The beans were especially succesful in this moorland garden .  More details can be found at lifeonpigrow.co.uk.

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Meeting 5th January, 2015, Mike and Paula's house.
This meeting started with a review of the presentation for April.  The general approach was agreed and additional images and videos were agreed.  Each member will need to record the commentary to go with their images.  Nick will try to convert some of the images currently on Power Point into videos ready to record the commentaries.   Discussions on tasks for the month using information from a web site based in Conwy.  This was thought to be no more appropriate than some that we have used from the South of England.  We agreed that in future meetings we will try recording what each member is doing in the garden at that time.  In this way we will start to develop our own list of tasks, relevant to our district.
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Meeting 8th December, 2014, Mike and Paula's house.
This was a meeting mostly devoted to the presentation the group is to give to the Newtown U3A in April 2015.  A draft presentation and edited videos were viewed and discussed.  A revised presentation will be prepared for the next meeting in January.  In the meantime members are to prepare a script to go with the powerpoint slide presentations relating to their gardens.  
A cake made from almond flour and apples was served and enjoyed.
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Meeting 10th November, 2014 Sheila and Allan's house.
This well attended meeting started with the usual discussion on things to do in the garden this month, with the usual disagreement about some of the recommendations.  Allan gave an overview of composting and the making of leaf mould.  After tea and coffee a view of the garden showed that their winter veg are looking good and that they still have tomatoes thriving outdoors.   Recipes for the food served follow.
Date and Walnut Cake
8 ozs Chopped Dates ( not sugar coated)
1 tsp. Sodium bicarbonate
1 cup of boiling water
Pour the boiling water over the above and allow to stand while the following ingredients are mixed together.
 
8 ozs sugar
8 ozs butter
1 egg
2 ozs walnuts
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. Vanilla essence
10 ozs plain flour
 
Cream together the sugar and butter, add the egg and vanilla essence then the rest of the ingredients along with the date mixture.
Place in a 9 x 10 inch baking tray and cook in a moderate oven for 35 mins.
 
Topping
5 tbsps. brown sugar
2 tbsps. butter
2 tbsps. cream
Boil the above together for no more than 3 mins. and pour over the cake when it is cooked, then sprinkle with a few extra chopped walnuts.
 
Bramley Apple and Walnut Flapjacks
8 ozs. cooking apples peeled cored and thinly sliced
5 ozs. butter
2 ozs. light muscovada sugar
5 ozs. golden syrup
9 ozs. porridge oates
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 ozs. finely chopped walnuts
 
Partially cook the apples without any water and drain off excess liquid.
Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a large saucepan.  do not let it boil.
Add the porridge oats and mix well.
Spread half this mixture in a shallow 7x7 inch square sandwich tin.
Cover with the partially cooked apples and top with the remaining oat mixture.
Finally sprinkle on the chopped walnuts and cook for 25 mins at 170 centigrade or until it is golden brown.
Mark into squares when it is cooked and leave it in the tin to cool.

The next meeting will include the annual seed swap together with distribution of seeds donated by Ruth Bemment.  We will also have a preliminary discussion on the presentation that our group is due to present to the U3A next April.
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Meeting 13th October, 2014, Mike and Anne's house.
This meeting went through the usual tasks for the month and had a discussion on caterpillars, broad beans and taking rose cuttings.  
Paula told us about a course she recently took on lacto-fermentation.

This involves the making of pickles and preserves in brine solutions.  This encourages preservation by growth of anaerobic lactic acid bacteria, not acetic acid bacteria which thrive in vinegar.  The benefits are that these bacteria are pro-biotics but don't have any dairy in them.  These populate the gut with good bacteria if eaten regularly. The other advantage of these preserves is that they don't use sugar, don't need electricity to make and keep for weeks or months.  They are highly nutritious as they are also essentially raw foods. Examples of this type of pickle are sauerkraut, kosher dill pickles, Korean kim chi and many others.  If you make them yourself you can use any veg you like and flavour with any herbs or spices.

The lacto-fermentation class was led by Annie Levy and her web site is 

www.kitchencounterculture.co.uk .  On it she has a blog with recipes and all sorts of ideas.

Cheese scones and carroat cake were supplied by Anne with the usual coffee and tea.  After this meeting the group went to re-visit June and Clive's house to see the wonderful things they've done there with recycled materials being used to make incredible greenhouses and workshops.   An inspiration to us all.
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Meeting 8th September, 2014, Mike and Paula's house.
We had a lively, fairly unstructured meeting with members describing their gardening interests to Jeni, a new member.  There was a lot of discussion about tomatoes, problems of growing them, non-ripening, tasteless varieties etc.  It's obviously a hot topic.  Before tea we had a taste test organised by Paula in which our current varieties were compared.  They are Latah, Amish Paste, Ethel Watkins and Black Russian.  There was virtually complete agreement that Ethel Watkins was the best and Black Russian the worst.  Some ripe Ethel Watkins toms were provided to members so that they can keep the seed for next year's planting.  A walk around the garden ended the meeting with once again the extensive growth of toms outdoors being noted.  
With tea Paula served Sticky Plum Flapjacks:

  • 450g fresh plums, halved, stoned and roughly sliced
  • ½ tsp mixed spice
  • 300g light muscovado sugar
  • 350g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 300g rolled porridge oats (not jumbo)
  • 140g plain flour (rice flour was used  so that a  wheat intolerant member could enjoy)
  • 50g chopped walnut pieces
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  1. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Tip the plums into a bowl. Toss with the spice, 50g of the sugar and a small pinch of salt, then set aside to macerate.
  2. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan. In a large bowl, mix the oats, flour, walnut pieces and remaining sugar together, making sure there are no lumps of sugar, then stir in the butter and golden syrup until everything is combined into a loose flapjack mixture.
  3. Grease a square baking tin about 20 x 20cm. Press half the oaty mix over the base of the tin, then tip over the plums and spread to make an even layer. Press the remaining oats over the plums so they are completely covered right to the sides of the tin. Bake for 45-50 mins until dark golden and starting to crisp a little around the edges. Leave to cool completely, then cut into 18 little bars. Will keep in an airtight container for 2 days or can be frozen for up to a month.
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Meeting 18th August, 2014, Graham and Denise's house.
The meeting started with discussion on the use of bath water to irrigate plants, is the presence of antifungal shampoo or antibacterial soap a problem, particularly for veg plants.  Judi will ask the RHA for their opinion.  Other topics were problems of pollinating cucumbers and other plants in the greenhouse, powdery mildew, and moth larvae in plums.  Mildew on vibernum was reported by Mike and Anne.
The activities for the month were taken from a Northern Ireland web site and seemed generally to be applicable to this area.  Tasks such as propagating strawberries and pruning roses and gooseberries were discussed.
A tour or the garden was made, between showers, tomatoes, beans and blueberries were particularly noteworthy.    
Fruit cake, some made with flour, others with polenta, and scones were served.

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Meeting July 14th, Geoff and Esta's house.

The visit to Geoff and Esta's included a visit to neighbour's gardens.  These neighbours are very skilled, professional gardeners so the group very much enjoyed that.  2 plants in Geoff and Esta's garden caught people's  eye, they were later identified as: 

http://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/82052/Cupid-s-dart-Major/Details

http://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/18431/Grassnut/Details

These were raised from a packet of seeds from Lidl.  


Meeting June 9th, Sheila's house, Mochdre.
This meeting was the first to this recently joined member's garden and was thoroughly enjoyed.  

Meeting May 12th, Mike and Paula's house.
This meeting saw some seed and plant exchanges.  The possible trip to Hampton Court will probably not take place due to lack of available members.  Much of the meeting was taken up with planning a presentation to the U3A of gardening group activities.  This will be a combination of video, stills and talk.  Members are to send photos to Mike and the intention is for a sub group to review all available material in September.  Date of the presentation is not  yet known.

Recipe for Matrimonial Cake.
This is an odd name, because it is hardly a cake and there's no obvious connection with weddings.  The origins are lost to obscurity but was probably from the Arab world, since it is made of dates
.  The contrast between the salt and sweet is also oriental.  It could probably be made with raisins or dried apricots too.

 Crumb mix
1/2 c butter,
1/3 c sugar
1 1/3 c rolled (flaked) oats
, the quick cooking breakfast kind
1 c flour (for wheat intolerant people, rice flour may be substituted)
generous pinch of salt. 

Filling
3/4 c dried dates, pitted
3/4 c water
1/4 c brown sugar 

Mix all crumb ingredients together.  Mix filling ingredients, mushing and breaking up dates or put them all together in the blender for a quick whizz. Spread about half the crumb mix in the bottom of a shallow baking pan, about 30 by 15 or 20 cm.  Spoon over the date mix and top with the rest of the crumb mix.  Bake in a moderate oven for 25 min.




 Meetings normally held:
Second Monday of month starting at 10 am.



Next meeting:

The November meeting was to have been a visit to Arley Arboretum in Bewdley.  This visit has now been cancelled and the next meeting will be on December 10th and will be a non-Christmas lunch at Judi's starting at 11 am.




  

                     


Links: Welshpool U3A       The Virtual U3A (vU3a)