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Ivy as autumn and winter food

Last rescue for insects: Ivy as autumn and winter food.

1Who does not knows, the climbing ivy. It grows on living or dead trees, on rocks, walls, ruins or on facades – the native climbing plant simply grows everywhere. And that's fine, because at the end of the year, ivy flowers and berries are among the last food sources for insects and birds, and ivy blooms all the way to frost. Wherever it thrives, it forms an important habitat for small animals. The evergreen foliage particularly provides birds with a protected breeding ground that is safe from enemies.

Only old ivy plants bloom

2However, the plant needs several years in order to form flowers at all. Only once the main branches become woody, ivy develops flowers. If you always radically cut the plant down, you are depriving it of the opportunity to form flowers, and thus also many insects from finding the last food in the year.

The flowers not only provide nectar in autumn, but also plenty of fruit in winter. In fact black berries will develop from the yellow flowers and these belong to the favourite food of many native garden birds. Because their diet is quite meagre in winter these fruit enrich their food supply.

Hands away from scissors

If you want to cut your ivy, then you should do it from beginning to mid-February. Later you may disturb breeding birds. If the plant becomes too big, you can prune it at the end of June (after the breeding season). Old specimens quickly catch up with the cut and still form flowers in autumn.

What else can be said about ivy?

We know ivy as an undemanding climbing plant, which grows even in deep shade. However, it can do even more: always green it inhabits plant boxes and tubs, fills gaps and enlivens with coloured leaf drawings. Its tendrils climb trees and house walls, creating a touch of romance. However, in addition to the small, narrow-leafed varieties with a slow growth, there are also species that proliferate and become annoying.

The many meters long tendrils of the climbing plant either root on the ground or hold on to the vertical with small adhesive feet. Anyone who has ever had to remove ivy shots from the house facade knows about the strength and unattractive traces left behind by these adhesive organs.

Planning is an advantage.

3If you plant ivy, you should think twice about it. Fast-growing species such as the common, simple ivy (Hedera halix) only need a few years after a short growth period to cover large areas-horizontally (on the ground) but also vertically (e.g. a complete house façade). After all, these areas are then permanently greened, because ivy does not lose its leaves even in winter.

Slow-growing ivy species (Hedera helix spp. helix) are better suitable for smaller areas or for planting tubs or boxes. Here you can choose between normal green varieties and colourful foliage varieties with green-white or green-yellow or even reddish leaves. Moreover, the leaf forms are different and can be round, narrow, pointed or wavy.

A survivor

The plant grows both in deep shade and in full sun. However, the more light and warmth ivy gets, the more water it needs. It does not mind short periods of dryness or stagnant water. Just an easy to care for plant, which – when used with the necessary caution – can well serve animals and offers food and nesting places.

Ecological significance

4At the beginning of the 20th century the ivy leaves, which are non-toxic for goats and sheep, were still used as a fodder plant in winter. And because ivy blooms late, it offers many insects, especially bees, the chance to absorb nectar on late sunny autumn days. Birds, such as the wren or the summer golden cockerel find a place to sleep and nest in the dense ivy, and towards the end of winter the ripe fruits are a popular source of food for blackbirds, thrushes, starlings and woodpeckers. By the way, it was found out that up to 30% of the heating costs can be saved by covering a facade in ivy and in summer the apartments in such a house are cooler. But be aware, its adhesive roots can cause damage under shingles or roller shutter boxes.

The ivy is, contrary to many opinions, not a parasite and, therefore, does not harm trees, on the contrary - the trunks are protected by it from strong solar radiation.

Alwoodley Allotments; Water, water everywhere but not a drop to use!

1I have had involvement with this association since its conception a good number of years back when I was an Allotment Advisor with the nationwide project, the Allotment Regeneration Initiative. It has now got a brand spanking new allotment site with 70 plus full size plots in NE of the City of Leeds following years of negotiation.

The site was full the minute it first opened. It is situated just up the road from a very large reservoir but had no mains water supply near it. So some funding was sought to drill for water. It wasn't cheap but it was decided to go ahead.

2Two huge wagons arrived, one to do the boring and one with a huge power generator and the drilling equipment. It would take 4 days once set up, but with all that valuable equipment security would have to be supplied. This was provided in the form of two plot-holders staying all night in their cars one either side of the trucks.

On the chairman's night on watch there was a massive lightning storm and he really enjoyed the spectacle but was just beginning doze when all of a sudden there was a huge bang and his car fair jumped in the air. His colleague in the other car came running over to ask if he was ok saying he thought the lightening had struck him. It turned out there was a scorch mark on the ground a metre behind his car.

The drilling proceeded day after day until finally on the fourth day and after drilling down 48 meters water was struck.

The well has a pump fitted and has been capped. All that remains now is to fit a large holding tank at the head of the site so a gravity fed supply can be installed.

Phil Gomersall

22nd Allotment Garden Award of the City of Vienna: Children's Awards 2019

On Saturday, 12 October 2019, the 22nd Allotment Garden Award of the City of Vienna took place in the Great Hall of the Vienna City Hall. This year's motto "My favourite work in the allotment garden" was again very creatively implemented. The popular children's award honoured the paintings and handicrafts of young allotment gardeners and this year there were numerous great entries again, which were awarded.



Emily and Leonie won the children's community award (up to the age of 14) with a delightful large, self-painted flip-book that shows how seeds and plants grow.





The individual prizes for children up to the age of 14 were awarded to Lorenz, Florian and Anna.



Lorenz has designed a picture work on green construction paper, which shows how the pond becomes an oasis after the winter.





Florian has designed a great apricot tree out of paper with lots of round fruit, because his favourite work in the allotment garden is harvesting the fruit.





Anna's favourite job in the allotment garden is to take care of the vegetable patch. So, she made a large, colourful bed full of carrots, radishes and other vegetables - protected by snails.




Luca, Phillip and Kathleen won the children's award up to the age of 6 with their drawings of what they prefer to do in the allotment garden.



Luca's drawing shows what he prefers to do in the allotment garden in summer. He likes to play in the sandbox and refresh himself with water games if it's hot outside.





Phillip loves scrounging raspberries, strawberries and carrots, which is why he has made this his favourite theme, as the drawing shows.





Kathleen has drawn that she prefers to be with her grandma in her allotment garden and to observe all the animals that can be found here: Butterflies, ladybirds, cats... - enjoying at the same time the beautiful flowers.



For their creative submissions, the children received a certificate, zoo cards, a drawing pad and watercolour pencils.

We congratulate all little winners and look forward to the creations of our youngest next year!

Heritage Open Days in conjunction with The National Trust.
Victory Garden Allotments – Heritage Open Days 21st & 22nd September 2019

Heritage Open Days is an annual national event whereby older and public buildings and places not normally open to the public, open their doors to the public to see inside.

This year is Victory Garden Allotments centenary year. The allotments were donated in perpetuity by Sir Arthur Godwin the then Lord Mayor of Bradford on the 20th September 1919 for use as allotments by the peoples of Rawdon. Rawdon is a village to the North West of Leeds in West Yorkshire, UK. Our Allotment Site is not normally open to the public.


PlaqueDuring the decline of allotment use in the 1950's half the site was changed into a sports field for the local school after seeking permission from a distant relative of Sir Arthur and remained as such until the school closed in 2002.

There then ensued a five year campaign to reinstate the field back to allotments to cater for the then 65 people on the waiting list. It was a long and arduous battle as a government funded charity opposed our proposals strongly. However our determination and recruitment of support from high places managed to acquire half the field back again. Unfortunately the sports charity retained the other half of the field claiming it was to be an all-weather football pitch however it still remains a field as the incline of the land is totally unsuitable.

The grass was cut short and the Council erected a fence around the new area and the new plots were marked out and plot-holders signed up.

New plots 2009We issued an advisory start up sheet for the newcomers to start up small beds and expand them later. A number of plot-holders hired a turf cutter cleared four small beds and made a turf stack with the turf.

This proved an excellent way forward as it gave instant beds to dig and cultivate almost immediately. The whole extension was up and running within 12 months.

The whole site is developing into an extremely well run site with a really friendly community Spirit.

There are many young families occupying plots on site now and smaller more manageable plots are being offered to fit in with their busy lifestyles, with the young children about it is making for a much livelier site.

The site has two 2 hour work parties a month, one during the week and the other at a weekend, to make it accessible for all. We have made great improvements to the buildings and site over the last few years utilising the skills of plot-holders.

We have Easter Egg Hunts for the children; BBQ's for the adults, allotment competitions, scarecrow competitions and are planning an apple press day for next year.

Heritage Open Days

History display in photographsThis year however with it being our centenary we opened up the site as part of the Heritage Week to the general public. We offered conducted tours around the site explaining about the running of the site and various interesting features. We had display boards with documents and photographs explaining the history of the site. There were some humorous short stories from and about previous plot-holders.

Tea, coffee, cakes and cold drinks were offered, with cakes, jam and surplus fruit and vegetables for sale.


The centenary cakesWe had many guests over the two open days and many spent the whole afternoon with us and said they had really enjoyed the comradery of plot-holders and the joviality at the whole event.  In addition we had two of the visitors asked to be added to the waiting list.

What was even more beneficial, it offered our existing members the opportunity to get to know other plot-holder that they wouldn't normally see.

We rounded off the day by cutting the special centenary cake we had made to celebrate the centenary, it was delicious.

The Heritage Open Days were a huge success and will be repeated next year.

Phil Gomersall, Secretary.

Science prize 2019 of the German allotment federation

At the occasion of the central federation's day of the German allotment federation (BDG) in Dresden, Dirk Sielmann was not only elected as the new president, but the BDG's science prize was awarded too. With the aim of sensitizing young scientists to the topic of allotment gardens, four outstanding scientific studies were presented and awarded prizes. "All four studies deal with their respective topics in a methodically challenging way and on a high technical – scientific level and remain nevertheless in tune with actual practice and predominantly present well usable results" underlines jury chairman Helmut Kern.

from left to right: Peter Paschke, Agnieszka Schlegelmilch, Helmut Kern, Dirk Sielmann Photo: Christian HeldAgnieszka Schlegelmilch personally accepted the first prize for her master thesis submitted to the TU Berlin entitled "The cooling potential of allotment gardens during summer – case study of the "allotment garden colony Johannisberg" in Berlin. Schlegelmilch proved by means of a methodologically much differentiated field study that allotment gardens, like other green spaces in the city, have a significant potential for regulating the urban climate and can counteract the well-known phenomenon of urban heat islands in their immediate surroundings.

2nd prize: The study "Biodiversität der Wiener Kleingärten" (biodiversity of the Viennese allotment gardens) empirically proves that the abundance of species of flora in allotment gardens also has a positive influence on the abundance of species of fauna. The study was carried out by a team from AGES (Austrian agency for health and food security) under the direction of Dipl.-Ing. Anna Moyses

3rd prize: The work: "Kleingartenentwicklungskonzeption der Stadt Schwarzenberg/Erz" (Allotment garden development concept of the city Schwarzenberg/Erz), prepared by a team of students of the University of Applied Sciences Erfurt, shows the importance of an analyses of the needs in regions with a declining population development. Allotment garden sites with high occupancy rates must be maintained. If demand is structurally too low, however, this also means that allotment sites must be closed.

4th prize: Valerie Milicevic, master thesis "Kleingartenverlagerung im Kontext der Entwicklung von Potenzialflächen im Siedlungszusammenhang" (Allotment garden relocation in the context of the development of potential areas in the settlement context) submitted at the TU Darmstadt, deals with a currently explosive topic in growing cities.

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