Growing allotments friendly to natural life in Sheffield

Darrell Maryon, head Gardener of Wortley Walled Garden, leads a workshop
Darrell Maryon, head Gardener of Wortley Walled Garden, leads a workshop
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Allotment growers in Sheffield aim to protect wildlife and cultivate better crops after winning a grant worth nearly £10,000.

The Sheffield Allotments Federation has been awarded the money by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and hopes to collect 1,000 different records in a year of creatures living on city plots, as well as running a scheme encouraging gardeners to create havens for creatures such as bees, frogs and ladybirds.

Identifying a ladybird using a microscope during a workshop at Elsecar Heritage Centreled by Derek Whiteley and the Sorby Invertebrate Group.

Identifying a ladybird using a microscope during a workshop at Elsecar Heritage Centreled by Derek Whiteley and the Sorby Invertebrate Group.

Talks are being organised, the Sorby Natural History Society is hosting workshops on how to identify species and a special leaflet explaining the project is being sent to 2,800 local allotment-holders.

Margaret Boulton, the federation's secretary, said the group's plots were 'very valuable wildlife habitats'.

"I think people see wildlife on allotments as pests, but 90 per cent of insects are beneficial. They can all help to make a healthy allotment but also provide good crops."

Findings will be sent to the Sheffield Biological Records Centre via the Sorby Invertebrate Group.

"They will need to check that people are identifying correctly," she said. "There are so many small insects that most people don't know the names of."

Allotments could be an ecosystem in themselves, Margaret continued.

"Ladybirds will eat aphids, frogs will eat slugs, and so on - it's about getting the whole ecology of the allotment working in that way."

There were just over 530 people on the waiting list for an allotment in Sheffield at the start of this year - evidence of the pastime's popularity, said Margaret, who is part of a seven-strong committee.

"Some people are just waiting for years."

The council is halving plots in a bid to meet demand, she added.

"A lot of people are very happy with just half. It can be better than managing a full allotment."

The leaflet has been written by the head gardener at Wortley Hall Walled Garden, Darrell Maryon, who is also the local food manager at Heeley City Farm.

"Organic gardening sustains wildlife," said Margaret.

A talk by Sheffield University expert Dr Jill Edmondson about soil, and its affect on crops, is happening on October 17 at the Quaker Meeting House in the city centre. A further workshop on identifying invertebrates on allotments during autumn and winter is also being lined up.

Records should be sent to invertebrates@sorby.org.uk - the one-year project runs until March 2018.

Email sheff.allot@gmail.com or visit http://sa-federation.co.uk for details.