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The Voice - March 2022


Comment by Geoff

Geoff Juden

Voters will soon have the opportunity to decide via the London wide borough elections the kind of management they require. The East London Garden Society believes that our representatives should make the local urban environment a priority in all planning decisions.

Very often laws are broken as was seen with The Limehouse Triangle scenario where this small nature reserve could become obsolete. We must ensure that our local representatives understand that our green spaces are important.

If you value having someone campaign on your behalf to protect the environment and having access to useful articles about gardening and local environmental matters, please make a donation to help us with the cost of maintaining The East London Garden Society.


Australia's 'Robinson Crusoe'

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After ending his marriage and losing millions of dollars in the stock market crash of 1987, Glasheen left his corporate life in Sydney for a self-sufficient man on his own personal oasis. He's now known as Australia's real-life 'Robinson Crusoe'.

He lives off an unbelievably beautiful beach rich with coconuts and grows his own vegetables, brews his own beer, catches his own fish, and keeps himself entertained.

Glasheen celebrates the peaceful landscape he calls home, though, similar to the oft-written about sentiments of men stranded on islands, like in the film Cast Away, he admits it can sometimes get lonely. 

While Tom Hanks had a volleyball named Wilson, Glasheen has the company of his dog named Quasi.

Glasheen celebrates the peaceful landscape he calls home, though, similar to the oft-written about sentiments of men stranded on islands, as in the film Cast Away, he admits it can sometimes get lonely. While Tom Hanks had a volleyball named Wilson, Glasheen has the company of his dog named Quasi.

Although he loves his sole canine companion, a few years ago Glasheen tried his hand at online dating, using solar-powered internet, in the hopes of finding a human mate but to no avail.

Luckily, he has a good sense of humour about it, saying, “My only hope is for a mermaid to turn up on the beach.” Despite the understandable loneliness, Glasheen wishes nothing more than to remain on the island for the rest of his days.


The Great Eastern Parks Route

One of the best ways of seeing our urban green space is to put on your boots and walk, run or cycle. There is much to see, as well as enjoying inner and outer London.

Of the many millions of people who are resident and transitory, in one of Northern Europe's oldest cities, are unaware of the delights that nature has to delight us with.

The East London Garden Society is joining GoParksLondon to walk part of The Great Eastern Parks Route to understand the history and going forward to the present day. Join us on 16 April 2022.


Wildflowers Are the Best Pesticide

Cropland does not exist in a bubble, which means some of the pesticides sprayed onto the land end up contaminating neighbouring fields, soil, water and air. Even in the case of systemic pesticides, which are taken up into the plant as a whole via pesticide-treated seeds, about 95 percent of the substances ends up not in the plant cells where it was intended but blown off as dust or permeating the soil and water.

The ultimate solution is not to fight against nature with the use of harmful chemicals, but rather to work with it, and even learn from it, embracing the natural tools already in existence to keep pests in check: namely, wildflowers.

Wildflowers are home to many beneficial insects, including lacewings, ladybirds, hover flies and parasitic wasps, the latter two of which are natural predators to common crop pests like cereal leaf beetles and aphids

The new in-field stripes, however, make it easier for the beneficial insects to move about the fields and reach all the way to the centre. Wildflower stripes also go beyond another method of natural pest control known as beetle banks, in which raised strips are planted tussock and other grasses to attract ground beetles.

In-field wildflower strips move beyond beetle banks in a number of important ways. Perhaps the most important is that their focus is on supporting diverse communities of predatory and parasitic insects that kill pests. Research increasingly suggests that complex communities of predators and parasitoids are the most effective at controlling pests.

In a report published in the journal Science, Boyd and colleague Alice Milner of Royal Holloway University London called for ‘pesticidovigilance’ and wrote:

The current assumption underlying pesticide regulation, that chemicals that pass a battery of tests in the laboratory or in field trials are environmentally benign when they are used at industrial scales, is false.

Throughout spring and summer, mixtures of neonicotinoids are found in the pollen and nectar of wildflowers growing in arable field margins, and at concentrations that are sometimes even higher than those found in the crop.

This means that plans to add wildflowers to conventional crop fields could potentially backfire and end up exposing pollinators to increased levels of pesticides, unless efforts are made to slash pesticide usage at the same time.

Swap out toxic pesticide and lawn chemicals for organic weed and pest control alternatives or, better still, get rid of your lawn altogether and plant a wildflower meadow or edible organic garden.


The Fig

The fig fruit develops as hollow and fleshy that is lined internally with numerous unisexual flowers. The tiny flowers bloom inside this cup-like structure. The small fig flowers and later small single-seeded fruits line its interior surface.

A small opening or ostiole, visible on the middle of the fruit, is a narrow passage that allows the specialised fig wasp, to enter the inflorescence and pollinate the flowers, after which each fertilised ovule develops into a seed. At maturity, these 'seeds' (actually single-seeded fruits) line the inside of each fig.

The edible mature stem develops into a fleshy false fruit bearing the numerous one-seeded fruits, which are technically drupelets. The whole fig fruit is three to five centimetres long, with a green skin that sometimes ripens toward purple or brown. Ficus carica has milky sap, produced by laticifer cells. The sap of the green parts is an irritant to human skin

The edible fig is one of the first plants that were cultivated by humans. Nine subfossil figs of a parthenocarpic type dating to about 9400 to 9200 BC were found in the early Neolithic village Gilgal I in the Jordan Valley, 13 km north of Jericho.

This find precedes the domestication of wheat, barley, and legumes, and may thus be the first known instance of agriculture. It is proposed that this sterile but desirable type was planted and cultivated intentionally, one thousand years before the next crops were domesticated.

Figs were widespread in ancient Greece, and their cultivation was described by both Aristotle and Theophrastus. Aristotle noted that as in animal sexes, figs have individuals of two kinds, the cultivated fig that bears fruit, and the wild caprifig that assists the other to bear fruit.

Further, Aristotle recorded that the fruits of the wild fig contain fig wasps; these begin life as larvae, and the adult splits its pupa and flies out of the fig to find and enter a cultivated fig, saving it from dropping.

Figs were also a common food source for the Romans. Cato the Elder, in his circa 160 BC lists several strains of figs grown at the. The fruits were used, among other things, to fatten geese for the production of a precursor of foie gras.

Rome's first emperor, Augustus, was reputed to have been poisoned with figs from his garden smeared with poison by his wife Livia. For this reason, or perhaps because of her horticultural expertise, a variety of fig known as the Liviana was cultivated in Roman gardens

It was cultivated from Afghanistan to Portugal, also grown in Pithoragarh in the Kumaon hills of India. From the 15th century onwards, it was grown in areas including Northern Europe and the New World. In the 16th century, Cardinal Reginald Pole introduced fig trees to Lambeth Palace in London.

In 1769, Spanish missionaries led by Junipero Serra brought the first figs to California. The Mission variety, which they cultivated, is still popular. The fact that it is parthenocarpic (self-pollinating) made it an ideal cultivar for introduction.

The Kadota cultivar is even older, being mentioned by the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder in the 1st century A.D. Pliny recorded thirty varieties of figs.

The common fig tree has been cultivated since ancient times and grows wild in dry and sunny locations with deep and fresh soil, and in rocky locations that are at sea level to 1,700 metres in elevation. 

It prefers relatively porous and freely draining soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Fig wasps are not present to pollinate in colder nations, e. g. the United Kingdom.

The plant tolerates seasonal drought, and the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean climates are especially suitable to it. Situated in a favourable habitat, mature specimens can grow to considerable size as large, dense, shade trees. Its aggressive root system precludes its cultivation in many urban locations, yet in nature this characteristic helps the plant to root in the most inhospitable locations.

Having a great need of water, it is mostly a phreatophyte that extracts the needed water from sources in or on the ground. Consequently, it frequently grows in locations that have standing or running water, e. g. in valleys of rivers and in ravines that collect water.

The deeply rooted plant searches for groundwater in aquifers, ravines, or cracks in rocks. With access to this water, the tree cools the hot environments in which it grows, thus producing fresh and pleasant habitat for many animals that shelter in its shade during periods of intense heat.


Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Fig and Blue Cheese Tart

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