Editor: Phil Langley
In response to the break-ins over the winter, weld mesh and other fencing have been inserted at vulnerable points along the perimeters of Bower Ashton and Alderman Moore. We cannot afford to fence everywhere but we will add to it when funds allow and where future experience indicates.
The digital lock on the Alderman Moore’s gate has been changed so that the key pad has to be actuated both to enter and to leave; the bolt must be slid across to complete the action. This should prevent intruders accessing elsewhere, having the freedom to readily leave (possibly laden down with spoils) without impediment, as was previously the case. The code remains unchanged. If this proves satisfactory, we will consider similar arrangements for other HWDAA sites when their existing locks require replacement.
We have also experimented with a motion-activated, infra-red camera that works at night. Unfortunately the image is not sufficiently sharp enough to provide facial recognition of an intruder (necessary if we were to prosecute). Furthermore, the effective range for a decent image is relatively small. This would necessitate the deployment of many such devices. Since they can cost up to £800 each, this is not a practical proposition. We are waiting on improved technical developments.
Meanwhile, Bob Corfield has purchased our machine and set it up for establishing animal intruders on and near his plot on Kennel Lodge 1.
Despite the seemingly never-ending rain in April and May, there is likely to be a shortage of water this year. It is vital therefore that we collect and store as much as possible from the roofs of our sheds and (yes) polytunnels. In future, those members wishing to erect sheds or similar structures will be required to have a water-collection system when seeking approval. To see an example of a polytunnel system please contact either Angie Tonge (tel. 0117 9020948) or Heather Jenne (Meadows 5; tel. 0117 9733451).
New mains and dip tanks have now been installed on Bower Ashton and The Meadows. Next in line will be Kennel Lodges 1 and 2 this autumn. The dip tanks will be controlled by float valves but there will be numerous taps to provide water for a brew-up. As with the other sites, tanks will be positioned such that no plot will be greater than two or three plots away to reduce the carrying distance.
Watering-in plants and crops susceptible to drought is best done at the beginning or end of the day. A good soaking every few days is better than frequent light spraying of crops in the ground. Use grass clippings, bark or other suitable material as a mulch around the base of plants to help retain moisture. Coffee grounds reputedly have the additional advantage of keeping slugs at bay. Bags of coffee grounds are often available and free at the stores.
The use of hose-pipes on allotments is banned except where special written permission from the Committee is given in the very few cases of medical necessity. Even then, the hose may only be used to fill containers on the plot during quiet periods when there are few other tenants using the water system.
All Sites except Bower Ashton (difficult to site), The Meadows and Kennel Lodge 2 (both declined) now have compost toilets; they appear to be very popular and well-managed. The toilet on the Alderman Moore site is located near the back perimeter to complement the flush toilet near the store.
The recent wet weather has ensured that there are plenty of these pests around. For those members who prefer not to use the standard blue pellets on ecological and/or health grounds, the stores now stock boxes of ‘Slug Stoppa‘ granules that are claimed to be suitable for organic gardening and safe to children, pets and wildlife. Moreover, these pellets are not much dearer than the regular blue variety.
A fact of life on allotments; often found in compost bins. They can gnaw their way into sheds. Mice can be a nuisance in polytunnels, eating seeds before they germinate. Directly sown peas rinsed in paraffin can deter them. Use your own traps baited with cheese or chocolate.
Rats are kept down by the use of special bait boxes containing poisons that can have serious consequences if ingested by children or pets. The exact bait box locations are recorded by Phil Cass (AM75, tel. 07811 623136; with assistance from some Site Reps) in accordance with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations.
Under no circumstances may poisoned bait be brought onto sites by individual plot holders. We reserve the right to terminate a tenancy in such cases.
If you have a rat problem, note exactly where you have seen the rodent and tell your Site Rep. who will arrange for a bait box to be placed. Boxes are regularly checked and re-baited. It can take a number of weeks for the poison to be effective, as rats breed almost continually.
These are carried out by a team from another site. They work to a set of criteria, have no bias and report directly to me. The object is to maintain minimum standards of cultivation, cleanliness and maintenance of plots, sheds and other items on the plot. They are also concerned with matters of safety (such as ponds and paths) and the effect of weeds on adjacent plots.
Inspections are usually carried out at monthly intervals. Any member required to take action will receive written notification so that they may seek advice from their Site Rep. Subsequent inspections will usually establish that the matter has been resolved.
However, if there appears to have been no reaction and nothing is known of any mitigating circumstances, a second letter will be sent seeking a reaction. Should this in turn provide no response, the Committee will sometimes arrange for work to be completed and the tenant billed accordingly. More serious cases can lead to termination of the tenancy.
Banned items: Carpets; domestic items such as toilets, cookers; any items not directly used for cultivation.
Weapons: Shooting on allotments is expressly forbidden.
Fruit trees: Only dwarf rootstock trees may be grown and no more than two to three on a half-plot.
Other trees: Forbidden. Watch out for self-seeded ones such as sycamore — remove them.
Rubbish: Metal and glass should be brought to your plot verge and the Site Rep. notified. They will advise on removal.
Wood, vegetation and stones/rocks: Retain. Compost vegetation and recycle or burn wood.
Bonfires: These include incinerators — banned between April and October (inclusive). Avoid damp and green materials. Check the effect on neighbouring plot holders, local residents and the general public. Remember that winds can suddenly change direction. Under no circumstances should you leave the site before fully extinguishing the fire!
Ponds: Must be well-defined, shallow and protected from small children.
Children: Are very welcome but they must keep to the plot. No individual, either adult or child is allowed onto another plot unless specifically invited. A set-aside play area counts against the two-thirds minimum cultivation. No swings, slides or similar equipment.
Dogs: To be confined by leash on the owner’s plot.
Nettles and other weeds: If you are inclined to have a wild patch as a habitat for bees and butterflies etc., remember that seeds can easily spread to neighbouring plots. This could lead to complaints and you may find yourself being requested to dig them up. Nettles for tea-making etc. can be found among the hedgerows.
From August onwards you can expect to find bags of autumn-planting garlic, overwintering onions, autumn-planting peas (French variety) and Aquadulce broad beans in the Alderman Moore stores. Next season’s seeds are expected to arrive in the stores in October/November.
If you’ve been held back by the weather and worry that you might have left it too late to sow seeds, don’t worry. Here are some ideas and reminders for crops that are in fact best to sow now (i.e. around about and after the longest day).
Coriander and the Romanesco type of Florence fennel, chicory and oriental vegetables (such as Chinese cabbage) are apparently better sown around or after the longest day as they are less inclined to bolt (make a flower stem) if they are growing when the days are shortening. Raccichio and sugarloaf chicory are also best sown in early July for winter salad.
Lettuces and salad leaves (e.g. salad rocket, amaranth ‘Red Army’, Spinach ‘Reddy’, mustard, mizuna, sorrel and many others) sown now will be ready by end July / early August. Radishes should be ready in 3–5 weeks’ time – this year I’ve been sowing a variety called ‘White Icicle’ (seeds in the stores) which has pointed white roots as you would expect, and is delicious.
Peas and French beans started now under shelter (on a windowsill, or in greenhouse or polytunnel), and planted out when they are 15 cm tall, will crop late summer. Alternatively, you could grow them for for trendy pea shoots (sow seeds thickly and when they get to around 20 cm high in a few weeks’ time, snip them off and add to salads, or wilt them very briefly in olive oil).
Carrots (e.g. ‘Flakkee’, ‘Early Nantes’) sown now will avoid the early infestation of carrot fly and hopefully the second hatching. Beetroot, true spinach (e.g. ‘Medania’), chard and spinach beet can still be sown now, as can some brassicas (kale, late winter cabbage, autumn calabrese, winter radish, turnips and purple sprouting broccoli). However, it is better to start them off under protection to avoid flea beetle outside; they will need to be planted outside by early August (with netting against pigeons) to allow enough time for healthy growth before winter arrives. Spring cabbage is sown in August.Okay, in some quarters this might be regarded as ‘cheating’, but you can of course buy many vegetable plants and herbs in pots, and indeed strawberry plants in pots, from garden centres. Plant now, and you will be able to eat the produce later in the year.
(RHS magazine – available for consultation in Alderman Moore Stores)
The June issue has an article by Nigel Slater on edible flowers that he uses in his cooking, details of an RHS trial on chard and leaf beet cultivars, how to train hybrid berries, causes of curled leaves on apple trees, photos of ladybird larvae and common adult ladybirds, and photos of leaves with magnesium deficiency (common in tomatoes, apples, raspberries) and treatment.
As somebody who spends their working day dealing with data, I have often wondered whether there is any hard ‘proof’ that working an allotment is beneficial for your health. I did some rummaging around on the internet and came up with the results of a recent scientific publication from the Netherlands [A. E. van den Berg et al, Environmental Health 2010, 9:74].
A survey was conducted among 121 members of 12 allotment sites in the Netherlands and a control group of 63 respondents without an allotment garden living next to the home addresses of allotment gardeners. Respondents were divided into a younger and older group at the median of 62 years which equals the average retirement age in the Netherlands. The survey included five self-reported health measures.
After adjusting for numerous variables (income, gender, physical activity in winter, etc.) both younger and older allotment gardeners reported higher levels of physical activity during the summer than neighbours in corresponding age categories. Allotment gardeners of 62 years and older scored significantly or marginally better on all measures of health and well-being than neighbours in the same age category. Health and well-being of younger allotment gardeners did not differ from younger neighbours.
The greater health and well-being benefits of allotment gardening for older gardeners may be related to the finding that older allotment gardeners were more oriented towards gardening and being active, and less towards passive relaxation (e.g. playing games on a computer).
These findings are consistent with the notion that having an allotment garden may promote an active life-style and contribute to healthy ageing.
This is a great recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to use up a glut of broad beans or large garden peas. The purée works equally well as a delicious hot accompaniment to grilled seafood, chicken or pork, and as a cold, hummus-like dip.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the beans and/or peas, return to a simmer and cook until tender. Drain, reserving the water. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and sweat gently for about 10 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for two minutes more. Transfer the beans / peas to a food processor, add the buttery onions and garlic, cream, lemon zest and juice, mint (if using) and a good seasoning. Blitz to a coarse purée. Add a little of the reserved cooking water to get a looser texture (if needed). Taste and add more salt, pepper or lemon juice as needed. Serve hot as a side dish, or at room temperature as a dip or spread. Serves 4-6.
Dress the beetroot and pear matchsticks in a little lemon oil dressing and season with salt and pepper. Taste to check that the flavours are balanced. Then add a little more dressing to check the sweetness of the pears / beetroots if required.Divide the salad between four plates or put it on a big platter, crumble over the creamy white feta, and sprinkle over the baby mint leaves and the sunflower seeds if you’re using them. Serves 4.
If you have any interesting points of view, stories or recipes to share, or you would like to share your experiences of working an allotment, please do contact me by phone or email (top of this newsletter); I’ll be very happy to hear from you!