Occasional Articles and Allotment chat and comments.
The allotments are still open. Please behave responsibly - we are all in this together and need to get through it together. Stay up-to-date by checking the National Allotments Society Coronavirus news page
This year's AGM will be done via email. This email will hopefully go out on 20th November and contain the usual reports. Please look out for it.
If you have questions you need raised on the reports or other matters, please then email them between 20th and 30th of November. A response to all questions will then be sent out to you all via another email. The documents sent out and the questions and responses will form the minutes of the AGM.
The pandemic has meant that we have had to make changes to our plans for the coming year. Unfortunately it will no longer be possible to convene working parties for the foreseeable future, but you can still help in several ways.
In the case of the ditches we would ask that in the week ending 1st December, at a time to suit yourself, you help by removing leaves from the ditch bordering Dartnell Park. Additionally if you have a plot backing on to Stoop Court, please cut back any weeds to the boundary fence.
This newsletter covers some negative items, so we have added some more positive bits to help keep the balance right. It quite a long one this time, but please do take time to read it.
Theft of Pumpkins
Last week a plot-holder had his large pumpkins stolen. Sadly, I can only think that this must be one of our members, as they were too large to be easily carried away. Please report anything you see or at least ask if they have permission, as stealing from other plots must not be tolerated.
I know the recycling centre at Martyr's Lane is awkward currently, and so it's tempting to consider burning garden and allotment waste, but please don't. Bonfires are not permitted from 1st April through to the end of October.
That having been said, the Site Manager, is considering having a communal bonfire for pruning's and waste timber that you may currently have on your plot. Further details will be issued next month.
A Good Year for Growers
Despite everything, and that includes the long dry spells and the inevitable watering, it has been a good growing season and being lucky enough to be allowed to come to the allotments and enjoy the space during these challenging times has been invaluable.
Social Distancing and Collective Responsibility
Like me, I expect you are fed up with news about how to behave because of the virus. Please, at the allotments as with elsewhere, keep up the safety and care, both for yourself and for others.
Waiting List and New Members
The lock-down has had the effect of trebling our waiting list, and we have been trying hard to allocate plots to new members, so if you see someone new near you, do say hello and welcome them to the site.
Of course a long waiting list means plots are at a premium. If you are unable to spend enough time at the allotments due to the lock-down or other temporary reasons, please just let us know - we understand.
Tips and Advice for Allotment Holders
It has been suggested that we could all contribute tips. To start this off Steven Cardis has submitted one for asparagus growers. If I get more, then I'll publish them on the web site. As with all tips and hints - you may well have a better method...?
Many plot holders grow asparagus some more successfully than others and here are a few tips to help us improve our crops. This advice includes that from the RHS and further guidance is available on their web site
Asparagus originate from sand dunes. So they need a sunny site with a sandy soil for good drainage. So a raised bed may help, especially on plots with poorer drainage As they need time to mature and should be left for many years, good soil preparation is essential. Especially removing perennial weeds
To grow, buy good quality crowns which are one year old male plants and mulch ground to suppress weeds. Follow RHS and other advice in particular add fertiliser in spring at 100g sq m. and weed carefully not using hoe to avoid damage to plants. You can also feed at end of summer to boost the plants. Stake tall feathery plants to avoid wind damage.
Asparagus beetle is a major pest and found on many of our plots but needs controlling to avoid serious damage. Although they can fly many plots are free of the beetles when next door is badly affected, so the main issue is dealing with your own infestation. From May through to August pick off and kill to prevent damage. They lay eggs on the stems which grow into grubs that devour your plants. You should remove eggs. To prevent beetles make sure in autumn to cut down the plants below ground level and remove all stems. The beetles live in the dead stems or other debris. To kill larvae in March treat with nematocides. Not cheap but effective and once killed off should not need repeating - just pick off any beetles you see. There are organic sprays such as Bug Clear but these are less effective.
Although some effort is involved it will repay with years of tasty crops in May when not much else is cropping - and they don’t need watering!
£500 Raised from Donations at the Gate
In lieu of our open-day there was a donation point at the allotment gates this year during National Allotments Week and a total of £500 was raised for Christopher Smiles Children’s Cancer Charity (https://christopherssmile.org.uk/).
Thanks to Janet and helpers for organising this and a big thank you to all who donated.
Hopefully next year we can have a proper open day - fingers crossed.
Charity Collection - 10th to 16th August
In lieu of our open-day Janet is organising an informal collection for charity. She will be at the gate collecting for Christopher Smiles Children’s Cancer Charity (https://christopherssmile.org.uk/) at busy times throughout Allotment Week 10th -16th August. The collection will be most welcome as their main fund raising events at The local shows and Camphill Club have been suspended due to virus lockdown. If you wish to contribute and cannot be on the allotment site that week Janet is usually on plot72 in the afternoons. "Thanking you in anticipation for supporting such a worthwhile cause. Janet Hodges"
Rats - A Reminder
Following the newsletter in May about rats, please can I remind you to help keep their numbers down. Rats are an inevitable problem on allotments so please think about how you can not encourage them:
- Food waste should only be added to a compost bin that is fully enclosed, and preferably with a base that is rat-proof e.g. paving stone, chicken wire etc.
- If you have bird feeders think about preventing food from falling to the ground underneath;
- Don't provide them with a home - they love piles of rubbish and junk;
- See the RHS info on this https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=791
- Please do not use poison - it's often ineffective, can kill other animals, and poisoned rats can crawl away and die elsewhere and then poison scavengers.
Rubbish vs Excess Veg
Please do not leave unwanted items outside the trading hut. Recently we have had an old BBQ, a small electrical gadget, tin trays and other items dumped on us. If it's your waste why leave it for a committee member to deal with? Put it in your bin at home.
If however you have excess produce or seedlings the that's fine. We don't currently have our "swap table" but it shouldn't stop you from swapping excess veg.
The Virus - Update
As the government start to ease lock-down, please continue to treat the allotments as a special place, and particularly:
- Continue to maintain social distancing;
- Continue to be aware of common areas for contamination such as the gates, water tanks and wheelbarrows;
- Keep young children on your plot rather than letting them run free - (water occasionally).
Our plot-holders come from a wide variety of backgrounds, many fall into the vulnerable class, some will mix with outside groups and thus the allotments could be a focal point for infection. It would be awful if we became a virus hot-spot and had to shut down. The virus doesn't move, people move it. We stop moving, the virus stops moving. It's that simple.
Above all enjoy the growing, the weeding and the freedom the allotments allow. Moaning about the watering required is normal and is allowed - please do it quietly.
Bitter Tasting Courgettes - a warning
RHS state that:- "The bitter taste of some fruit is caused by an over-production of plant defence chemicals called ‘cucurbitacins’. This is mainly a problem in courgettes and summer squash and is caused primarily by a mutation within the plant. The problem is more likely when plants are grown from saved seeds, where inadvertent cross-pollination may have occurred. Affected fruit should not be eaten as it causes stomach upsets and affected plants should be removed."
More worrying is this article (see the link) which clearly shows these courgettes should not be eaten:
It is recommended to taste them raw and, if bitter, discard them and that plant.
Thanks to Jane for alerting me to this.
Open Day is Cancelled
Last year the open day raised £800 for Macmillan Cancer support, and due to lock-down this year charities have been missing out. However the time is not yet right for organising gatherings and so there will be no open day this year.
However, there is a possibility that Janet may find some informal means of collecting your donations for a charity - watch this space.