December 2017 allotment news

A quiet time for some?

The growing season has really slowed down by this time of year, but some members are still really busy on their plots, preparing for next season and harvesting winter crops. Brussels, kale and parsnips are at their best after a few frosts and there is plenty of free mulch available at some of our fields. For example, Scott Road members have been fortunate to receive delivery of tree leaves and wood shreddings. Many thanks to KBC and local tree surgeons for this. Scott Road members are busy barrowing these leaves to their plots for composting and mulching. Great fun on a cold winter’s day!

Rent reminders

Our rents are due on January 1st  2018, so this is a very busy time for our treasurer. The 2018 rents are unchanged from this year, so that is £2 per pole and £2 membership subscription. This means that a typical 10 pole plot only costs £22 a year and a 5 pole plot costs £12. A real bargain.

Be sure to complete an annual membership form and send it to the treasurer so we have up-to-date contact details.

There are several ways to pay

  1. by online banking to our HSBC account
  2. by paying cash over the counter at HSBC branch in Kettering – but give your name and plot number as a reference so we know you have paid
  3. by cheque payable to Kettering Allotments, posted to the treasurer.

Full details of how to pay are on our website

Be vigilant for signs of rats

With winter frosts we sometimes get unwelcome visitors in our compost bins and sheds. The rats are looking for somewhere warm and cosy and perhaps a bit of free food. This is the best time to set up rat traps in your shed and keep the vermin population down. Be sure that any rat traps or bait is out of reach of birds or children; inside a shed is often a good place.

Margaret Road annual pumpkin and marrow competition

The Margaret Road field held their annual competition at the end of October. We only got the results just after the November newsletter was published, so here they are, a bit late

Congratulations on the winners and record breakers this year. Two questions for the Margaret Road competitors:

  1. What is your secret?
  2. What do you do with a 62 lb marrow?

MARROW PUMPKIN & RUNNER BEAN COMPETITION

Results 2017

Marrow

1st Rebecca 62.15 lbs* (new record)

2nd Mary 23.0 lbs

3rd Dai 22.5 lbs

Runner Bean

1st John/Stuart 39cm

2nd=Darryl/Mary 35cm

Pumpkin

1st Rebecca 124 lbs* (new record)

2nd Dai 99.3 lbs

3rd Charlie/Kieron 85.2 lbs

4th Mary 82.1 lbs

Junior Pumpkin

1st Morgan 11.8 lbs

Unusual Veggie. No overall winner but lots of funny entries.

Thank you to all who made an effort and joined in.

Waiting list growing

Our waiting list is getting longer. If you no longer require your plot or want to reduce the area you rent, please let us know so someone who is waiting can start an allotment soon.

Data Protection

New data protection laws are coming into force soon, so this is a good time for our Society to review its policies and practice. The committee will consider this issue at its December meeting. Meanwhile, please be assured that the only data we have on our members is contact details (name, address, phone and email). This data is kept secure and not shared with others, apart from our obligation to provide membership lists to the National Allotment Society (NSALG) as part of our membership.

Please contact us if you have any comments, suggestions or queries on this or any other matter.

Your suggestions

One suggestion received from a member after the November newsletter was to increase the rents so the Society has more funds to invest in facilities for members. This suggestion has been passed to the committee and will be considered. It is too late for the 2018 rents as these have already been fixed by the society. In recent years our policy has been to keep rents low and use our funds wisely to get maximum benefit for the membership. If you agree with the idea of paying more rent and investing in infrastructure or machinery let us know.

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November 2017 Allotment News

Bonfires allowed?

It is committee policy to discourage bonfires and against the law in some circumstances. However, Sunday November 5th is, perhaps, an exception as long as due consideration is given to safety and smoke nuisance is avoided. Full details of our bonfire guidance can be found on our website.

http://www.ketteringallotments.co.uk/bonfires.html

Rents for 2018

Good news from the committee! The rents for 2018 will be the same as 2017. There is no change in rents or subscription rates. Rent will still be £2 per pole and membership subscription will be £2 per member.

2018 Rent reminders and payment requests will be sent out in early December, and payment is due on 1st January. Please make sure that your contact details are up to date so that you receive the rent reminder.

Dogs on Leads

Please be reminded that all dogs must be kept under control and on leads on allotment land. This is one of our rules. Rule 18 also states that all dog faeces must be bagged and removed from allotment land to be disposed of correctly.

Field stewards have received several complaints from different fields of incidents when dogs have been allowed to roam and not kept on a lead. Many people are afraid of all dogs and even dislike them; responsible dog owners understand this fact and keep their pets under control and on a lead.

Waiting list getting longer

Our waiting list is growing and more people want allotments. Please let us know if you are not intending to renew your membership for 2018 so we can allocate your plot to someone on the waiting list. If you have not been cultivating your plot recently then you will be asked to give up all or some of it. Please note that after 3 months non-cultivation your plot is considered to be vacant and you will be evicted so that someone on the waiting list can have an allotment.

Summer time is over – tracks may need to closed to vehicles

Now we have changed the clocks and summer time is over, the field stewards have turned off mains water and read the water meters. Winter weather means that the soil stays wet and it may be necessary to close our tracks and ridings to vehicles. This is to prevent your vehicle getting stuck in mud and also to prevent damage to the ridings. Please respect any signs or traffic cones when ridings are closed to vehicles.

Scott Road IBC water tank offer

One of our members (Brendon Smith) on Scott Road has two (2) IBC water tanks for sale. These hold a thousand litres of rain water. He is asking a very reasonable price of £15 each. Please text Brendon if you want to buy one on

07783 177 291

Seeds catalogues

Now is a good time to browse through seed catalogues and decide what to order and grow next year. We recommend Kings Seeds and Real Seeds, although there are many interesting varieties in Marshalls and Seeds of Italy or the Organic Gardening Catalogue.

October 2017 Allotment News

Unwelcome intruders deterred

Quick-thinking members on Scott Road were able to deter unwelcome intruders recently. The intruders had already damaged some plots and were continuing when they were spotted by one of our members. The intruders retreated and full descriptions passed on to the Police. Other members were quickly alerted and maintain a high state of vigilance. Many thanks to all concerned.

Please report all crimes to Police

Please dial 101 to report any crimes. Please report any crimes and get an incident number. If the Police are slow to answer the phone, consider online reporting, email or Crimestoppers. on 0800 555 111.

Please inform your field steward of any incidents or crime as well or contact us to keep us informed.

Margaret Road gate

We continue to get complaints about noise from the Margaret Road gate. Our committee members and field stewards have made great efforts to reduce this noise and ask your continued cooperation. A further request is for Margaret Road members use the far gate next to the Green Patch, so that our neighbours are not disturbed. Also, please make sure that car radios are off and all possible efforts are made to use the gate quietly.

Fully let with waiting lists

Our fields are fully let and we have waiting lists. If you are finding your allotment too much to maintain, please consider giving up some or all of it. That way we can offer a plot to those waiting.

Mains Water Off until April

Our mains water is turned off at the meter at the end of September. This reduces our water bills and gives added protection to the plumbing during the cold winter months. Now is a great time to install a rainwater collection tank or barrel. Rain is free and does not contain chlorine or other artificial ingredients. A shed on an average plot in an average winter can collect a thousand litres of free rain that may be needed in dry weather next year. Why not consider ebay to buy a water barrel?

News from the National Allotments Society

The latest news from the National Allotment Society is below. Kettering Allotments Society pays subscription to NAS, so we are all members of this important organisation.

http://mailchi.mp/nsalg/national-allotments-society-newsletter-4js8tbezxa?e=b13995087f

September 2017 Allotment News

Cup winner 2017

and the winner is…

Congratulations to Jackie and Brian Nix of Margaret Road field who have won the cup this year. The runner-up who came in a very close second place is Pat Mullins. The final decision was so close that the judges had to re-visit both plots to make their final decision.

Further congratulations also go to Greta & Philip Liley for the Best Newcomer – a fabulous start to allotment gardening and likewise Highly Commended to Mandy McQueenie also a new allotment member in 2017.

Composting

September is an ideal time of year to start or add to a compost heap.

Composting is the original recycling and gardeners have been doing this for hundreds of years. Every allotment should have a compost heap (or two). This will help in two ways; firstly getting rid of waste and secondly turning that waste into valuable soil improver and plant “food”.

Evidence of composting is also one of the criteria that our judges use when awarding the Bridgstock Cup.

There are many ways to compost your garden waste and most gardening textbooks have a chapter on how to. Sometimes this can seem quite technical, but if you are new to it, don’t worry. You can choose the method(s) that best suit your circumstances, but if you are unsure, please ask for advice. Fortunately we have experienced allotment members who are happy share their wisdom. We even have a Master Composter on our committee who can give you the benefit of his expertise.

For some of us composting is such a fascinating subject we can get really technical and excited. For example there is the Carbon:Nitrogen ratio and how to balance the “green” waste with the “brown” waste. Many allotment gardeners even have a small patch of comfrey plants so their leaves can improve our compost.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=444

Why not try a horizontal compost heap?

Let the worms do the hard work as your compost also keeps the weeds away!

First put a layer of thick cardboard on the soil. No need to remove annual weeds, the card will kill these by blocking out the light. On the cardboard add a layer about 4 inches deep (10cm) of crop residue or pulled-out weeds. The cardboard should be completely covered and not visible. For a finishing touch add a layer of grass cuttings or other shredded material, if available.

The layers rot and decay, the worms do the digging for you and the weeds die. In a few months you will have enriched topsoil without having to fill a compost bin, turn it and then empty it.

Blight on potatoes and tomatoes

Blight is a devastating disease of potatoes and tomatoes. It is caused by a microorganism called Phytophthora infestans and was the cause of a terrible famine in Ireland in the 1840s. Blight is worst in warm and humid conditions and is very common in September when we have dew in the mornings. If you see signs of blight on your potatoes or tomatoes you need to act quickly, or your crop will be a complete failure. Here is a photo of blight on a tomato leaf…leaf blight

The photo below shows a more advanced infection – in a few days the entire crop will be ruined…

blight

For potatoes – cut off all of the foliage and compost them; then leave the potatoes in the ground for two weeks. After the 2 week wait you can dig them up. The blight spores start infecting from the leaves and only later spread to the tubers, so removing the leaves stops the infection spreading. Consider growing a blight-resistant variety next year (Sarpo mira is really good). See below for potatoes with all foliage removed, safe from blight…

haulm

For tomatoes – ideally before blight starts, remove the leaves in mid-August. It is too late for this year, but meanwhile remove every leaf as shown in the photo below…

cordon

Time to plant Garlic

September  is a good time to plant garlic (although October is also fine). If you have grown some this year, you can simply get a bulb, separate the individual cloves and plant these. Garlic is one of the easiest crops to grow, so if you have never tried before, why not give it a go?

August 2017 Allotment News

A course for allotment beginners for only £20

A course for allotment beginners provided by the National Allotment Society at Barnsdale Gardens, (near Oakham) on 20 August

Email diane@nsalg.org.uk to book

Click on the link below for more details

Starting your allotment course from NSALG on 20 August

 

An informative tour

The committee enjoyed a tour of Margaret Road and Windmill Avenue on 18th July. We were all impressed by the good work being done at both fields. As usual we all learned something and got good ideas to try out on our own plots.

Bad news- our grant application was unsuccesful

We applied to KBC for a grant towards the cost of installing fencing at Northfield Avenue. Unfortunately our application was successful. Here is the message from KBC:

Thank you for your application for a Community Fund grant. Unfortunately on this occasion your request has been unsuccessful. The fund was heavily oversubscribed this year. All applications to the Borough Council’s Schemes are evaluated by a Head of Service whose decision is final.”

Need help on your plot?

Two young men have offered to help our allotment members this summer holiday. They are off to college in September and can clear weeds, dig or do other allotment work for a reasonable fee. Contact Taylor on

taylorbrownless4545@gmail.com

or his cousin Mason on 07986 871 959

DSC05493

A good time to sow green manure

August is a great month for sowing green manure. As space becomes available, for example when potatoes are dug out or onions harvested, sow green manure seeds and they will germinate really quickly. This is better than allowing the soil to be bare as it will quickly become covered in weeds. Green manure can be bought very cheaply if you go to the pet-food store and buy wheat or barley, or dried peas sold in supermarkets for soup, or try coriander or mustard seeds from the herbs and spices shelf of a local asian food shop. All of these will grow and are much cheaper than any packets of seeds from a garden shop or catalogue.

https://www.growveg.co.uk/guides/green-manures-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/

Growing Brassicas without digging or weeding?

see our latest blog page!

 

July 2017 Allotment News

Summer harvesting begins

Ideally an allotment can give you food all year round, but the summer is the main harvest. Hopefully you are starting to get new potatoes, peas, strawberries and several other crops. Happy harvesting and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Quiet at the Gate Please

We have received complaints from our neighbours of noise from opening the gate at Scott Road. It is a large metal gate and makes a lot of noise. Some members have been visiting the allotments very early (from 5 am) and this has disturbed the sleep of our neighbours.

Therefore, if you are using the Scott Road gate in early mornings please:-

  • be a quiet as humanly possible
  • switch of car radios
  • do not scrape the bar across the concrete, but lift it
  • avoid slamming and banging the gate or car doors

A new pest has arrived and is attacking onions (and possibly leeks and garlic)

Several members have noticed their onions leaves are all twisted and curled. This is probably the allium leaf miner. This pest first arrived in the UK in 2002. Please remove any infected plants and dispose of in your grey wheelie bin. Any infected onions will not store. More details here:

http://www.gardenfocused.co.uk/fruitarticles/pest-disease/allium-leaf-miner.php

and

http://www.wlaf.btck.co.uk/PeskyPests/AlliumLeafMiner

IBCs for sale at Scott Road

We have obtained a few more thousand-litre IBC tanks for water storage at Scott Road. They cost £25. Please contact us if you are interested.

Annual Field Tour

Once a year, the committee has a tour of some of our fields instead of a regular meeting. This year we are touring Margaret Road and Windmill Avenue fields on Tuesday 11th July in the early evening. It is quite informal but very useful for committee members from different fields to see how other fields are getting on. We always learn something and share ideas and experiences.

The benefits of bindweed

There are two common species that we refer to as bindweed Convulvulus arvensis (field bindweed) and Calystegia sepium(hedge bindweed). Both are notorious weeds and it is almost impossible to eradicate them. They have really long roots, typically 3 or 4 metres deep and can grow back from a tiny piece of root, so it is impossible to dig it all out. If allowed to flower and seed, the seeds can remain alive (viable) for up to 30 years in the soil. No wonder that bindweed is found in many gardeners’ nightmares.

So what are the benefits of bindweed? Most of us have some bindweed and we quickly realise that we are never going to get rid of it, but that doesn’t mean we let it take over and get out of control. Well-controlled bindweed has two main benefits. The first is an indicator of your soil’s health and mineral content. If your soil has plenty of minerals the bindweed will be deep green and grow strongly. If your bindweed is pale green, or has yellowish or purple leaves, then there may be mineral deficiencies, so your soil needs feeding. Compost, manure or fertilisers are needed to increase the minerals in your soil.

The second benefit of bindweed also relates to soil minerals. Having said that bindweed has really deep roots, it will be able to extract minerals from deeper in the soil than our crops. Those minerals deep down were inaccessible to our crops, but the bindweed has absorbed them and used them to grow. Once the bindweed has been hoed or pulled out it immediately stops being a liability and becomes an asset. As gardeners know, a dead weed is a good weed. It will rot and become compost or add to mulch and release those minerals back into the soil where our crops can use them.

July is the best time of year to be pulling out bindweed and dropping it back onto the soil surface where it will wilt, die and decompose helping our crops. So next time you are pulling out bindweed or other weeds just think of all their benefits (as long as they are dead).

Mowing your ridings

You are probably aware that it is each member’s responsibility to ensure that the ridings and paths abutting our plots are kept tidy (rule 34 of our Society’s membership rules).

Tenants shall be responsible for the upkeep and tidiness of all hedges and roadways abutting their allotment.

For most of us this means mowing or strimming the path or riding alongside their plot. Thank you to all members who do this. In some cases, committee members have helped and mowed more of the paths and tracks, so a special thanks to them too.

An interesting news article, worth thinking about?

http://www.altonherald.com/article.cfm?id=120543&headline=Do%20you%20warm%20up%20before%20gardening?&sectionIs=news&searchyear=2017

 

Allotment News June 2017

Let there be light…

June is the month of light evenings and a very busy time on allotments. The long hours of daylight mean that our plants (and the weeds) are growing at their fastest rate. Now that the drought we experienced in April has come to an end, the plants have their ingredients for photosynthesis (water, light and carbon dioxide). I am often asked why weeds grow so much better than crops. The answer is very simple – millions of years of natural selection and evolution (survival of the fittest). Weeds have evolved to compete and survive – don’t let them win. We can keep on top of weeds in many ways, including hoeing, pulling them out by hand or mulching.

Time to mulch between crops

Once crop plants are established it is a good idea to mulch between rows. The mulch suppresses weeds, retains soil moisture and eventually rots to improve the soil in future years. Common mulches are compost, grass cuttings and shredded weeds. It also helps to put a newspaper (several sheets thick) or piece of cardboard down first as this suppresses weeds even better.

The joy of hoeing.

If you thought that only Santa had fun with “hoe hoe hoe”, think again! What better joy can there be than hoeing a row of vegetables? And think of the good it is doing….

  1. removing weed competition, allowing the crops to get the full benefit of any light, water and soil minerals.
  2. turning weeds instantly from a liability into an asset as they die, decompose and enrich the soil.
  3. adding oxygen to the soil, so improving mineralisation by aerobic bacteria and releasing more nutrients for the crops.
  4. loosening the top centimetre of soil, preventing compaction or cracks in the clay, so conserving soil moisture.
  5. Improving your own physical and mental health as only gardening can do…

Member with a mower for sale

One of our members, Lynda, has a mower for sale (photo below). If you are interested in buying this please contact Lynda direct on

lyndaohara65@googlemail.com

Fully let

All of our fields are now fully let. We have waiting lists of people who want allotments. If you have an allotment but are no longer able to cultivate it, please let us know so we can re-let it to someone on the waiting list. If your plot is neglected and there are genuine reasons, please contact your field steward urgently to explain. Our rules state that if a plot is not cultivated for  3 months then it is considered vacant and may be re-let (Rule 32)

Role of the Field Steward

Our field stewards play a vital role in the smooth running of our Allotment Society. They are our first point of contact on day-to-day matters. Stewards often get a lot of complaints, which is understandable, so please be considerate and try to share good news with your steward too.

Field Steward vacancy

We are looking for another steward for Northfield Avenue. If you know someone who has the diplomacy and skills to be a field steward, please let us know. Field stewards need to be good listeners and show a good example to other members.

National Allotment Society Newsletter

Kettering Allotments Society members are also in the National Allotment Society. This gives us access to public liability insurance, legal advice and the protection of being part of a bigger national organisation with many years of experience in promoting and protecting allotments. Their latest newsletter is available here.

Waste, recycling and storing material on allotments

Allotment gardeners are usually very good at recycling and re-using items, but there comes a time when something is no longer useful. This is the time to take the item away to the tip/recycling centre. Items that are no longer useful must not be left or dumped on allotments. Some items and materials are specifically banned from being brought to allotment land for health and safety reasons, including:

  • carpet – toxic chemicals may leak into the soil
  • car tyres – hazardous waste
  • pressurised gas cylinders (e.g. Calor gas, butane) – if you use one for a barbecue etc you must take it home with you after and not leave it on allotment land.
  • other hazardous items and materials, such as broken glass

Useful recycling or bulk storage? – an example

Most of us have a few old pallets or other pieces of wood etc and make use of them to build compost bins etc. However, a stack of 10 or more pallets is not reasonable. Such items need to be used or removed from the allotment. Large-scale storage is not what allotments are for and may be a hazard. If in doubt, ask your field steward.

Slug patrol

Imagine that you are a slug. You have barely survived the winter, then all of April was really dry so you had to hide somewhere and “hibernate” (aestivate) to keep moist and not shrivel up. Then it warms up and finally rains – you are hungry! There are some nice freshly-germinated seedlings just planted. Gardeners beware. These molluscs mean business, so send for the slug patrol…