Newsletter December 2021

Mushrooms

 


 

Trading shed closed over Christmas holidays

John Waterhouse will take a break over the holidays. Outside of that period, throughout the winter you can wander round to the shed to see whether John is about.

So the winter opening rule on a Sunday morning can be summarised: “Open when John is visible.”

 


 

Improving area around Nursery Avenue gate

The area along the fence by the Nursery Avenue gate is being used as a dump. It costs us money every time we get rid of all the rubbish that unknown allotment holders are placing there.

Before the spring, we will be clearing the rubbish that has accumulated one last time and install a raised flower bed. We will be asking for contributions of spare bedding plants when the time comes to plant the bed up.

This will make the entrance area rather more inviting than it is now and we hope that tidying it up will lead to a massive improvement in the behaviour of everybody.

 


 

Harvesting continues

According to the RHS annual veg planner, there are many vegetables that are being harvested in December – from cabbage to cauliflower, celeriac, leek, parsnip to spinach, and many more.

It is quite a surprising number when you look across all the popular types of vegetables available. Just disappointing, that I did not grow any of them. What I am growing now is still tiny – endives and corn salad. Must get organised next year.

 


 

Bee facts – did you know?

Every time I visit Kew Gardens I bring something back with me. This time it was two complementary pieces of information relating to the health or otherwise of our bee population.

Rhododendrons, I learnt, contain toxic chemicals. These are produced by the plant to protect itself against insects. Recent research in Kew, together with Trinity College in Dublin, has found that these toxic chemicals also occur in nectar. And they can poison some pollinators feeding on the nectar.

The study proved that the nectar of Rhododendron ponticum is toxic to honey bees and a wild mining bee species. Rhododendron ponticum is an invasive species that quickly spreads if allowed to do so.

It is native to Turkey where local honey bees can tolerate the toxin. When they collect the nectar they create toxic honey, also called ‘mad honey’. Humans who consume it behave as if violently drunk.

Bee Medicines

On the other end of the spectrum is heather. When bees feed on the nectar of heather, a common gut parasite of bumblebees gets wiped out.

For pollinators, heather is the second most productive nectar plant in the UK after white clover. The more reason to protect what heathland remains and as gardeners decide to only ever use peat-free compost.

 


 

Alpine House

Swathes of grasses and the Alpine House in Kew Gardens

 


 

Feedback

Please send any feedback and blog ideas to Brigitte at communications@pointalls.org.

 


 



Newsletter November 2021

Flower

Water turned off

John Waterhouse turned off the water on Tuesday 2 November. Winter is coming.

 


 

Packing away for winter

As the growing season comes to an end most of our tools will be lying dormant until next year. A little care now will pay dividends next spring. Petrol goes off over time and the manufacturers suggest it should be used within a month in small engines like strimmers and chain saws. If it is just left in your machines the old petrol produces gums and solids that can clog up the carburettor and the rest of the system.

You can get additives like Briggs & Stratton Fuel Fit that stabilise the fuel and extend its shelf life but for winter storage it is best to drain the fuel from the tank and then run the engine to clear the last fuel from the system. Check your manual for how to ‘mothball’ your equipment.

Electrical equipment and hand tools just need a good clean and the oily rag treatment where appropriate. With wooden handled tools a rub over with linseed or teak oil will help keep the wood in good condition.

It is a good idea to check rotary lawnmower blades. If they are chipped or blunted then you can sharpen them ready for next year but do take care not to take more off one side than another as it will throw the blade out of balance and this can damage the machine.

Most garden machinery shops offer blade sharpening and balancing at a small charge. If you have equipment that really needs a shop service, now is the right time to get them in because everyone else will be taking them in the spring.

 


 

Pointalls seen as a model site in Barnet

We are expecting an official visit from another allotment in the Barnet area. They are keen to see for themselves how we run our allotment site.

Pointalls is seen as a model of how to deal with green waste and controlled burning. As you know, we are recycling surplus green waste via the waste skip that gets shipped for composting on a large scale. And we are reducing the overall carbon footprint of the site by not allowing individual plotholders to burn, but only allow the occasional managed and controlled fires.

 


 

Anonymous emails circulating

Email communications sent to some plotholders by an anonymous individual or group using the name ‘Friends of Pointalls’ are not originated or authorised by your company, Pointalls Allotments Limited, and do not represent the hard work or views of your management team.

 


 

Some 10 years on the waiting list

The following article appeared in the Evening Standard on 20 October 2021.

Soaring demand for the precious outdoor space of an allotment has pushed waiting times to “out-of-control” levels in London since the start of the pandemic.

It is now typical for Londoners to face a decade’s delay before starting the “good life”
with Camden gardeners forced to be the most patient in Britain, according to a survey.

Appreciation of the value of allotments has rocketed since March last year when the first
lockdown forced millions of Londoners with no green space to spend months stuck at home.

Data from Freedom of Information requests from more than 300 councils showed Camden
top of the waiting list league table, with gardeners having to sit out 17 growing seasons on
average before they can start tending their soil.

One Camden gardener had to wait 18 years and three months, or 6,690 days, the longest
recorded in Britain.

The figures, obtained by the website MyJobQuote, showed the waiting lists averaged 13
years in Islington and more than 11 in Richmond and Wandsworth.

Some of the biggest lists are also in London with 4,071 applicants waiting for a plot in
Newham and 3,080 in Lewisham. Richmond’s list has more than doubled from 637 in
February 2020 to 1,526 this month, while the number of Google searches for allotments in
the UK is now 4.5 times higher than before the pandemic.

More than 40 London allotment sites have closed in the past eight years with the future of
another one, Park Road Allotments in Isleworth, in doubt following a planning row with
landowner the Duke of Northumberland.

A spokesman for Richmond and Wandsworth councils, which jointly manage their
allotments, said: “We have seen an increase in allotment applications since the pandemic
began. We regularly assess allotment use to ensure they are being used for cultivating and
any plots not being used effectively are taken back and offered to the next person on the
list.”

 


 

Greenhouse maintenance

If you have a greenhouse or a polytunnel, check it over and give it a good clean. Cracked panes of glass can blow out in a storm and once one pane has gone, the whole house is at risk. It is well worth taking a little time to check the nuts and bolts are still tight.

Rips in the membrane of a polytunnel can be easily mended with tape when small but once the wind has ripped them right across, you are in for an expensive skin replacement.

 


 

An overlooked delicacy

So very easy to grow, some may even call it a weed, Jerusalem artichokes are not popular with the general public. They look knobbly and dirty, have to be laboriously washed and peeled. But once done, they can be turned into some lovely dishes.

Helianthus tuberosus, earth apple, topinampur – known under a variety of names – comes from North America. It is a relative to sun flower as you can see in the flower of the Jerusalem artichoke. Its sweet, nutty taste is best appreciated as soup, or roasted in the oven. Or indeed in a frittata – see below

 


 

Frittata with Jerusalem artichokes

Laura de Benedetti contributed this recipe for those of us who never know what to do with Jerusalem artichokes.

For two people, use

  • 10 Jerusalem artichokes
  • Olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 anchovies
  • 4 eggs
  • A bit of cheese in small cubes or grated (Compte or Cheddar for example)

1. Wash the Jerusalem artichokes carefully removing all the earth, then slice them thinly, using a food processor for speed. (They are also good raw and added to a salad.)

2. Put the oil and garlic in a frying pan. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the Jerusalem artichokes and let them dry, stirring often until they begin to soften.

3. After about 10 minutes, add the anchovy filets and a bit of water, cover the pan with a lid and cook for a further five minutes.

4. Remove the lid and let all the water evaporate.

5. Break the eggs in a bowl and beat them with a bit of salt. When the artichokes are cooked pour them into the beaten eggs and stir in the cheese.

6. In a clean frying pan that can go in the oven put some more oil, when hot, pour in the egg mixture, cook for a few minutes until the bottom begins to cook, then put in the oven under the grill for about five minutes until the top looks golden. (If you don’t have an oven proof pan, the traditional method of turning the frittata over with a lid can be used.)

Image showing finished dish

 

 


 

Pallet busters now available

Pallet busters have arrived and are available from the trading shed. These tools will be available to plotholders at no cost. All that is required is a £25 deposit that is fully refundable.

 


 

Allotments

After the rain – a moody view of the allotment in late afternoon

 


 

Feedback

Please send any feedback and blog ideas to Brigitte at communications@pointalls.org



Newsletter October 2021

Allotment gardening Q & As

In this feature we share with you answers to some of our plotholders’ recent gardening questions.

 

Q. How to prevent tomato blight?
A. This is the biggest question of the year. Tomato blight has affected plotholders’ outdoor crops this year on a large scale. In previous newsletters we mentioned the causes and how to remove and destroy plants and infected crops.
We recommend for outdoor growing to purchase fresh seed or young plants of blight resistant/tolerant varieties. Check seed suppliers’ websites or catalogues for suitable cultivars and further expert advice. Tolerant varieties include Gardeners Delight, Crimson Crush, Lizzaro, Shirley, Red Alert and Mountain Magic.
Early in the outdoor growing season apply a nutrient tonic to the plants. Vitax Copper Mixture is a tonic and is available from our trading shed. Simply mix with water and spray directly onto the foliage. This is not a cure for blight but can help the plants defend itself.

 

Q. Are there any easily grown edible flowers?
A. Edible flowers which do not take up too much space on the plot include lavender flowers, nasturtium, borage, chives, courgette, viola, French marigolds and calendula. They add colour and flavour to all sorts of dishes, some make soothing teas and are great scattered over salads.

 

Q. Any advice about using peat-free compost?
A. Cheap peat-free compost can be challenging with disappointing results. Go for well known brands and ideally choose those that do not contain composted green waste which may have traces of weed killer. Always check the packaging for contents. Peat-free is not a like-for-like replacement for peat-based compost typically needing more water and fertiliser. Although peat-free is suitable for raising vegetables we recommend the addition of John Innes loam-based nutrient mixes for seed sowing, pricking out and potting up.
We would be pleased to hear from plotholders about their results from using peat-free compost.

 

Q. How to control downy mildew?

A. Downy mildew is caused by fungi that thrive in damp and humid conditions. It affects crops such as brassicas, cabbages etc; grapes, lettuces, onions, peas and root vegetables.
It is identified as yellow or brown patches develop on the upper surfaces of leaves, with off-white fluffy mould on the undersides. As the patches spread, the leaves die and the plant is weakened.
The best action is to remove and destroy infected leaves and spray the plants with an organic fungicide. Ensure plants have good air circulation and avoid overwatering.

 

Q. This year weeds have been rampant, any suggestions?
A. It is a relentless battle with weeds as they compete with crops, drink water and absorb soil nutrients. They are anti social; crowding your crops for space and light and host pests and diseases.
Our tips are to hoe regularly when it is dry, do not let weeds flower, collect and dispose of weed remains, loosen your soil, do not compost perennial weeds, use lightproof membrane mulches to kill established weeds; spread surface mulches to suppress new weeds and only as a last resort use systemic weed killers.

 

Q. Thinking of switching to no-dig? How should the ground be prepared for the next growing season?
Once final harvests have been made (October/November) the ground preparation for no-dig is relatively easy. Begin with clearing the chosen ground or raised bed of any crop wastes and weeds which also reduces habitat for slugs over the winter. Rake the ground level. Spread 2-3cm of compost over the no-dig ground/raised bed. Mulch any paths on the plot with a little cardboard and woodchip on top. That’s it until spring except for any winter weeding.

 

Coneflower

Purple coneflower, or echinacea purpurea – flower petals and leaves are edible

 

Old-style growing brings success

In some good news for anyone concerned about the state of agricultural and the soil it depends on, a trial in Spain has shown that old-style growing of olives and wine has numerous benefits and can re-generate a landscape that is exhausted and run down. In a study, 20 olive farms were chosen to follow regenerative agricultural practices and within just three years the bee population increased by 47% and biodiversity in general improved significantly. For more details see The Guardian report: Days of wine and olives: how the old farming ways are paying off in Spain | Environment | The Guardian

 

Grapes

And here are the grapes that have benefited greatly from the attention of a man who knows his stuff. Max Cristina, thank you for a great harvest this year!

 

Plot inspections

Under the terms of our lease with the council (and indeed under the requirements of Allotment Law) allotments must be cultivated wholly or mainly for the production of fruit and vegetables. Thus under-cultivated plots put us in breach of our lease – and the law. They also cause considerable inconvenience to neighbouring plotholders, increasing their workload.

Under the self-management arrangements applicable to all Barnet allotments, the allotment committee has the burden of ensuring compliance. At Pointalls we do this by a regular series of inspections. If under-cultivated plots are identified we commence a staged warning procedure. This procedure is standardised to avoid any charge of discrimination and is publicised on our website. It involves a series of notifications, allowing and encouraging the plotholder to rectify the situation. There is ample opportunity to make representations. We issue two notices, each allowing the plotholder to put matters right within a 28-day period. We show flexibility if the plotholder comes up with a credible plan requiring a longer period. Only when the situation is not put right 28 days after the second notice do we move to a situation where we have to ask the plotholder to leave. Even then, the notice period is a further 28 days with a right of appeal.

The process was developed in 2019, approved by the board and published in April 2020 (see newsletter).

We believe this is a fair and impartial procedure. The vast majority of our plotholders maintain their plots well and gain pleasure and satisfaction from doing so. They should not be burdened by badly maintained neighbouring plots. Allotment sites in London are a scarce resource (witness our long waiting list) and we should ensure they are fully utilised.

Pallet busters due to arrive

We are imminently expecting delivery of pallet busters to the trading shed. These tools will be available to plotholders at no cost. All that is required is a £25 deposit that is fully refundable.

Fit greasebands to protect next year’s fruit

Autumn is the time to fit and replace greasebands to your fruit trees. Greasebands are an easy-to-use pest barrier that helps to minimise insect damage to fruit and therefore improve yield and eating quality.

Act now to save fruit from winter moth caterpillars and keep in place until the following April.

Inside each pack of Solabiol Boltac Greasbands you will find a prepared greased band approximately 1.75m long and some brown wire to tie the greased band onto the trees. The band should be fixed well above the level of any surrounding vegetation to ensure that it is not bridged, which may allow insects to avoid the grease. Also use the band around any supporting tree posts.

Replace the bands and apply again in the summer to trap earwigs and ants as they try to climb the trees.

Greasebands are suitable for organic gardening and available from the trading shed at £5.50 per pack.

 

Orchard

 

Growmore fertiliser for strong plants

Growmore is popular with Pointalls plotholders. It is specially formulated to encourage strong healthy plant growth as a general purpose fertiliser for use all around the plot. Growmore contains three major nutrients which are essential for strong plants.

Following packaging changes, Growmore is now only available as a pre-pack size of 25kg. We recognise that this quantity is too large for many plotholders. However, if you bring along to the trading shed your own container we will supply Growmore in weighed out quantities at only £1.00 per kilo.

New price list issued

We have published a new price list following some changes to wholesale prices. The price list also includes a number of our popular products now in new packs with changes to pack sizes and content weights.

Pick up a price list when you next visit the trading shed or go to our website to download a copy.

Address changes must be notified

We would like to remind all plotholders that it is your responsibility to tell us of any change of postal address or email address. This is an obligation stipulated in the tenancy agreement.

We assume that the address we have will be monitored by yourself and any communication sent will reach you.

Water due to be switched off

John Waterhouse will soon switch off the water supply and get it ready for the winter. It is a significant effort to drain the system and remove all the taps. This way we can be sure that icy conditions will not damage the water pipes.

Some pictures to celebrate the harvest season

 

Butternut squash

Butternut squash piled up in a greenhouse

 

Apples

Eating apples and tomatoes, grown in the greenhouse and therefore not damaged by blight

 

Dahlia Patch

The absolutely amazing dahlia patch that I have been admiring enviously for months

 

Feedback

Please send any feedback and blog ideas to Brigitte at communications@pointalls.org



Order Now – Next Season’s Seed Potatoes & Onion Sets

Posted 1st September 2021

We have reached that time of the year to order your seed potatoes and onion sets for the next growing season. Available from our trading shed we are again pleased to offer an excellent choice of quality potato varieties at
competitive prices.

Check our chart below for the full range, product information, prices and pack sizes. Orders must be placed at the trading shed before 24th October 2021.

Prices. Wholesalers have increased prices this year which is reflected in our selling prices. However, our selling prices as usual are below most retail and online outlets and of course purchasing from the trading shed supports our allotment site.

Extra Earlies. Last year the first early Swift was unavailable and we substituted with Maris Bard which performed really well. We are again supplying Maris Bard and also reintroducing Swift.

Earlies. The popular second early Arran Pilot is unfortunately not available this year. We are pleased to have added a new and highly recommended replacement, Nadine, which has a round shape; white skinned with cream colour flesh and produces a high yield. It’s good for boiling, mashing, baking and roasting.

How to order. Orders must be received before 24th October 2021. Please visit the trading shed to place your order for potatoes and onion sets. Payment is required when ordering and bring along a debit or credit card as we only accept contactless card payments.

 

EXTRA EARLY VARIETYPRODUCT DESCRIPTION PRICE
(£)
2KG PK
Swift Fast growing first early, heavy crops of round,  smooth, white fleshed baby new potatoes.4.50
Maris BardSmooth white skin and flesh, heavy cropping  and a traditional new potato taste. 4.50
EARLY VARIETIES PRODUCT DESCRIPTION PRICE
(£)
2KG PK
Nadine Round shape, white skin, cream colour flesh,  high yield and good for boiling, mashing, baking and roasting.4.50
Charlotte Waxy long light yellow tubers, creamy yellow  flesh, great cold for salads or hot and sauté.4.50
MAINCROP VARIETIESPRODUCT DESCRIPTION PRICE
(£)
2KG PK
Desiree Red skin, yellow firm waxy flesh, high yield,  all cooking purposes including roasting and  baking.4.50
King Edward Part red colouration, creamy white flesh, light  floury texture, great all round cooking  qualities.4.50
Maris PiperHigh yields, good resistance to splitting, stores  well, great all rounder, boil, steam, mash, chip,  sauté, bake, roast.4.50
PicassoRed eyes, massive yields, stores well, mild  taste.5.00
Pink Fir Apple Knobbly pink tubers, delicious hot or cold. 6.00
Sarpo Mira High resistance to foliar blight, great for  storage, excellent boiled.5.00
OR BULK BUY (SINGLE VARIETY POTATOES) PRICE PER 25KG SACK ONLY £25.00
ONION SETS PRODUCT DESCRIPTION PRICE
(£) 200G PK
Sturon All time great onions, reliable and consistent,  straw coloured bulbs, good bolting resistance,  fine flavour and stores well.2.00 
60 sets  
per pk

 



Newsletter August 2021

Fight the blight

Blight is killing tomato plants across the Pointalls site. To stop it spreading any further – and infecting potatoes as well – please remove all blighted material from your plot. Do not put it into the compost heap. Instead bag it up, take it home and put it into the rubbish. That is the only safe way of depositing the material.

Signs of blight are that leaves develop brown patches, curl up, dry out and die. Stems may also show patches and darken and fruits turn brown, shrink and rot.

Charity Veggiebox is back again

The first collection for Charity Veggiebox is on Sunday 1 August.

Please bring your surplus fruit and vegetables to plot 6 next to the communal area every Saturday and Sunday from now on until further notice.

All your donations are taken to either the Felix Project or community kitchens to feed those in need.

To find out more about the initiative, take a look at Charity Veggiebox’s website.

No win for Pointalls

It is definite. We will not win a placing in the annual competition for the best plot in the Barnet area this year.

The reason is that we have not had any entries, unlike last year when we had four entries and plot 116 won third place in Barnet.

Wearing masks in the trading shed

Safety requirements continue to be in operation in our trading shed.

Only one customer at a time is allowed who needs to wear a face mask.

In general, please be courteous and respect others’ adherence to safety and hygiene.

Success with carrots

Unlike myself, this gardener is harvesting lovely carrots. She sowed the seeds in late April and protected the growing plants against carrot flies.

I can confirm that these carrots are much sweeter and more aromatic than anything you buy in a supermarket.

According to John Waterhouse, you can soon sow carrots called Eskimo, one of the most cold tolerant varieties, for harvesting during the winter.

Amendment to regulations

The board has made a small amendment to regulations to give some flexibility in positioning structures on plots.

Regulation 26g will change to: Greenhouses and sheds must be constructed at the end of the plot adjacent to the principal path/roadway or at the discretion of the board.

The change is the addition of “or at the discretion of the board”.

Website full of information on Pointalls

Remember to use our website to find anything you need about Pointalls – it is full of useful information.

  • price list of the trading shed
  • monthly to-do lists
  • growing advice
  • plot sizes and charges
  • and all the newsletters – in case you have mislaid your copy

It is a treasure trove and you can get there by typing www.pointalls.org or by clicking here

Rose arch at its best

This was the rose arch in mid July – at its best in a year when everything was rather later than usual.

The colour scheme was meant to be red-white-red, the Austrian flag. Somehow it ended up white-red-white, which might be the colours of another country. Who knows…

And some individual examples – including on the very right the famous ‘Peace’ rose variety, planted for Alan.



Newsletter July 2021

No green waste on the fire site

Someone has been depositing large amounts of green waste, grass and weeds on the fire site recently. Paul Castignetti, our site manager, was forced to load it all on his trailer and unload it again into the green waste skip.

Never place anything green on the fire site. It cannot be burned and creates an expensive problem.

The very best way to deal with green waste is to compost it in your own compost bin.

But if you are not willing to do that, put it into the green waste skip. Never on the fire site.

Calling for entries for best plot competition

The annual competition for best plot in the Barnet area is once again going to be held virtually this year.

On the weekend of 24 and 25 July, we will take pictures of those plots that have entered and submit to BAF for judging.

Don’t forget that last year, our very own Anca Covaci and Lina Hellgren.of plot 116 won third place at their first attempt of entering this competition.

We are calling for plotholders who would like to enter. Drop me a line to communications@pointalls.org and we will go from there.

Independent judges will decide which plots will be first, second and third. In addition to a trophy, there is a prize of £50, £30 and £20 respectively for the three winners.

For more details, please click here, which will take you to the BAF website article.

Feedback on Maris Bard requested

Last year, we were unable to source the early potatoes that we usually stock. These are called Swift.

Instead of Swift, John Waterhouse, our manager of the trading shed, ordered Maris Bard. He is now asking for feedback on your experience with Maris Bard this year in order to decide which early potatoes to order next.

The photo below shows the first of the Maris Bard harvest that John produced. They were planted on 9 March and harvested on 13 June, four weeks later than is usual for Swift, according to John. However, we have had an unusually cold spring which might explain some of this delay.

Please let John know what your own experience was and whether you would like Maris Bard again next year or return to Swift.

Thanks to Bob and Yi-ning

Bob and Yi-ning Goodliffe decided to give up allotment gardening this year. Both have been long-standing members of Pointalls.

Bob acted as chairman of the committee for a number of years during a particularly difficult time when there was a real risk that the council would take over and develop the site for housing.

We thank both for their contributions over many years.

Supporting Finchley Nurseries

I have recently discovered Finchley Nurseries, one of the closest nurseries to Pointalls in geographical terms. And even better, an independent firm that has existed for more than 90 years. Personally, this is something I always try to support.

Additionally, the choice of plants is very good, the prices are reasonable and, best of all, as a plotholder of Pointalls we are all entitled to a discount of 10% on plants and seeds. What is not to like.

One of our plotholders works at Finchley Nurseries and says they would love to see many of us there, adding that Finchley Nurseriers makes for a great day out just for a walk or a visit to the cafe on site.

Please pick up your discount card in our trading shed to prove that you are a Pointalls plotholder.

Any building on your plot needs permission

As we have had a few instances recently where structures went up without consent, this as a reminder to all.

The building of any structure – be it greenhouse, pergola, shed – needs permission in writing prior to it being undertaken.

Please write to secretary@pointalls.org with your proposed build plus a sketch of the size and location on your plot.

Treatment for dreaded tomato blight

We now stock Vitax Copper Mixture in the trading shed. For a 175 gram pack you pay £4.

This mixture is for use with plants suffering from trace element deficiencies such as:

  • Copper deficiency:  Can occur in beets, onions and fruits on peaty, sandy and shallow organic soils
  • Manganese deficiency: Occurs in many crops including potatoes, beans and peas, beets, brassicas, carrots, celery, fruits and onions in peaty soils with pH above 6.0 and mineral soils above pH 6.5.
  • Zinc deficiency: Can occur in fruit grown on sandy soils with high pH and phosphate levels

Vitax Copper Mixture is also useful to strengthen your tomato plants so they withstand better when tomato blight hits. Tomato blight is caused by a fungi and very quickly kills tomato plants, once they are infected.

Due to Europe-wide government regulations, products that act as an outright cure for the fungi infection are no longer available. Bordeaux mixture was previously advocated for curing blight but is no longer registered. Copper mixture is the closest thing but regulations have significantly reduced the copper content so again it is not an outright cure.

As a nutrient tonic, Vitax Copper Mixture is beneficial for plant growth and increases the plants’ resistance. Vitax Copper Mixture should be mixed with water and sprayed on foliage.

An alternative organic treatment to prevent tomato blight is the following home-made mixture:

  • 1 x heaped tablespoon of baking soda
  • 1 x teaspoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 x small amount of mild soap (washing up liquid)

Mix above into one gallon (4.5 litres) of water and spray plants with the solution.

“Keep your own seeds, rotate, compost”

Sindo Garcia likes to go to his plot early in the morning. On such a sunny morning, Sindo gave me a tour of plot 71, which he has been tilling for the past 33 years. This makes him one of the very longest serving plotholders on Pointalls.

His plot, and the way he cultivates it, is a prime example of the traditional way of making best use of the land to maximise yield from a varied crop of vegetables – and well able as he confirms to “feed a family and give away produce on top”.

Sindo was born in Spain and learnt a lot from his father, a farmer, who rotated crops every few years. The same as Sindo now does. Sindo’s mantra is “Harvest your own seeds, rotate crops, compost your green waste”.

Harvesting and using your own seeds year after year ensures that the plant is best suited to the local conditions. Sindo applies this to as many vegetables as possible. Beans, broccoli, cabbage, leeks. The only plant he says he is not having much success with in terms of seeds is lettuce.

Sindo finds the best way of germinating seeds is allowing them to do exactly as they want. He showed me where he hung up last year’s leek flower upside down to dry. The seeds spilled out when they were ready and eventually seedlings appeared all around the mother plant that was hung up. Sindo describes that germination works best if you leave it to the plant to decide by itself when to do what.

Vegetables that are hard to cultivate include carrots and parsnips. In late March, Sindo sows into the bed where they are to grow, rather earlier than often indicated on seed packets. He says he gets better results that way.

On the other hand, potatoes are often better if you plant them later, rather than earlier, Sindo says. Although in the ground later, they grow that more quickly when the temperature rises and soon catch up and even overtake those planted earlier.

A few Spanish specialities are thriving in Sindo’s 1960s-scifi-style greenhouse – a particular sort of green pepper that grows its fruit upwards and of course the famous padrone peppers.

When I visited, Sindo was giving a very healthy looking Victoria plum tree its summer trim by pruning back the new growth to keep the tree in check.

He applies greasebands to all stems and makes sure no part of the tree touches any other structure. Sindo’s greasebands consist of a layer of plastic keeping the grease in place (actually the grease is simply Vaseline), all held on by wire. He keeps it on all year and replaces it with a new one every two years.

As well as giving the tree a summer prune, Sindo reduces the number of fruit around now. Proper, full pruning of stone fruit like plums and cherries should be done after the harvest and before the winter sets in. Trees such as apple or pear, on the other hand, should be pruned in the winter, with a slight summer haircut round about June.

During the walk across Sindo’s beautifully kept plot, he pointed out a small row of sunflower seedlings. These were grown and are tended by Sindo’s granddaughter. Another exemplary gardener growing up, we hope!

Flowering cactus

Geoff Kerton’s cactus flowered spectacularly this year. These flowers are beautiful but extremely short lived at no more than a day usually. Thank you to Elena Mellado who sent in the picture.

Feedback

Please send any feedback and blog ideas to Brigitte at communications@pointalls.org



Newsletter June 2021

Gardeners at Pointalls – a grapevine specialist

In the second of an occasional series about gardeners on Pointalls, I picked the brain of Max Cristina. He has been a long-standing allotment holder of 25 years and works plot 79. Max offered to help me with my two grapevines in the greenhouse and provided a masterclass in how to look after them.

“I feel like I have grown grapes all my life”, Max said, “ever since I was a kid in Italy.” He is growing vines in his conservatory at home. They cover the whole of the conservatory roof and are laden with grapes every year, Max tells me. And this photo shows it.

After inspecting my two vines, Max advised that the branches must not be so close to the glass as the heat of the sun will scorch the leaves. There should be a minimum distance of 10 centimetres, the more the better.

Once grapes start forming, remove the growing tips on that branch. Branches without grapes should be allowed to grow as they provide nourishment to the plant. And there is the need to spray to ward off the dreaded mildew. Max uses a specialist spray that he brings from Italy and he kindly offered to apply it to my grapevines. Spraying is necessary every three weeks or so.

Despite Max’s expertise as a gardener, there are things that don’t grow even for him. “For me it is rhubarb,” he said, “I just can’t make it work.” Good to hear for us less experienced gardeners that even for someone like Max some plants are hard. However, with grapevines Max is always willing to help. Just ask.

First plot inspections in May

In May, we carried out the first round of plot inspections since the beginning of lockdown. And we are happy to report that the allotment is in very good shape overall.

In fact, our site manager Paul Castignetti, himself a long-standing allotment holder, said that he feels that Pointalls has never been better tended than now.

There were a handful of plots that do need some work. We have been in touch with these plotholders and await their responses.

Just hope these birds’ eggs will hatch. The parents have chosen a very unlikely place in some discarded flower pots close to the ground.

Bumblebee nests

A number of plotholders have reported spotting nests of bumblebees around the site. Bumblebees are not aggressive and will only sting if they feel threatened.In fact, bumblebees are very good news for us gardeners. They are important pollinators of many plants and fruiting trees.

They are large, hairy and usually black with varying degrees of yellow banding.

If you find a nest, it is recommended that it is best to leave it alone and not disturb it.

Bumblebees form very small nests with up to 200 workers. And the nests do not exist for long. Within a few months a new queen will have flown to hibernate in the soil elsewhere.

Year 3 came to visit

You may have come across a group of year 3 students who recently visited the allotment. The visit was organised by one of our plot holders who reported that the children were “so impressed with all they saw and were so grateful for the opportunity”. Maybe the odd future gardener amongst them…

It is the season of the honeysuckle, smelling wonderfully sweet on warm evenings.

Feedback

Please send any feedback and blog ideas to Brigitte at communications@pointalls.org



Newsletter May 2021

Prize for Anca and Lina

Kirstie Burgin presented the prize for coming third in the whole of Barnet with their plot 116 to Anca Covaci and Lina Hellgren. Kirstie is the vice-chair of the Barnet Allotment Federation (BAF), which every year holds a competition for best plot. Last year the competition saw a record 63 entries, making Anca and Lina’s achievement the greater. Lina describes herself as very competitive and the two gardeners say they are going to work hard this season to defend their 2020 position.

Peat free compost added to product list

We have added Melcourt SylvaGrow to our range of growing products. This excellent quality, peat-free compost is suitable for a wide range of garden applications including potting on, planting out and as a growing bag.

SylvaGrow is a blend of fine bark, wood fibre (by-products of sustainably managed British forests) and coir (from a single, known source). It contains balanced nutrients sufficient for the first 4 – 6 weeks of growth. The RHS endorses it, and it does not contain peat or green waste compost. The price for a 50-litre bag is £7.50.

John Innes compost for seeds

For sowing seed we recommend John Innes seed compost which is available at the trading shed. J Arthur Bower’s John Innes seed compost, or JAB for short, is a loam-based compost containing limestone and sand. Fine-textured, with a low nutrient formula it is ideally matched to the needs of germinating seeds and rooting cuttings. John Innes composts have been widely used by gardeners for over 60 years and are valued for their consistently good performance.

The ingredients of JAB include:

  • Loam is the most important ingredient as it provides a natural reservoir of plant foods, trace elements and contains some organic matter which releases nitrogen slowly to the plant. The loam is screened and sterilised to avoid any soil-borne diseases and insects.
  • Sphagnum moss which improves both the aeration and water-retaining capacity.
  • Lime-free grit sand is included to allow excess water to drain from the compost and prevent waterlogging. It also adds weight and provides stability for pot grown plants.
  • Ground horticultural-grade limestone is added to give the compost the pH most plants prefer.
  • Compound to provide the wide spectrum of plant nutrients needed for healthy growth. These include nitrogen for leafy growth, phosphates for root development, potash for flowering and fruiting and trace elements for colour and flavour.

The price for a 25-litre bag of JAB at the trading shed price is £4.00.

Download price list

Download our latest price list which features all products available at the trading shed. It has been necessary to adjust a few selling prices as suppliers increased their prices. Our quality branded product range is competitively priced and great value. When purchasing from the trading shed please pay by card.

Planting an incredibly rare tree for the future

We are very fortunate that we have been able to acquire a few bare-rooted trees of a very special sort. The tree is Ulmus minor and is called Ademuz.

It is one of only two highly resistant varieties of elm that have emerged since the devastating Dutch elm disease struck in the 1970s and 80s.

Paul Castignetti, our site manager, has managed to acquire these rare specimen. He did not divulge his source, and Jo Keller, herself a professional gardener, confirmed that they are very hard to get hold of.

We will be planting the trees on the edges of the site. This will make ours one of the few places in Britain with a resistant elm variety and eventually mature elm trees.

The highly endangered white-letter hairstreak butterfly lives exclusively on elms, and our Ademuz trees may one day help this rare butterfly survive and flourish.

Pointalls gardeners – Ian and Natacha

In the first of an occasional series about gardeners on Pointalls, I talked to Ian and Natacha. They are relatively new to vegetable growing but have already made a visible difference to plot 42.

A year ago, Ian and Natacha started with a half plot and built beds and pathways. They attribute their quick progress in 2020 to lockdown. They have now taken on an adjoining half-plot and are digging it over, sifting the soil and removing any trace of couch grass. When asked who does most of the work, Natacha puts it at 70/30 for Ian. She is responsible for digging and weeding while Ian is growing the plants. The bed of garlic certainly is looking very impressive.

Living close by, it is easy for the two gardeners to get to Pointalls. They had tried to grow vegetables in their own garden but its position meant there simply was not enough light to achieve good results.

Both say they draw on advice from more experienced Pointalls neighbours. Ian also regularly uses the RHS website and YouTube videos to learn more. For example, he consulted YouTube to establish the best width for vegetable beds to make weeding as easy as possible.

“I used to know asparagus only as it appeared on my plate,” said Natacha, “and now I have learnt how it grows.” They both agree that growing asparagus is a success story on Pointalls’ soil, unlikely as it seems given it is London clay when books tell you that the plant requires sandy soil to flourish.

If you see Ian and Natacha planting and fighting the couch grass, why not say hello. They are always keen to exchange horticultural tips.

Protect your plums now

May is the time to get your moth traps into your plum, pear and apple trees. In the trading shed, we sell pheromone traps that attract males of the plum, pear and apple moths which are trapped on a sticky sheet.

These traps are the only way to control the moths. If you don’t, you may well end up with a lot more maggots in your plums and apples. These are pink grubs that tunnel into fruit during the summer near the stem and feed on the flesh. Affected plums ripen first and often have a resinous bead of plum where the grub entered.When fully fed, the caterpillars emerge and overwinter inside silk cocoons spun under loose bark or the soil below. Encourage birds to visit the tree with feeders hung from branches. Cultivate the soil under the tree, too, raking it to bring any pupae up to where birds can find them.

Plot inspections to re-start

Over the past year, we paused our regular plot inspections.

As things are slowly becoming more normal with increasing vaccination rates in the population, we will be re-starting plot inspections.

The first will happen in a week or so. The focus will be on the level of cultivation, keeping pathways mowed and clear, and plots reasonably tidy.

Thief scales Squires Lane gate

On 16 April, we had a break-in when a man climbed over the Squires Lane gate and entered the site. He was later observed to be doing the same to get out again – this time with a bag on his back. He stole a wallflower plant and rhubarb

Paul Castignetti, our site manager, has since beefed up security on the gates by adding more barbed wire at the top.

If you recognise the thief, please let us know at communications@pointalls.org

Call for volunteers to keep the toilet clean

We have had one plotholder volunteering to keep the compost toilet clean. But we need a few more. Please put up your hand by emailing communications@pointalls.org

We are re-opening the toilet on a trial basis and hope cleaning will be sufficient to make the opening last.

Pointalls is not a dump

Please do not treat Pointalls as a dump. Take your rubbish off site and dispose of it properly.

This is a photo taken very recently after some plotholders very inconsiderately decided to leave their rubbish near the trading shed.

That is not allowed. If you see anyone dumping things there, please remind them not to do this in the interest of the whole community. It is extremely egotistical behaviour.

Do not feed foxes

We are urging all plotholders not to feed foxes. Once they get used to being fed they hang about the area and foul vegetable beds all around.

Free cedar greenhouse in need of fixing up

A neighbouring allotment site is giving away a cedar greenhouse. It is disassembled and in need of patching up. The size is 8ftx6ft.

If interested contact communications@pointalls.org

Tulips in all their gorgeous colours

Feedback

Please send any feedback and blog ideas to Brigitte at communications@pointalls.org



Newsletter April 2021

Log piles for little kritters

You may have seen a few piles of logs on suitable places around the site. Paul Castignetti, our site manager, used spare logs to build these to encourage insects and other small animals giving them a place to hide and feeding off the wood as it rots down. Next, Paul will mount some bat boxes on the larger trees around the site.

Tell us if you want to go peat-free

Did you know that the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew has not been using peat for the past 30 years. I reckon if Kew can do it, so can we as vegetable gardeners.

In the spirit of supporting the move away from using precious peat – and leaving if where it belongs, in the peat bogs – I am asking all allotment holders to indicate whether they are interested in buying compost in our trading shed that is free of peat. Please email communications@pointalls.org if you are. Even better, give us a confirmed order.

Peat-free is slightly more expensive, it has to be said, but the difference is marginal. A 50 litre bag of compost based on peat costs around £6 while the peat-free version costs around £8 a bag. In my gardening year, with me buying one bag of compost, the difference is a mere £2.

For that extra money spent, I know I have done the right thing by protecting the environment. Definitely worth doing – and having massive impact if we are all doing it. It is unfortunately amateur gardeners who are responsible for 70% of the peat used in horticulture today.

A slow worm on the compost heap

Spotted by Rachael Harvey on her compost heap, a slow worm is not really a worm but a legless lizard. And according to Rachael, not that slow at all when it wants to vanish. Too quick, in fact, to catch this one’s face.

Toilet remains closed

While Covid restrictions are in place, unfortunately the toilet will remain closed. We simply do not have the means to ensure regular cleaning that would be required were it to open.

Meanwhile, some of us may consider buying a portable toilet designed for use on camping trips or when attending festivals. There are some lightweight, durable and very reasonably priced options out there.

In the longer term, once Covid restrictions are lifted we are looking for volunteers to clean the toilet. Please give me a shout at communications@pointalls.org and I will pass on your name to the board.

Store material for burning over the summer

Bonfires by individual plotholders are not allowed, as you all know. The only burning that can be done is on the communal fire site and controlled by our site manager Paul Castignetti.

However, in the interest of our neighbours around the area we would like to keep the number of managed bonfires down during the summer months.

We would ask you to retain as much as possible of the material that needs burning on your own plots over the summer. Please either store things or transport them to Summers Lane to ease the pressure on the general fire site.

Some shiny new websites

North London’s gardeners have been busy over the winter, not just preparing their garden for spring, but also to get ahead in the digital race.

Barnet Allotment Federation (BAF) has launched a new logo and a new website. BAF is a network of 37 allotment societies, comprising 44 allotment sites across the London Borough of Barnet. Through the federation, societies support each other, sharing expertise in good allotment management.

The BAF project was managed by our own membership secretary Derek McMaster who is a member of the BAF committee and is overseeing other new BAF information initiatives due to launch later this year.

And Charity Veggiebox has also invested in its digital future by launching a new website.  In their own words: “To help us grow this year we have a new website where people can find out all about us and our wonderful growing community.”

French beans top the yield list

Not that this is news to us, but researchers at Sheffield University have calculated that an average of 24 minutes work is required to produce each kilogram of fruit or vegetable grown on an allotment.

The vegetable producing the best yield are French beans. They yield 6.5kg of produce per square metre. Courgettes are close seconds with 6kg per square metre, followed by tomatoes with 5.1kg.

And then there is the benefit of growing your own plus all the healthy activity outdoors. As I said, no news to us, but to some readers of the Times no doubt.

Charity Veggiebox collecting from late May

Charity Veggiebox is gearing up to start another season of re-distributing your surplus or ‘grow to give’ crops to community kitchens and schools throughout North London.

Growing conditions allowing, they expect to start collections by the end of May. A little early for French beans, but early potatoes could be ready.

 

These are the carrot plants of one of our allotment gardeners who wants to remain unnamed. He used a deep plastic container and put in the seeds weeks ago, keeping the seedlings at home in the warmth. A lesson in how to grow early carrots!



Newsletter March 2021

Now is the time to clear up your plot

We encourage all plotholders to get active and clear up their plot ready for spring planting. As ever, warmer times are closer than it seems while the weather is cold. And in the end, the work that is to be done is always larger than one hopes.

Clearing up now is not just sensible time management, but also good in view of the fact that normality is returning. And with normality come plot inspections by the gardening & structures working group. The first of these is scheduled for late April.

Let’s try and present the best possible picture to greet a brighter time when Covid is slowly becoming less of an issue.

Trading shed open and water flowing

The trading shed is open on Sunday mornings for customers. Just remember Covid rules – wear a mask, only one person in the trading shed at a time and stay well apart if waiting outside.

John Waterhouse, our man in the trading shed, is also sending out the good news that he switched on the water on site yesterday. Nothing stopping you growing those seedlings now.

Be considerate when parking your car

We are urging all those who drive on to the site to park considerately. Roadways must be kept clear for other cars to pass.

There are plenty of designated parking spaces around. If it is not possible to use one of these, or park on your own plot, please stay around so you can be found if another driver needs you to move your car out of the way.

Improving site security by encouraging ivy

Along the boundary to the Long Lane Pasture our site is secured by an old chain-link fence that is not in the best of conditions. We have had many break-ins entering through this fence over the years, most recently last year when the fire brigade came on to site via this route. In one section ivy has established itself and has formed a very secure, dense and impenetrable wall.

The Pointalls board was faced with the choice of either replacing the fence which would cause a lot of disruption and cost, or aiding the spread of the ivy along the boundary line and so form a natural fence, that also provides an ideal home to wildlife.

The board decided to go for the second option To encourage the growth of the ivy, the trees opposite the communal area on the fence line have been thinned out and the ivy clipped.

We believe a dense ivy hedge is appropriate for both allotments and pasture and that it will enhance the environment and help to enrich the wildlife in particular for bees and nesting birds.

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