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.


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