Newsletter September 2019


BBQ in brilliant sunshine

Luckily, the recent allotment BBQ went off very well in good weather. Vegetarians and carnivores were catered for with separate BBQs on the communal area.

All that was missing was ice-cold beer from the tap. Maybe an idea for next year?

Send in your photos

This is a reminder that we are running a photo competition this year. Please send in your photos of any topic related to the allotments, your tools, your harvests, or, as I like to do, other gardeners’ flowers – see a shot of some lovely dahlias below that were not grown by me.

All entries most welcome! To be sent to communications@pointalls.org.

Site inspections note big improvement

Over the past months, we carried out regular monthly site inspections.  At these inspections, the focus was on the level of cultivation, keeping pathways mowed and clear, and plots reasonably tidy.

A number of plotholders received letters urging them to improve their cultivation, etc. Happily, these reminders have had the intended effect.

The good news is that we have seen a big improvement over the past months. Yes, some issues remain to be tackled, but a great many have been resolved, making Pointalls overall a better allotment site. Keep up the good work!After a pause over the winter, we will be starting the monthly inspections of the whole site again in the spring.

Thank you for all the work

You may have noticed that the composting toilet has had a makeover. No, it was nothing to do with any of the TV shows that are carrying out such projects. It was all to do with Mel and his decision that the toilet should have a new lease of life.

Mel worked extremely hard, taking it all apart, cleaning up the wood and putting it back together. It now looks better than it has ever done before.

Thank you very much, Mel, for a fantastic job!

            Before                                               After

Security light at Nursery Avenue gate

If you have used the nursery gate as it was getting dark, you will have noticed that there is a new feature attached to the trading shed. It is a security light that is activated by movement within a 15-metre radius.

It  has been installed  to enable plot  holders to enter and depart the site at dusk and hopefully improve security by deterring  unwanted  trespassers from climbing over the gates at night. The  light  is activated  by  movement sensors and will stay on for approximately two minutes.

At the moment we cannot put a security light on the other gate as there is no electricity supply at the Squires Lane entrance. The possibiliy of a solar-powered light has been considered but we found they are not powerful enough. However, this topic will continue to be reviewed.

Composting workshop on 28 September

You have another opportunity to learn about composting. On Saturday 28 September, Paul Castignetti, our site manager, will repeat his training session on composting. Meet at 11.00 outside the trading shed.

I have said it before, composting our own green waste is the best way of dealing with it. Much better for the environment, our own gardens and our wallet, than sending it by truck to the council’s composting site – as we do when we fill up the green waste skip.

Heaps of green waste on plots

One of the issues identified in our monthly inspections are heaps of green waste mixed with soil on a number of plots. They seem to have been growing year in, year out, and have in many cases become very large indeed.

After the painful experience of cleaning up after a tenant whose tenancy was recently terminated (see report in August newsletter), we are keen not to repeat this costly endeavour. To remind you, cleaning up behind the tenant cost us as a community close to £1,000. This expenditure was necessary to bring the plot back to a condition that a new tenant could cope with.

With this in mind, we are asking all plotholders to either compost their heaps in a proper bin from which organic matter can be extracted and used. Alternatively, please dispose of your heaps by placing what is green waste in the skip.

We do not want to be left in a position where we have to spend the community’s money to clean up heaps if a  plotholder decides to leave. Therefore, we are asking all those who have been notified as having assembled an unacceptable heap to either compost properly or dispose of the heap by the end of the year.

If you are not sure how to go about composting, please attend the workshop on 28 September to gain all the information you require.

What do you know about ‘no dig’ gardening?

Charles Dowding is famous for his work comparing traditional gardening with his favourite ‘no dig’ gardening. In this excellent, short video he shows two vegetable beds that have been worked in these two different styles.

To give it away – there is no difference in the size or growth rate of the vegetables in the two beds – but in the long run, the ‘no dig’ style generates a 5% better yield – with much less work and less weeding. Home-made compost is the main ingredient.

How to fight maggots in plums

If your plums have maggots, then you are faced with plum moth caterpillars. 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.

Pick these fruits and put them in the green waste bin, then collect the windfalls, as these will also contain the caterpillars.

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. Finches will attract wrens, goldcrests and blackbirds, which will find the grubs.

Cultivate the soil under the tree, too, raking it to bring any pupae up to where birds can find them.

There is no chemical cure, but we sell pheromone traps to hang near embryonic fruits in May, when grubs are hatching. Traps lure males with a scent that mimics female plum moths. Males are trapped inside on a sticky sheet. With fewer males for mating, females lay fewer eggs.

Customers making good use of card machine

John Waterhouse is reporting a good take-up of the new card machine in the trading shed.  Personally, I am waiting for an opportunity to spend some money there and see how much John enjoys using the modern technology.

Just one small reminder, the card machine can be used for all purchases in the trading shed, but not to pay the rent next year. That will need to be done via a bank transfer or a cheque (see August newsletter for more detail).

A case for water butts

Brighton & Hove Allotment Federation have published a concise leaflet how gardeners can use water most effectively. They rightly make a strong case for harvesting rain water and storing it in water butts. We should all be fitting guttering to shed roofs and use it to fill our tanks. Pour in a tablespoon of cooking oil and no mosquito will ever attempt to lay her eggs in your water butt!

Click here to read the leaflet.

If you have spare water tanks or large containers that could be used as water butts, it would be very helpful for other allotment holders who are thinking of storing rain water. If you have access to such things, drop me a line to communications@pointalls.org and we will find a match.

Enemy number two – Himalayan balsam

  • What do you know about Himalayan balsam?It is a relative of Busy Lizzy, but gets as tall as a person.
  • It is quite pretty and was brought to the UK by gardeners who liked the flowers.
  • It has since spread across the whole of Europe.
  • It is highly invasive, grows rapidly and spreads quickly. It smothers other plants.
  • The seed pods open explosively and shoot ripe seeds up to seven metres away.
  • The good news is that it is easy to pull out of the ground. It is very important to weed it before it has a chance to spread its seeds.

This picture was taken on our allotments and shows a plot that is overrun by the balsam. We have asked the plotholder to get on top of the problem so as not to affect the whole site.

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