Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Evening Press Photographer - New Composting Toilet

This afternoon the Evening Press sent a photographer down to the allotment to do a photo shoot about the composting toilet that has been set up on the site. Ann, my wife, has been involved with National Osteoprosis Society for some time and has been doing a foil collecting project to pay for kale and other brassica plants to have in pots over the winter months as they are a good source of magnesium and calcium. As part of the project a local school has been involved to collect foil and set up a small gardening club where the NOS will provide some of the brassica plants for the children in return for them collecting foil and aluminium cans. Ann therefore requested the composting toilet because of the involvement of the school and also for any plot holders bringing young children down to their plots would not have the problem of what to do about toilet facilities. Counciller Tina Funnell arranged a photo shoot with the press and the following photos show how the session went.
Background shot of plot holders with Ann in the foreground racing towards the toilet and then Counciller Funnel showing the chopped straw mulch that is used to cover what is in the toilet.
After showing off the chopped straw mulch it then came down to tossing the toilet roll in the air; difficult subject trying to cover a toilet!
Eventually the idea of tossing toilet rolls in the air wore thin and the next was to photo somebody sitting on the loo. I wasn't quick enough and got roped in for that.
Which photo got chosen, well, we will just have to wait and see. I just hope the humour doesn't go all lavatorial but then I'll not be surprised if it does!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Ann's New Half Plot

Just when I felt that we were getting on top of our allotment and it could be kept ticking over nicely somebody decided that she wanted to take on a half plot and use it for her flowers. So, on Tuesday morning we got down to the new plot and it was mainly overgrown and with a patch of ground elder against the currant bushes.

First step was to trim off some of the surface grass and weeds in the central section which was not too heavily populated with plant life and then to skim off turf in nice sizes to build a compost bin.

I have built three bins and filled two with green material scraped off the top of the plot. on top of each foot of green material we have added three trugfuls of horse bedding full of urine and sh*t. The horse bedding is sawdust and wood shavings. When the two binfuls have rotted down and are producing less heat the bins will be dug out, emptying the contents of the middle bin into the front bin and the contents of the back bin into the middle bin to re-aerate the composting material and get the heat generation going again. In th eforeground of the picture is an area that has been dug and weed roots removed and baked in the glorious sun we have had the last few days. I have sown field beans into this section as a green manure crop and also a couple of rows of fenugreek so we can use the foliage to make a methi curry.

One section we have put under heavy opaque plastic sheeting until we can get round to dealing with it. To the right of the photo you can see where we have broken straw bales into smaller flaps to cover the groundwe have taken the turf from to build the compost bins. This will act as a good weed supressant and slow the oxidation of any organic matter in the exposed soil.

Here you can see the biggest problem with this plot, ground elder, the Romans have a lot to answer for bringing this menace into Britain. A small pathway was clipped through next to the currant bushes so that the remainder could be sprayed with glyphosate weedkiller. It is just starting to show signs of turning yellow now and wilting. A few more days should see it getting down to the roots and killing them off completely,

Friday, May 09, 2008

Broad Beans leafing up

Following the warm spell after the wet spell the broad bean plants have put on a growth spurt and have been making flowers as well as growning extra leaf.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Potatoes breaking through

The potatoes have now broken through and will need to be earthed up soon.

Mulching onions with comfrey leaves

As the weather turned hot after a wet spell and the comfrey has grown massively I cut down some comfrey to mulch between the onions after hoeing weeds out. The comfrey leaves dry out around the onions and rot into the soil providing organic matter rich in potash.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Last Years Brassicas and Beans

This is last years beans and brassica area. At the rear left corner was a compost heap which has now been leveled out and to the rear right are the remains of the purple sprouting broccoli. There is one remaining cauliflower and a couple of celery like plants left in the bed, the celery will get fed to the guinea pigs as they are a bit scrappy. About half a dozen rows have been sown with beetroot (Boltardy), carrot (Nantes Early), Parsnip (Hollow Crown) and for the first time this year Hamburg Parsley which has a root like parsnip but has a flavour slightly reminiscent of Kohl Rabi.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another New Plot Holder

Toward the end of last year Brian decided he did not need a full plot and gave up half of his plot. Jan Alice has put in a lot of work and put in fruit beds and a sturdy fruit cage creating a nice tidy plot.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New Plots

Amongst the new plot holders this one of Sam's is one that stands out as having had a fair amount of work done on it to make it look tidy and is looking ready to go this year.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kale Finishing

The Kale which has provided greens over the winter has now started to flower and will have to be pulled up, maybe sort through and get some tender leaves for one last meal, good calcium and magnesium source for healthy bones. After that it will be a case of chopping up and onto the compost heap with the plants before they can set and drop seed. all last year's plants came from self sown seedlings from previous years plants that were not caught in time. There were one or two plants in odd places around the plot last year.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Overwintering Onions

Good progress is being made by the overwintering onions that were planted at the end of October last year and they are just showing signs of starting to form bulbs. They are usually ready towards the end of July where spring planted sets usually mature in the middle of August.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Portakabin Progress and Spring Flowering

Work on the Portakabin is progressing with a coat of green paint having been applied on Friday by a bunch from Community Services. Amazing how a coat of paint can transform the appearance. The community plot is now reasonably clear and a large pile of scrubwood and rubbish has been created in the car park and a space cleared next to the pile for a delivery of compost.

One broad bean plant on Brian's allotment has sprouted flowers despite only being a couple of inches high and the magnolia is just starting to bud whilst the Berberis Darwinii is in full flame flower.

Looks like Terry has decided not to bother with careful digging and weeding of his plot and taken the pragmatic approach of spraying it with Glyphosate and will be digging in the dead weeds.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Spring in the air for a few days

With a few warm days but the forecast is for snow at the weekend it made sense to get down to the allotment and get some work done. The first early potatoes are in, Maris Bard, and a lot of spring flowers are blooming like the spurge in the photo.

The plum tree is just flowering in time to get frosted off with the snow at the weekend so this year may not be as good a crop as last year. We still have plenty of plum chutney and plum jam from last year though. I have made some really good dishes using the plum chutney as a plum sauce. It goes really well with lamb.

The broccoli plants did really well last year and we are now cropping them. They are producing substantial florets with a rich purple head that turns almost black when you cook it.

Garlic and the overwintering onions got off to a good start last autumn and are looking substantial now after the few days of sunshine we have just had.

A Portakabin and composting toilet have been delivered to the site and the the Portakbin will be rewired and used for plot holder meetings.

Many of the new plots taken on by tenants last year have made good progress like this one of Sian and Marty's where some crops were grown last year whilst the other half of the plot was sheeted over to be got into use this coming year. The broccoli was some of my left over seedlings last year that were pushed into a patch that had been cleared and is ready for picking now.

On my own allotment the globe artichoke plants are next to the broccoli and have started to produce fresh foliage for this year. Unfortunately one plant looks as though it failed to get through the winter.

It has been a great day to be out working in the fresh air, even the bees have been active looking for nectar in the rocket that has flowered. All in all a grand day.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Glen Allotments – Site meeting 27/01/08

Callaghan Bill
Dean Charlie
Dean Gareth
Earp Melanie
Harper Ann
Merry Jan-Alice
Stockdale Audrey
Wright Steve
Allotments Officer (York City Council)
Judith Ward
Robin Cooper (Secretary Glen Allotments)
There was no formal agenda. The purpose of the meeting was for Judith to update the plotholders on the various projects which had been started and for the plotholders to provide feedback and between us agree the next steps in developing a fully functioning allotments site.
A note from Bill
We did not have a formal agenda and this contributed to the free-form nature of the discussion and made it difficult at times to take minutes. For clarity’s sake I have decided to group the minutes by subject matter in alphabetical order as this makes it easier to follow but means that information is not necessarily arranged in the order in which it was discussed or in order of importance.
Compost Toilet
Judith explained that £5000 has been made available through the ward committee to purchase a compost toilet. This is quite a sophisticated device (as compost toilets go) as it is able to separate the urine out which goes to a soakaway underground. There are two separate chambers underground. The first is used until full and then this is left to compost for a year while the second chamber is brought into use. After being left to compost for a year then the first chamber is dug out and brought back into use while the second chamber is left to compost for a year. Wood shavings are used to aid the composting process.
(Note from Bill: If the compost removed from the toilet is to be used as a soil enricher, then further composting for an extra two years in heaps especially for that purpose is usually required).
Judith also explained that she will have to find a further £900 to fund the siting of the toilet.
It is expected that the work on the toilet will be completed before the end of this financial year (before April 2008).
The drainage problems on the Glen site were discussed. It was realised that the exceptionally heavy downpours in recent years had contributed to the problems and that this may or may not be a ‘temporary’ blip. Judith also mentioned that if there were any original land drains they were probably laid when the site first came into use in 1915 and therefore may well be expected to be broken or blocked.
Bill also mentioned that he had heard from several local residents that there was originally a beck to drain the site and that this had been filled in by the developers when the flats were built on Fourth Avenue.
The problem of standing water on plots tends to affect some plots worse than others. Factors such as underlying clay, and the level of the topsoil (some plots lie lower than others, particularly the plots at the back of the site relative to the front gate) mean that the problem affects some people more than others.
Judith mentioned that a Mrs. Clancy had horse manure and material that could be supplied on a very regular basis but did not have a contact telephone number with her and that this material would gradually raise the levels. Bill is to contact Judith for the telephone number and pursue this further. Judith said that the council could not supply topsoil as the provenance and safety of the topsoil could not be guaranteed. What about the possibility of supplying coarse sand through council sources? This may be a possibility that could be looked into further.
Fences and security were talked about. It was agreed that the hedge had been cut back too much last time. It was agreed that the longer term height of the hedge should be maintained at four foot. Ann Harper suggested that the gaps in the hedge could be filled in by layering. Judith Ward said that there was an issue over letting the hedge grow to the size necessary for layering to be feasible when in an urban area next to a road. Ann said that the bulk of the hedge was opposite the school and therefore there were no residents to object to letting the hedge grow. There was also the issue of who would carry out this work.
Fencing the site in completely was mentioned. Judith Ward said that the cost of new fencing for the whole site would be around £30,000! There is no money available in the budget (or likely to be in the future) for this. However Judith mentioned ‘Section 106’ provision. This is provision whereby developers of housing have to put a proportion of their development money towards local infrastructure (because new houses have to have drains, water mains and other services and residents also use services). It may be possible to tap into some of this money in future because the allotment site is a public amenity.
Notice Board
A notice board for the plots has been needed for some time to enable plotholders to communicate with one another (publicising ideas, help wanted, help offered, plant swaps, meetings etc.).
Judith said a board was on order and had been for some time. She would chase this up. The siting was to be near the front gate. Not entirely clear whether this a sign or a noticeboard as subsequent discussion on this issue revolved around the plotholders putting up a board for themselves in the portakabin.
Old Sheds
Judith stated that the old sheds alongside the gate will probably be demolished as they are an eyesore and will not be needed. This arose in the context of the possibility of there not being enough storage space for plot holders tools in the new Portakabin, especially as we will be sharing it with the new school/community plot.
An old Portakabin has been purchased (£100) and sited. This is for use by plotholders for meetings, tool storage and also for the use of those involved with the new school/community plot. It is planned to have the area around it grassed with maybe a hedge or fruit trees and make a communal area for barbecues etc.
Work is due to be carried out on the Portakabin in the following order:
Repair holes in roof
Rip out existing electrical system (this cannot now be used as not safe; also no electrical supply available)
Replace two broken windows with two of the four good ones supplied with the cabin.
Replace security grills over two currently unguarded windows.
Decorate and general refurbishment of cabin.
Probation Service
The probation service has a team of people doing community service who will be available to help at Glen. It was agreed that the first tasks involved the refurbishment of the Portakabin (see last section).
Bill suggested that they could perhaps start digging the plots that have just been strimmed but not yet let out. Judith explained that they could not clear individual plots but were there for more general work that did not benefit individual plotholders.
School/Community Garden
The site of the new School/Community garden will be next to the Portakabin. Councillor Tina Funnell is the lady who is currently driving this project and she has already had a meeting with the Head Teacher at Tang Hall school who is enthusiastic.
A recent visit took place to Low Moor allotments that have a similar scheme. Judith had a book with photos from the Low Moor scheme and this was passed around and everyone agreed that this was an impressive project.
Bill pointed out however that we have a half plot already occupied (next to his plot!) by a community scheme from Tang Hall Community that proceeds in fits and starts and has been a complete mess and a source of weed seeds and invasive runners for all the time he has been here (three years). It was also pointed out that a previous scheme that had been planned elsewhere on Glen had fallen through due to lack of organisation.
Charlie Dean made the point that these schemes often stand or fall by the leadership and that the Low Moor scheme is run by a lady (sorry, don’t know her name – Bill) who is very driven.
Current plans are that the children involved would be between the ages of 4-11 years and that most of the actual gardening would probably be by those between ages 7-9 yrs. When children were actually asked about gardening it was mainly associated with their grandparents. It is thought that perhaps that if family members became involved it would therefore more likely be grandparents rather than parents.
It is also thought that a sensory garden might be incorporated that this may be available for older citizens as well as children. (Have I got this right? – Bill). With this in mind a new gate may be put in to connect Glen Gardens with Glen Allotments.
Charlie Dean asked could there be child protection issues involved. After some discussion it became apparent that anybody working with the scheme would automatically be subject to Criminal Records Bureau checks.
Jonathan pointed out that we should be concentrating on one thing at a time such as bringing the Portakabin into effective use. There was general agreement on this.
Judith asked was anyone interested in joining the steering group for the School/Community garden. Charlie Dean put herself forward for this.
The subject of strimming was brought up and the delays that occur. Judith explained that strimming can only take place at certain times to avoid nesting birds.
Water Supply
The original water supply dates from 1915 when the site first became an allotments. Yorkshire water have tested the system and found that corrosion has reduced the supply. It will cost around £2000 to plumb a new connection to the water main. The existing pipework on the site was replaced around twenty years ago with alkathane and should therefore be perfectly fine so a new connection would restore the pressure on site and allow the existing three taps to be used all at the same time. The new main connection will be able to be done at the start of the new financial year 2008-09.
It was agreed that the existing number of taps is inadequate for the number of plotholders but there is not the money to install new taps via an outside contractor. However, Judith has suggested that the probation service team may be able to do the work of digging the trenches for the pipework and filling them in afterwards as this would save money. No timescale for this can be agreed at the moment.