NSALG Newsletter and survey 2020

Many of you know already that part of your annual rent covers a subscription to the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners (NSALG) which includes a host of benefits to our members.

The society have issued their latest newsletter, and are inviting members to complete their survey on member demographics (gender, location, age etc) which helps them to better understand the diverse range of people who are members, and also helps them to better target their advice and information.

The newsletter and link to the plotholder survey can be found by clicking this link.

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New dates for fires

NB. As per letters that were sent to every member, the November fire dates have been SUSPENDED until the committee can agree a better solution. We realise this will not be ideal for everyone and will communicate with members again on this matter in due course.

Following agreement at the September committee meeting, it was agreed to change the dates we permit members to light fires on the allotments.

The allotments have been at their current site for over 30 years and were established before the neighbouring properties were built, on land that was gifted to Durham County Council by the then farmer for the purpose of providing allotments.

Previously, a set of around 4 individual days plus a week encompassing the 5th November were the only days that fires were allowed to be lit on the allotments. This year, and many of last year’s dates that were set were entirely unsuitable for burning and members were ordered to put out the fires as a result, meaning that gardeners with garden refuse to get rid of were faced with either having to take non-diseased plant material to the local Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) or to wait a further three months for the next burn day.

This was unsustainable and unfair to those with an allotment at Newton Hall as sometimes gardeners have to deal with diseased plant matter that cannot be composted immediately in order to stop the spread of disease, and may not have access to a vehicle to take the plant matter to the HWRC. Non-industrial composting (i.e. compost heaps, wormeries, ‘Daleks’, compost trenches etc) do not reach a high enough temperature to kill spores and diseased materials. Additionally, ash from wood fires is beneficial to soil health, and having an occasional fire helps to keep the site tidy.

What are the new fire dates?

The original proposition was to scrap the designated fire days entirely and to allow members to burn their waste on any suitable day. This was rejected by the committee, and instead it was proposed that fires be allowed only between the months of March and November, and only on the 1st to 7th of the month, inclusive, to be lit no earlier than 9am and extinguished by 7pm.

The table below summarises this:

Allowable datesMonthsIncineratorOpen
1st-7th inclusiveMarch – OctoberYesNo
1st-7th inclusiveNovemberYesYes
No datesDecember-FebruaryNoNo
Fires are only permitted after 9am and must be extinguished by 7pm

This decision has been taken in order to have a LESS detrimental effect on neighbouring properties; with members being able to plan to have fires on the most suitable days for their schedules as well as the weather, and by not having all of the fires going on one day every three months, it is much less likely that neighbouring properties will be affected, and having only one week out of four means that neighbours know when fires might be lit.

It is worth mentioning that these dates only account for 9 weeks out of 52 in a year, representing less than 20% of the entire year being available for members to burn their garden waste at the allotments, which is in stark contrast to the vast majority of allotment sites which do not place any such restrictions on their members, and where fires can be lit at any time, on any day.

What rules do the members have to abide by?

All members must adhere to the rules they agreed to in their DCC Tenancy Agreement, which states:

The Tenant is permitted to burn materials on the Plot; however, fires must not be left unattended and they must be contained in an incinerator bin or similar device. The Tenant must not bring material to the Plot to burn and the fire must not cause a nuisance or danger to other plot holders or neighbouring residents.

In being considerate of other people, the Tenant must take into consideration the type of materials they wish to burn, the amount of material to be burnt, the day of the week, the time of day and the frequency at which materials are burnt across the entire site.

The Association and Landlord reserves the right to put site specific restrictions in place, which may mean that no bonfires are permitted or are only permitted on certain days of the week and / or at certain times of the day. Any such restrictions will be clearly notified to all tenants on the site and must be adhered to.

Item 11 in the Association rules (opens a new window) states that:

Open fires and the use of incinerators are only allowed on the specific dates that are published by the Committee on the Notice Boards and on the Association’s website.  Do not burn green waste or plastics: green waste should be composted where possible or removed from the site and plastics should be removed from the site.  Tenants must also ensure that they do not cause a nuisance to neighbouring households and cease burning immediately if any smoke is blowing towards the houses at the top of the hill.  Fires must be supervised at all times.

These are in addition to and run alongside the rules in every member’s Tenancy Agreement:

  • The Tenant must not bring or allow anyone else to bring waste material to the Plot or site (except manure and compost in such quantities as may be reasonably required for use in cultivation).
  • It is the Tenant’s responsibility to appropriately deal with any waste material that they generate on the Plot. To do this the Tenant may remove the waste to an appropriate disposal location, burn it (see clause on bonfires / burning rubbish), or compost it.
  • Waste materials put on a compost heap should not include food items or similar materials that will attract vermin.
  • The Tenant must store re-use items in a neat, tidy fashion and only on the 25% of the Plot that is not in productive use.
  • The final decision on whether items are rubbish or for re-use will be the Landlord’s and the Tenant will be served with a notice to quit if they fail to remove such items from the site if instructed to do so.

What can NHAA / DCC do for breaches of the rules?

As stated above, members must abide by a range of conditions in order to satisfy their tenancy agreement and to not fall foul of Association rules.

Anyone who does not follow these risks having an investigation and formal process initiated, which could result in the matter being escalated to DCC to issue a Notice To Quit (NTQ) which is a legal notice and can be enforced.

In all NTQ situations, should the member refuse to give up their tenancy then formal legal action would be sought.

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Slug Pellets – ban on using metaldehyde based pellets

Defra have announced that from 31st March 2021 it will be illegal for retailers to sell metaldehyde slug killers because of their devastating effect on other wildlife. Suppliers can still sell stocks they already have and consumers can continue to use what they have until 31st March 2022. From 1st April 2022 it will then be illegal to sell and use metaldehyde products.

Please see the official post from Defra below:

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The container move is complete

Thank you to Fernando Andreu for project managing this work, to Tim Smith for preparing the base and to W Marley’s for moving the container.

This project is now complete, although some work will be needed to clean up the site the container was sitting on, and also to get rid of some of the surplus rubbish from the container…

But that’s a job for another day!

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Free to a good home! Garden storage container

Garden Storage box; free to a good home on the allotments

We have been offered a garden storage box by a member of the public for someone to use on their allotment.

The box is currently dismantled as shown in the photograph, but we are assured that it is very easy to reassemble.

It is available to anyone who wants it on a first come – first served basis. If you need help moving it please let Su know (chair@newtonhallallotments.co.uk) or leave a comment below.

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We’re on Facebook!

I have tried to produce a couple of newsletters recently, and the circulation of these is fairly good, although the responses I receive to these are limited (which could be a good thing or a bad thing!).

In order to provide more timely updates which you don’t have to search out on the web page, I have set up a Facebook group called Newton Hall Allotment Association (Click the Facebook icon above, or here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1035669456848719).

This will replace the newsletters, and will provide more relevant and immediate content so that our members, neighbours and interested parties can stay up to date, and can interact with us more easily.

And you don’t have to have a Facebook account to see what is being discussed either, as the feed will also appear on this page when I have found a suitable plugin to handle that, although if you wanted to join in on the conversation you may have to join up. It’s free and available on pc, smartphone and tablet.

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Slugs. Good or bad?

Just one of the slugs you might find in your allotment

If you’ve ever found a slug and immediately wanted to get rid of it, maybe you haven’t considered its benefit to the allotment.

The John Innes Centre has pulled together a handy gide on the different types of slugs we’re likely to encounter at our allotments and how they are of benefit or detriment to your crops.


What are your best methods for slug control? Comment below ?

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Container Fire Day: Friday 21st August

Friday 21st August is the next allowable fire day in the calendar.

Please note! The forecast this Friday is for strong winds. Please take extra care to observe these guidelines to prevent being told to extinguish your fire

Su – Chair

Any members wishing to burn on their plots must observe the following guidelines:

  • Fires are only allowed in containers (no open fires)
  • Fires must not be left unattended and must be kept under control at all times
  • Keep sufficient water nearby to extinguish the fire if asked to do so or if it becomes out of control
  • Be aware of the weather and the direction of the wind – if it is blowing excessively or blowing towards residential properties you WILL be asked to extinguish the fire
  • Be aware of the ferocity of the fire: fires which are burning furiously may send hot embers into the sky which could fall on polytunnels or dry grasses.
  • Any fire deemed to be out of control will be ordered to be extinguished immediately and may involve the fire brigade being called.
  • Only dry materials are to be burned: this is because damp or wet material, including green plant waste, produces a lot of smoke and steam in the burning process.

The committee reserves the right to order any fire that is deemed to be dangerous or out of control to be extinguished immediately.

The next fire date following this is the week of 1st November – 7th November inclusive.

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Onion White Rot, the cure?

Probably a slightly misleading title, but a good way to get attention.

Onion white rot on garlic.  Image courtesy of growveg.co.uk
Onion White Rot on garlic. Image courtesy of growveg.co.uk

We all know that white rot is a major fungal disease of the onion family, and most of us on NHA have first-hand experience of infected crops.

I’ve been on and off the site since 1985; my most recent spell here started in 2007 on the ominously numbered plot 13. It’s at the bottom east end of the site and the soil is heavy loam with clay in parts. Up till recently the plots in that area suffered from shade cast by very large conifers in the adjoining gardens.

Despite the unpromising site I successfully grew banana shallots on the plot for several years, always at the top with the lightest soil and most sunshine. The crop was good and stored well. After about three years odd bulbs got white rot, and eventually the incidence was so high that I gave up growing any alliums other than leeks, which were unaffected.

About ten years ago I moved up the bank to plot 21, which is very steep and terraced. The soil there is on a cline, changing from very sandy at the top, to medium loam at the bottom. I was assured that there was no white rot on that plot. I quickly discovered that there was white rot and in thin soil it even affected some leeks. Shallots and onions had 95-100% failure rate due to white rot. I was able to harvest the bulbs but this involved skinning and storage in the freezer. Given the cost of banana shallots this was worthwhile. I don’t regard growing onions in white rot ground as worth it given their bulk and low cost.

Around that time, I spoke to Jim Duffy, our resident record keeper and master experimenter. He mentioned the use of garlic powder as a possible ‘cure’ for white rot. Information online suggested a regime of digging in a thorough dose of garlic powder each autumn, followed by a top dressing of compost to the bed. In the spring the bed was limed.

I did this and decided to grow banana shallots from seed the following spring. These were sown 2 to a pot in modules in the greenhouse in early March, grown on and planted out on my plot when the leaves were about six inches high. Growth after planting out was good and by July I had fine bulbs, significantly bigger than Sainsburys stock. Harvest produced 90% unaffected bulbs which stored dry. The balance of affected bulbs was frozen. The next year produced a similar result and I thought I’d cracked it. This was a mistake.

In 2019, a year of decent sunshine, but more rain, I followed the same procedure and every bulb of the 120 that I harvested was affected. I reverted to freezing, which ate freezer space.

This year I decided to have one last throw of the dice. I composted a bed in my twenty-foot polytunnel and direct sowed the seeds, reasoning that control of watering might be key. I didn’t apply garlic powder. I hoed a shallow drill between each row and watered into that once the seedlings were established.

Banana Shallots 'Zebrune' grown by Gerry Parker
Bulbs laid on a mesh frame to dry after being lifted

By early July the bulbs were pleasingly large as usual, apart from the ones at the very front of the bed where drainage was sharpest.

I stopped watering for about three weeks and lifted the whole crop with a fork, laying the bulbs to dry on mesh frames in the tunnel. There appears to be NO white rot on any bulb. The accompanying picture shows over 130 bulbs, grown in a bed of about 30 square feet.

'Zebrune' shallots 2020
‘Zebrune’ shallots – Gerry Parker

I can’t account for the success of this crop in any other way than by control of water. The tunnel has the same soil as outside, and has been added to by liberal application of home-made compost which must have plenty of infection in it.

Maybe worth a try if you have a tunnel, can spare the space and do lots of cooking with expensive French style shallots. The seed retails at about £2 for 200 and the strain was Zebrune.

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Can you help with research into Leaf Miners?

Postgraduate researcher, Siobhan Hillman at the University of East Anglia is working with the British Beet Research Organisation on leaf mining pests of sugar beet.

She is looking for people to send in samples of any leaf miner from their gardens and allotments that are infesting their Spinach, Beetroot or Swiss Chard.

Click the link below for more information, including how to identify the pest.


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