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 ( 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:

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
Onion White Rot on garlic. Image courtesy of

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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Growing concern over aminopyralid in manure and compost

Organic gardening specialists, Garden Organic, have reported that incidents of apparent contamination of manure and compost are being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive.

What is aminopyralid?

Aminopyralid is a weedkiller produced by agricultural chemical manufacturer, Corteva, which is used to kill grasses and weeds on farmland.

Crops sprayed with aminopyralid are not supposed to be fed to cattle and horses because it doesn’t break down in the animal’s digestive system and is still active in the manure that is produced subsequently.

If gardeners use this manure on their crops, the crops are likely to not develop properly, with leaves curling and the plant being lacklustre. Charles Dowding, advocate of the No Dig Gardening approach has produced some videos on this subject and

Anyone who suspects their plants have been affected by this can send an email to and, headed “Aminopyralid contamination”.

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NSALG National Allotments Week 2020

All Newton Hall Allotments Association members are also members of the (National Association of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners) NSALG as part of your annual rent payment.

This year, the NSALG are running National Allotments Week from the 10th to the 16th August, and they invite all members to take part in their National Allotments Week competition to produce videos and storyboards of your allotment story.

Prizes are available. To find out more and to enter, please visit

Closing date for entries is 31st July 2020

Good luck!

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Be water wise! ?

In this warmer weather it is natural to want to water your crops in order to keep them hydrated.

However, did you know that the association pay for water on a meter? Every year we spend several hundreds of pounds on water, and with increased water use it could become likely that we would need to increase rents again in the following year.

Here are some ideas you can use to reduce your water consumption:

watering only what is needed

water with a watering can or small container and not with a hose – making sure you only use the water you need around the plant you are rehydrating means that the weed seeds which are ever present in the soil aren’t triggered into life and it means that only the water you need is used, instead of it being wasted on ground not being used for growing such as paths


Mulch around your plants – putting a layer of compost, grass clippings, bark chippings, shredded newspaper etc around the soil near to your plants helps the soil beneath to remain cooler and means the surface isn’t exposed to the drying effects of the sun and wind, thus holding on to more moisture

Save your own water in a bucket or water butt. If you have a leaky polytunnel it is easy to catch the drips in a bucket.
Alternatively, place a water butt or sealed container outside and simply wait for it to rain!

But we’re in the north-east of England! We won’t run out of water!

Some people may also have seen that DEFRA have released a blog post to warn consumers of the chance of possible water shortages with demand outstripping supply by only 2050 – that may seem like a long way away, but the more we can do as individuals and as gardeners now to help slow that down, the better it will be for our next generations, and not only in the north-east, but all around the country.

Blog post from DEFRA, 19th June 2020

Additionally; it is much easier to hoe off surface weeds when it is dry; the weeds fall to the surface and don’t have a moist environment in which to re-root.

So by hoeing when it is dry, not only will you stand a better chance of combating surface weeds, you’ll also break up the surface of the soil so that when it does rain, the water will penetrate into the ground more easily rather than running off and not doing much to hydrate your crops.

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