1 January 2023 Newsletter

Dear Plotter

Happy New Year! I hope you had an enjoyable Christmas break too and are now looking forward to the new growing season.

As I write, we seem to be in a very wet and windy period, so there is not much you can do at the allotment apart from use the time to finish off doing those jobs you perhaps didn’t complete at the end of last year: digging over your plot when conditions allow, feeding the soil and winter-pruning fruit bushes. Don’t forget that we are holding a working party on Saturday 21st January from 9.30am. We have a lot of jobs that need doing so please come along to support.

January is also the time for me to remind you of the importance of  safety when on site. The Committee will be doing the annual Health and Safety Review at our next meeting so here are a few key elements which will keep us all safe:

  • Supervise children and dogs at all times. The pond has been fenced but there is still a danger of drowning after heavy rain. Clean up after your dog! Keep children away from the compost bins and hoppers and prevent them climbing on or into them.
  • Keep all chemicals sealed and clearly labelled and store in a secure location such as your locked shed. Gas cylinders must be stored in a cool, dark and well ventilated locked shed away from any heat source.
  • No bonfires may be lit on individual plots.
  • Care must be exercised when using a barbecue, ensuring that it is fully extinguished before you leave the site.
  • Plotholders are responsible for the maintenance and use of their own tools. A First Aid box is located in the community open shed. Training must be given to anyone who wishes to use the allotment equipment eg generator.
  • Plotholders are advised to ‘cap’ all canes or sticks used for support. Use tennis balls for this.
  • Plotholders must take great care whilst moving about the site and wear appropriate footwear at all times.
  • Finally, do not leave the padlock code on show to passers by. Lock the gates securely when you enter and leave the site and twizzle the numbers.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

– Start planning your allotment year!
– Buy and start to chit seed potatoes by laying them out in egg boxes in a cool, light room. Buy garlic, shallot and onion sets ready for planting in February or March.

– Order the seeds you want to sow this year. Perhaps try sowing early peas in pots, modules or guttering and keep them indoors until you can harden them off ready for planting outdoors in March or April.
– Clean out your pots and seed trays with detergent and a stiff brush to prevent diseases and viruses from carrying over to the next batch.

You can also plan out your crop rotation, which is important to prevent the soil from becoming exhausted by the same crop continually taking out the same nutrients from the soil, and to prevent pests and diseases from taking a hold. You can consider a 3 or a 5 year crop rotation cycle as follows:
3 Year cycle:
Year 1:  peas, beans and fruiting vegetables (eg tomatoes, cucumbers, sweetcorn and aubergines).
Year 2: brassicas
Year 3: roots, onions and leaves (eg spinach, chard)

5 Year Cycle:
Year 1: brassicas
Year 2: peas and beans
Year 3: potatoes and fruiting vegetables
Year 4: the onion family
Year 5: root and stem vegetables
In both cycles, it is important that each crop follows the other as, for example, brassicas like growing in a bed where previous peas and beans have left a high nitrogen content in the soil.
It is not so critical to rotate vegetables such as courgettes, squashes and salads as they may be slotted into any bed. 
Following a system such as this will give your crops a healthier and more productive outcome.

On behalf of all the Committee, I’d like to wish you an excellent year in 2023!

Best wishes

Claire Hamilton
SPAA Secretary