Sunday 29 September 2019

Bonfires on Allotments are a contentious issue

Bonfires on Allotments are a contentious issue, what with smoke and global warming, and residential neighbours that will blame allotments for the smoke even when it’s actually coming from a fire in their neighbours back garden four doors away, however they are a necessary evil on an allotment plot.

Some weeds can be composted, however fire is the main way of dealing with Perennial weeds, like couch, dock and hogweed or spiky thorny stuff like holly, hawthorn and brambles, and tree branches that too thick for the shredder. There are no Allotment Sites in the borough that I’m aware of that are lucky enough to have electricity to power a shredder.

The traditional advice for the  control of infected or diseased material like Potatoes or Tomato when blight hits is that it should be burnt burned rather than composted.

Having allotment fires produce a valuable by-product a natural fertiliser,  wood ash which is an excellent source of lime substitute and potassium or potash (they’re not identical but - scientists look away now - the terms are often used interchangeably), and potassium is a vital nutrient for crops, and also provides many of the trace elements that plants need to thrive. Wood ash fertilizer is best used either lightly scattered or by first being composted along with the rest of your compost.

The biggest problem with Allotment Bonfires especially with new owner who take over late in the year is that they don’t allow the material they have cleared from the site to dry out before attempting to burn it.

This is a photo from 2012 when I first took over my plot at Mill Green and I built pallet boxes to lift the material off the ground and allow the air to dry out the weeds, timber and branches of the trees that I had removed, and It took a great many nights to burn and get rid of it all but the fires took place a couple of hours before dusk in two incinerators and we stayed until the fires went out

With my second plot in 2015 the amount of clearance required that needed burning was much less and this time I built a fire on top of pallets and covered with a tarp to keep dry when I was not on site and removed the covering to allow the material to dry when I was on site and I managed to burn and get rid of everything in one go.

On Mill Green I have a couple who took over their plot that had not been worked by the previous owner and was left a terrible state. Neither of them drive or own a car and they got a friend with a van to assist them only to find out that the rules had changed and that they needed to book a van in at the local dump and only managed to get one load to the dump. Burning was their alternative but again they heeded advice and ensured that what they were burning was dry. Lack of resources to get rid of rubbish off a plot is another reason for allowing fires.

So with the impending total ban on fires on allotments that is already drafted in the and a decision appears to have been made without consultation with the draft strategy document without directly consulting the 2500 London Borough of Sutton plot holders I decided to undertake a survey of my own and simply asked the 55,000 members of four of the most popular Allotment and gardening forums on the internet what were the rules with regards having Bonfires on their allotments and here is the range of results I have received from 225 comments over a three day period.

I have listed them in semi order of restriction with Fires Allowed at any time at the top and a Total Ban at the bottom of the list.
  • Fires allowed anytime all year
  • Burn any day as long as there is no Pigeon Racing
  • Fires allowed anytime all year but not more than 3 on the site at any one time
  • All year as long as early in the morning or late at night
  • Open fires not allowed only using an incinerator all year round
  • Communal Area for Fire Committee light the fire on a Thursday Night after 6pm
  • Fires allowed on one day every month
  • Site size Incinerator with flue controlled by committee
  • Sundays Only
  • Fires only from 1st October to the end of March -  A Sensible Compromise common and what has been in place within the London Borough of Sutton for some time 
  • Fires Only from 1st November to the end of March after 6pm
  • Fires Only from 1st November to the end of March after 6pm on a Wednesday or a Saturday
  • Fires only from 1st October to the end of March but only using an incinerator
  • Bonfires only allowed in November & March (The end and the start of the growing season)
  • Bonfires only allowed from the 1st November until the end of February after 6pm
  • Bonfires only allowed one weekend in November and One weekend in March after 6pm
  • Two weeks, one either side of the 5th November
  • Bonfire Night Week in November
  • Bonfire Night or the nearest Saturday
  • Bonfire Night only
  • 2 Specific Burn Days a year in November & March
  • Banned on the site but Owner now provides a skip for green waste only
  • Fires Banned on the site

Where fires are allowed here are some of the restrictions 
  • Incinerators Only No Open Fires 
  • Dry materials Only
  • Open Fires only between 1st November – end of March / Incinerator only between 1st April and End of October 
  • Have to be attended
  • A communal fire once a month
  • Allowed from an Hour before dusk
  • Allowed 2 hours before dusk
  • No fires on a Sunday
  • Not allowed at weekends and Bank Holidays
  • We have to ring the local fire service to inform them we are having a fire on the site
  • After 6pm
  • Wind Sock on site and not allowed when active or pointing towards housing
  • No more than 3 fires on the site at any one time
  • Fire Pit Area Only no individual fires

Source of the list above was from 255 comments during a 3 day period to a survey question on

My hope is that the Gardening group and all the Site Reps will be able to meet with the Suttons Parks team and find a solution that allows for fires to continue to take place on allotments and also reduce the amount of complaints from neighbouring domestic property owners. 

That being said it is a pain when you are on a plot and are having problems with smoke from fires from their back gardens during the period between 1st April and the end of September when you are not allowed them on the other side of the fence!.  #justsaying  

Allotment Growers UK – 30,545 members
The Allotment Shed – 20,089 members
Allotment & Garden Club Mind Your Peas and Cues – 4,109 members
Grow Your Own Magazine – Grapevine – membership numbers unknown.

Saturday 28 September 2019

Butternut Squash Harvested & Plot Tour

Looking at the weather forecast it going to be dry this morning but rain on Sunday and with my good lady wife and daughter going to pick up the wedding dresses I decided to swop days this weekend 

Butternut Squash on shoe racks in the shed 

I Spy With My Little Eye a small Kiwano with a larger one behind!

Two Apple Acidic Compost making Daleks filled to the brim, one bucket's worth waiting for space, One Dalek filled to the top and a second nearly there when I ran out of time. I went home with a number of Mini White Cucumbers and some nice long Green Cucumbers.  

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Bonfires on Allotments

Just before the annual gardening group meeting one of the Site Reps became aware of the draft Parks and Open Spaces Strategy for 2019 – 2026 in which Policy P22 had been added which states 

“From 1st January 2020 fires of any kind will no longer be allowed on the council allotment sites. Failure to abide by this policy will result in termination of the allotment agreement of any plot holder found having a fire on the site. This Policy supersedes the guidance in version 6 -2018 of the Allotment gardeners Guide. “

The assembled Site Reps brought this matter up under any other business, as

1) There had been no discussion / consultation with the site reps and the 2500 or more plot holders in the borough regarding the possible change in policy.

2) The on line consultation period had expired, it has been reopened following our complaint however there are no specific questions in relation to Fires on Allotments so we are still not being consulted.

3) The Policy states “fires of any kind” thus could be taken as including those for brewing tea of coffee, and BBQ’s and as written the policy is unclear.

The whole concept of the Gardening Group Meeting is for the consultation and discussion of these matters and at a previous meeting a few years ago it was agreed that bonfires would not be allowed between the 1st April to the 30th September.

This allows for the burning of wood, weeds that cannot be composed and tomato and potato blighted foliage and the production of wood ash that is a valuable source of fertiliser and alternative for lime, It also allowed new plot holders taking over new plot to burn the weeds and timber debris they inherited on a vacant plot between October and the end of March.

During this time of year it gets darker earlier and there are not as many neighbours with their windows open. With Bonfire night in November it allows for the drying of weeds and cleared vegetation in October and the burning on the 5th November.

With thirty six allotment sites with over 2,500 plot holders we are a significant group within the borough and should be consulted on this issue. There are many things that can be done to reduce any complaints regarding bonfires and stove fires on allotment sites causing nuisance, we have not had the opportunity to explore and discuss these.

I would suggest that as many of us write to our local councillors as possible, stressing how difficult this is going to make things for us, and the fact that we have not been consulted at all on the change, particularly that we have not been given the opportunity to work out a compromise to alleviate the problem. You can find out who your local Councillor by putting in your post code in this link 

Your Neighbourhood Manager can be found here

Dig For Victory

Saturday 21 September 2019

Boundaries and Kerb Stones

Saturday 21st September 2019 and its been another nice hot and sunny day with temperatures of 21C  - 22C. I took the hand mower to the main path as it had grown a few inches following being cut by idverde and the path between my plots 1 & 1A and 2 & 2A were very overgrown.

I decided to bite the bullet and install the kerb edgings along my side of the paths, so I strimmed and used my 175mm (7") 75mm 3" Diameter Power Planter auger to cut into the hard dry clay to form the base trench for the kerb stones. It wound the bind weed up and I placed the auger in the bucket and reversed the direction off the drill and spun out the bindweed. It would have taken me much longer if I had to trench by hand, the Power Planter is a god send. 

When I get around to doing the front of the plot on the main path I will video just how fast the Power Planter makes putting in these kerb edgings. 

The weather has been so hot and dry this year that the T&G Cladding on the shed is not coping very well and once these come apart they don't tend to re engage. It looks like I will have some more sealing from the inside to stop the weather getting in to do.

The gaps that I filled in a few weeks ago in the middle photo have opened up even more 

Sunday 15 September 2019

Apple Acidic Compost

There are two Apple trees in the back garden; they are cookers and very acidic so much so that if your hand turn black as you peel them. We did try making apple crumble with them when we first moved in but you had to add so much sugar it was unreal.

The trees have grown massive after a pollarding a couple of years ago and are full of fruit. As a result I’m taking about 12 buckets with lids worth of apples down and putting into specific Daleks to make acidic compost a week from the wind falls. At the moment I now have three Daleks full to the brim and it smells like a brewery in that part of the plot.

Another six potatoes in buckets were sorted out, cucumber and runner beans were harvested this Sunday. 24C in direct sunlight mid Setember it's just crazy. It was not long before I retreated to the shed and had a sort out and a nice cool drink. 

Saturday 14 September 2019

It's Not A Shed it's A Beach Hut

When your Daughter is getting married and has a Seaside and Beach themed reception and says "Dad I need a Beech Hut Letter Box made for the wedding!" 

A visit to the timber bone yard on the allotment for roofing batten and to Melvin Clarks for a sheet of hardboard, A search for your staple gun, Ryobi circular saw, hand saw and the white undercoat & paint brush and in a couple of hours you have knocked up a base (not in the photo) and the start of a Beach Hut Letter Box, and given it the first undercoat.   

Roof Gets First Coat Of Black

Walls Get First Coat Of Blue 

Base and Sand Castles awaiting their flags but Blue Strips need another coat.  

Thursday 12 September 2019


Not my Carrots, gifted by my sister-in-law Pauline who has a glut this year. There were many more but by the time they were distributed to family and friends there were enough for the wife and I. That's what I love about plot holders, if you have a bad year for something there is always someone who has had a great year and is willing to share there good fortune.    

Washed peeled and sliced and blanched then off to the containers for freezing  

It has to be said I should have froze them on a tray before putting in the containers as they have all stuck together. Next year I will not try and cut corners of the process 

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Seed Saving Cucumbers Mini Whites

Not a good year for tomatoes this year but to quote Bill & Ted 

"A most excellent and bodacous year for the humble cucumber". 

The Mini Whites that I got in a seed swap some time ago have been prolific and they are so yummy. I have not found a person I have given some too who has not liked them, in fact my neighbours daughter wanted to know if I had given him any more as she wanted to relieve him of them if I had.  

Seeds cut from the middle of the cucumber when I chopped it up for a salad and left in water like tomato seeds. now washed off sieved and laid out on the plastic lids from KP Nut tins and left to dry out next to the airbrick above the tall fridge freezer in the kitchen before bagging up and putting away in small ziplok bags in one of my seed boxes, ready for next year. 

Sunday 8 September 2019

Marshalls Alliance Sweetcorn

This years crazy seesaw of rain and very hot and warm weather made the corn grow high and on the 4th August the pollen tassel at the top where there before the fruit or ears of corns have even formed on the stalk. I was not not holding my breath for a good result from this new variety from  Marshalls Alliance Sweetcorn and stated that I will have to wait and see what happens. Out of nowhere the cobs started to form and I've been keeping an eye on the corn for the tassels to turn brown and for any sign of attack from animals.

This Sunday the tassels had turned brown so I tested for ripeness by peeling back the outer husks and pushing my fingernail into the cob. If a milky solution comes out, then the cob is ready to pick, but if the liquid is clear, leave it a little longer. The liquid was nice and milky so I harvested the lot. 

I put them all in a trugg and decided to strip as many back as possible. I used my cheap supermarket Secateurs for the first few and the nut started to come undone so I got my new Spear & Jackson Kew Gardens Razorsharp 6659KEW Heavy Duty Bypass Secateurs. What a joy to use they are, and they come with a 10 year Guarantee. 

I still have at least half of the stalks to cut up for the Daleks when I next visit. I exposed three nice sized marrows that I had planted in the sweetcorn bed, and found a number of Butternut Squash and a couple of pumpkins when cleaning the paths and cutting the invading vegetation back. 

It has to be said this variety of sweetcorn lived up to the description on the Marshalls Web site and the husk stripped very easily, and before I know it I had two mushroom trays of stripped corn ready to be topped and tailed and bagged for the freezer.

As you can see I really didn't need to worry about the pollination and the slowness of the cobs to form. A third of the harvest went with my eldest daughter a third for my youngest and the remaining third is now awaiting cooking in the freezer. 

Marshalls Sweetcorn Alliance Seeds 
Marshalls Sweetcorn Alliance Plants 

Tuesday 3 September 2019

Secateurs Arrive

Spear & Jackson Kew Gardens Razorsharp 6659KEW 

Heavy Duty Bypass Secateurs

My competition win arrived today and I had to look on line to see what they are worth. They have a RRP of £34.99 and Amazon are selling them for £20.43 and on ebay someone is selling them at £14.99 that is a huge drop from the RRP. 

As always it pays to shop around but in my case I got these for my favourite price of FREE
After all the cheap £2 from Tesco & ASDA Secateurs I have bought at the end of season sales It's going to be nice having a quality pair to play with and add to the other better quality hand tools I'm gradually gathering.