Free property marking event

Garden equipment

Free property marking at York Council West Offices.

Your local neighbourhood police team will be at York Council West Offices on the 12th September 2023 from 1000hrs – 1300hrs with their property marking kit. 

They will be marking bikes, laptops, phones, sports equipment and any other property, as well as offering crime prevention advice.

Come and meet the team and have a chat with them about any issues in your area.

Your best plot

Red clover

As we harvest our precious crops, it’s a good time to appraise what worked and what didn’t, what you’ve really enjoyed eating and what was less popular – and what you’re coveting on your neighbours’ plots. What did you have too much of? What did you not have enough of? And so we can begin to plan for the next season, in a spirit of gratitude and with good intentions. Some plot holders put a lot of effort into the recent YACIO competition for ‘best plot’, which was judged on objective criteria; but what would your own ‘best’ be like, regardless of any competition or comparison? What do you want to enjoy cultivating and eating next year? It could be good to start keeping an allotment diary if you don’t already do that, with details of what grew where so you can rotate crops according to their grouping as well. Maybe you could illustrate it too, with sketches of crops and harvests, insects and birds…..

There might be more perennial crops you could try: there are some perennial kales, there’s asparagus (although it takes a lot of space and a lot of time to establish for a brief if delicious crop), Jerusalem and globe artichokes, Welsh onions, and of course many kinds of fruit bushes and trees. Or there might be different salad crops to try – and for winter it’s worth sowing lamb’s lettuce, purslane, chervil, endives, mizuma, land cress and rocket right now so you’ve got plenty of fresh greens to nourish you through the darker colder times. And how are your herbs looking? They’re such a beneficial addition to cooking as well as providing ready home medicine. You might collect some elder berries and make a tincture to take as a hot toddy against viral infection. You might think to grow some chamomile and lemon balm for their soothing qualities, some hyssop to attract late pollinators, or some tansy to support the endangered tansy beetle which have a home along our riverbanks, and is great as a flea deterrent when rubbed on your pets’ fur.

It’s also a good time to propagate and replant your strawberries; they will be sending out runners now – long stems with baby plants on the end, which will root readily if you take the time to plant them out and start a new bed for them. Autumn raspberries are much more reliable for fruit than the summer ones, so it’s worth finding the space for the canes as a late season treat, which can continue right through to the first frosts. There’s still time to sown green manures – soon it will be too late to get good germination. So as you clear beds of crops, don’t leave them bare with exposed soil. Choose a green manure like crimson clover or phacelia for its beautiful flowers as well as its benefits to the soil, or tares or mustard for a quick cover crop you can compost later in the year. And remember that if you miss getting them sown in time, your soil will still benefit from being covered with cardboard to keep weeds down and to keep the soil moist. Make sure you anchor it down so it doesn’t blow away in the equinoctial gales!

Waste not, want not


And so the year comes round to Lammas, the festival of harvest, the time of abundance and the realisation of plans and seeds sown and grown (on your land, in your life…). Hopefully, a time for gathering with friends and feasting on all your bounty. But if you’re going away on holiday, make sure none of your lovely crops go to waste: maybe a neighbour could pick for you, so you don’t come home to massive courgettes and huge stringy beans. Both need to be regularly picked in order to keep producing.

We’ve had a lot of rain this last month for sure. It’s such a valuable resource and one we really shouldn’t be wasting. Even if you haven’t time to get organised just now, make sure you resolve to put some effective rainwater harvesting measures in place on your plot come the autumn. Collect it via guttering and a down pipe from shed or green house rooves, or even install an open walled shelter that can serve that same purpose. Remember how dry it was in June!

If you really have big gluts of fruit or vegetables and you’ve made enough chutneys, jams, pickles, fermentations and cordials to fill your pantry and give away as midwinter presents, then there are many places around the city which will welcome your surplus. Food banks and community cafes and no-waste projects will be glad to see you coming with big bags and baskets of goodies. Some streets have an informal system of putting out unwanted fruit and vegetables (and even books and household things too) on front walls for anyone to help themselves. If that doesn’t happen where you live, maybe you could be the catalyst to get something started. Make sure your produce is enjoyed and appreciated, not going to waste.

Although of course nothing really goes to waste that ends up on your compost heap anyway! It’s always time to be thinking about how to improve your soil and its biome. If you have got any beds coming empty as you harvest, and you’ve nothing more to plant out for later in the season, try sowing some green manures. At this time of year, crimson clover, mustards and phacelia can establish quickly and protect your soil while providing a food source for insects. Another good way to protect your soil from winter erosion, while keeping weeds down too, is to lay down cardboard sheets, so this might be a good time to start collecting and saving boxes from your neighbourhood.

The wet weather tends to encourage fungal problems on fruit so pick plums and gages as they ripen, quickly removing any with brown rot before that can spread to the rest of the crop. Tie in the growth of autumn raspberries against wind and weather, if you haven’t already. And keep picking up fallen apples and pears, eating what is ripe, composting what isn’t. And if you haven’t got fruit trees on your plot, start looking around and asking for samples to taste from neighbours, so you can choose what to plant in the winter. If all else fails, most of our local sites are rich with brambles – don’t let them go to waste either!

Plotlines, written by one of our York allotmenteers, is a twice monthly blog aimed at anyone who would like some guidance about growing on an allotment.

Past present future

Herbs tied ready for drying

There’s a subtle shift in season just now, as you’re probably noticing. As gardeners we’re always looking ahead – mindful living in the present moment doesn’t yield crops for next year! Which isn’t to say that it’s not wonderful to have some moments to sit and enjoy your plot at this point of high summer and productivity; just that we can also be planning for what comes next. It’s always good to keep notes of how your past plans have worked out, or not….as well as plans of the plot beds so you can rotate crops next year.

So as you lift second early potato crops, look ahead and sow some quick maturing brassicas and salads on those fertile beds. If you mulched the potatoes well, the soil will be gorgeous now: soft, moist, rich in organic matter and microbial activity. Chinese cabbages, pak chois, lettuces, land cress, turnips and radishes can all go in now, for green vitality later in the year. The wild rocket you may have been enjoying so far this summer will start to go to seed – which you can save for next year’s crop. But now summer rocket can be sown and those plants should stand through the winter well, going to seed in late spring. All those crops need netting of course, against other hungry species.

On warm dry mornings you can pick herbs to take home to dry. Generally their vigour, essential oils and taste and efficacy is strongest just before flowering. Lemon balm, marjoram, oregano, thyme, tarragon, dill, coriander are all ready for a first cropping now. There are so many uses for herbs, as teas, in cooking and in health promoting tinctures using alcohol or cider vinegar. Hang them in bunches somewhere dry, so maybe from your banisters rather than in the kitchen which might get too hot and steamy. Certainly there will be heat and steam if you’re making jam, chutneys or bottling fruits. Freshness is crucial here: it was found that bottled blackcurrants stored in a dark place for six months had a much higher vitamin c content than so called ‘fresh’ fruit bought from a greengrocer. So however you’re choosing to process, preserve and store your produce, pick it and deal with it within hours.

You could be harvesting your garlic and onions now, setting them to dry on open weave trays or racks or baskets before storing them somewhere cool and dark. It’s easy fun to make a traditional garlic plait which you can hang to impress your friends!

Some summer fruit pruning can be done: as raspberries ripen, cut out the old canes and tie in the new softer greener growth. This helps to reduce pest risk next year. You can stack the canes tidily at the bottom of a hedge to provide invertebrate habitat. It’s also a good time to shorten the new growth of espalier or cordon apples, so energy goes to fruit production not more vegetative growth. The same goes for tomatoes: take off the lower leaves now to let the trusses set well. And spend a bit of time picking up fallen apples and putting them on the compost to deter sawflies from completing their life cycle and getting into your fruit another time.

So still plenty to be doing and planning – but enjoy those quiet reflective moments in the present as well.

Plotlines, written by one of our York allotmenteers, is a twice monthly blog aimed at anyone who would like some guidance about growing on an allotment.

Summer Pruning Course

Organically grown plums

Our next pruning workshop will take place on 2nd September at Low Moor Allotments from 10am-12noon.

The workshop will cover summer pruning trained trees (apple and pear grown as espaliers, cordons, etc) and plums and other stone fruit (plums, cherries etc) whether grown in trained form or as trees

You can book your ticket here: Summer Pruning Course

Tickets are £5 and places are limited.

If you are unable to attend having booked a ticket please do let us know beforehand so your space can be offered to someone else. If you are unable to make this date then further dates may be available later on.

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Live and let live

Scarlet Pimpernel

‘There’s a rat in my compost what am I gonna do?’ as UB40 nearly sang (maybe you’re too young for that reference….). We live surrounded by rats, here, there and everywhere. So that naturally includes allotments. And like all creatures, they’re hungry; they have to feed dozens of baby rats a year, so if you’re putting out bird seed, any that fall to the ground will be a happy rat picnic spread. If you’re using your compost bin to get rid of food waste, you may see more than a fair share of peckish rodents. But be reassured, they’re not going to peck you; they’re much more scared of you than you are of them. Really.

If they’re in your compost then it’s likely far too dry and you should give the heap or the bin a good drenching. They won’t like that cosy home as much then. Nor do they like change, so turn your compost regularly (which should be happening anyway to speed up the effectiveness of the processing), and give the bin a kick or a whack with your spade to scare them off a bit. The only health hazard comes from the extremely low risk of Weil’s Disease from their urine; once the compost is spread on the ground, the soil bacteria (which of course you are encouraging in diverse ways already) will see off any risk. Only resort to poison, safely in a tube or pipe, if you have rats at home. On allotments, we’re never going to get rid of them. Learn to live with them, maybe even learn find them as interesting as your hamster or gerbil in a cage at home.

At this time of year, the so-called weeds may be growing more quickly and luxuriantly than your carefully tended crops. Are they weeds? What is a weed to you? It’s a fine line to draw with regard to weed control: if you remove all the weeds, you leave bare soil which may dry out, compact if you walk on it as well, and offers no food for insects or small birds. If you leave weeds that take a lot of moisture and nourishment from the ground, then they will impoverish your crops. And there’s a whole science of companion planting: marigolds near your tomatoes will help keep aphids away, for instance.

Certainly it’s important to make a distinction between those weeds you don’t want to live with, the perennials – like hedge and field bindweed, dock, horsetails, ground elder, couch grass, creeping buttercup – and those annual weeds that are easily controlled and can be hoed off when there are too many of them. Annual weeds can be pulled or hoed and added to your compost; perennials can be collected in old compost bags and rotted down for a year and then added to the compost. Because they have deep roots they effectively draw up important ground minerals which you can take advantage of. You might also soak them in a tub of rain water for a month or two, and use that strained liquid to feed hungry plants, like tomatoes and squash. But don’t let seed heads get in your brew in case they germinate on contact with the soil.

Learning to love weeds is about an appreciation of wild flowers: calendula, scarlet pimpernel, wall lettuce, oraches, speedwells, feverfew, fumitory, St John’s wort, borage, fat hen, poppies, spurges, clovers, wood avens, plantains, cranesbills, chickweed – and more, and more. You might make a list of what’s on your plot and be surprised at the rich diversity there.

Plotlines, written by one of our York allotmenteers, is a twice monthly blog aimed at anyone who would like some guidance about growing on an allotment.

Hempland Lane Allotment Summer Fair

A busy scene from Hempland Lane Allotment Summer Fair in 2019

Join our annual Summer Fete, with a table top sale of arts, crafts and produce in our community area, ‘Hempland Haven’. All Welcome.

This is a free event for all association members and the local community. Bringing our community together, sharing successes and failures of the season so far along with friendship and laughter over a BBQ and a few drinks!

Tea / Coffee and Cakes are available 10am – 2pm. Ice Creams and Lollies available from 11am

BBQs will be lit at 11.30am, ready to start cooking at 12noon.

BBQ (bring your own items to sizzle, but do not worry if you forget as some can be purchased on the day). Salads, bread rolls, sauces will be provided

See you there and please do not forget to bring something to sizzle, sit on (if you are not comfy on benches) and your favourite tipple!

CASH ONLY EVENT – Only CASH is accepted for the tea / coffee and cake stalls and most of the table top stalls. Supporting various charities on the day. All proceeds raised on the day (inc stall fees), are put back into the maintenance of the allotment site, for the benefit of all who work on the site and walk through it.

Please note that there will be no on-site car parking available, during the event

June drop…

Tomatoes ripening

Are your fruit trees shedding their small fruits now? No need to worry; it’s a phenomenon known as The June Drop, whereby trees do some of a thinning job for you, so that fewer and larger fruits can develop to maturity. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t also thin out apples and pears to the same end. The extent to which you do this will depend on the variety of the tree, its cropping habit, and how effectively you pruned it in the winter.

This can be a time of year when spirits drop too: everything seems a bit much, and the weeds go on growing thick and fast and you can already note crop failures and disappointments. And it seems always to be either too hot or too windy – or even, eventually, too wet. The combination of warm, humid and damp air is a perfect environment for potato blight. This is a really horrible disease, the spores borne on the air, and readily drifting in to York allotment sites from the surrounding industrial agricultural areas where potatoes are grown in huge fields of monoculture. It also affects tomatoes (they are in the same family, solanacae), which is a good reason to grow them under cover in a greenhouse, or even in your back yard at home where there are likely to be fewer spores drifting about. If you suspect you’ve got blight, warn your plot neighbours so they can possibly avert contagion by cutting down potato and tomato foliage (but don’t put it on a compost heap just yet – bag it and let it rot first). There are various web sites which show where blight is by post code, and you can even sign up for an alert system….but that might cause your spirits to drop still further!

So, more cheerily, as we pass the turn of the year at solstice, harvests should be coming well. Your soft fruits will be ripening brightly, attracting every hungry bird in the area as well as yourself, so keep the netting secure. Keep picking the beans and courgettes of course, while they’re young and small, so more are encouraged to mature. Now is a good time to sow crops that bolt (go to seed) all too readily, like Florence fennel and turnips, and some more salad crops if it’s not too hot.

Once crops are finished, it’s time to think about replanting those beds for winter: brassicas do well where beans and peas have been as they benefit from the nitrogen fixed in the soil by the pea and bean family (leguminacae). If you made sowings of winter greens earlier, kales and broccolis and savoy cabbages, they’ll be ready for a move to permanent placings now. You might have leek seedlings ready to plant out too, or you might trade or buy some, and they flourish on the well composted beds you prepared for the first potatoes, which will be ready to lift as soon as their flowers die off. Another pest to cause a drop of the spirits is leek moth, which seems to have arrived this far north a couple of years ago. They have a second brood towards mid July, so it is probably wisest, if tedious, to cover the beds with a mesh protection.

So June is not a time to let your energy drop, but a time of abundance right up to harvest season; enjoy your produce and celebrate summer.