Sunday, 28 February 2010

Thank you litter pickers

This was our guiding slogan this Saturday as around 20 people valiantly cleared the Scarcroft site of litter.  This year's collection turned up less drug paraphernalia than in previous years but we did find half a bicycle along with an impressive range of spirit bottles and my personal favourite, plastic bags full of dog crap. (Why bother to bag it if you just going to lob it into the hedge?).  We also did a little bit of hedge trimming just to stop the brambles hitting folk in the face as they walk through.  By the end the site looked lovely.  If you see anyone littering feel to beat them up (joke!).

Thank you to everyone that gave up a few hours this Saturday.
(Thanks to Graham for the photo taken on his recent holiday to Kerala).

No Dig Gardening

Sara Robin thought that the following website may interest our readers.  It explains how to and the benefits of No Dig Gardening.  There is too much detail to copy out here, so please click on the link to the website.

Charles Dowding - No Dig Gardening

Friday, 26 February 2010

Bird box success

8 bird boxes have been put up on Scarcroft Site.  They were all bought with the proceeds of money raised through dawn chorus bird walks.  These bird boxes are cleared out each year.  We are happy to announce that 7 of the eight boxes were used in 2009.

Endangered birds spotted on Scarcroft Site

6 types of threatened birds have been spotted on the Scarcroft Site this year.  The most threatened are the House Sparrow, Song Thrush and Starling.   The UK's birds can be split in to three categories of conservation importance - red, amber and green.  These 3 types of birds are all on the RSPBs red list. We also have Dunnocks, Bullfinches and Mislte Thrushes which on the amber list.
Red is the highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action. Amber is the next most critical group, followed by green.

Red list criteria
  • Globally threatened
  • Historical population decline in UK during 1800–1995
  • Severe (at least 50%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years, or longer-term period (the entire period used for assessments since the first BoCC review, starting in 1969).
  • Severe (at least 50%) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years, or the longer-term period

Amber list criteria
  • Species with unfavourable conservation status in Europe (SPEC = Species of European Conservation Concern)
  • Historical population decline during 1800–1995, but recovering; population size has more than doubled over last 25 years
  • Moderate (25-49%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years, or the longer-term period
  • Moderate (25-49%) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years, or the longer-term period
  • Moderate (25-49%) decline in UK non-breeding population over last 25 years, or the longer-term period
  • Rare breeder; 1–300 breeding pairs in UK
  • Rare non-breeders; less than 900 individuals
  • Localised; at least 50% of UK breeding or non-breeding population in 10 or fewer sites, but not applied to rare breeders or non-breeders
  • Internationally important; at least 20% of European breeding or non-breeding population in UK (NW European and East Atlantic Flyway populations used for non-breeding wildfowl and waders respectively)

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Scarcroft Site Care Day - Saturday 27th

The  Scarcroft Site Care Day will be on Saturday 27th February from 2pm until 4pm.  Tea and biscuits will be available in the shop afterwards.  Please meet at the hut at 2pm to pick up your equipment and to see where to go first.

Please bring gloves, secateurs, loppers, an old trowel and warm clothes.  Bags and litter pickers will be provided.

There will not be a shredder this year so please DO NOT pile up the hedge cuttings from your plot in the centre of the site (the triangle) or near the shop.  Please either burn or compost these cuttings or wait for the next skip.
Sara Robin and I are walking the site on Friday 26th to assess what needs to be done, if you have anything you want to bring to our attention before then please let us know on the usual e-mail address

Thanks and see you there.

Caroline Bush

Got any skills you want to share?

Do you have any great allotment related skills you would like to share?  Are you an expert pruner?  Can you build compost bays or cold frames from bits and pieces salvaged from skips?  Can you mend old mowers and strimmers?  Do you have bulging biceps and a strong back?  Do you have a hedge trimmer or lawn mower or a cultivator?  If so you may be able to help your fellow allotmenteers (not necessarily for free).  Over the years we have been asked in the shop if we know someone who can help with allsorts of allotment tasks.  Sometimes this is because the person does not have the time, sometimes they don't have the skills and sometimes it's because of failing health.  

We would like to set up an informal directory of people with different skills.  Some things they may do for you for free, or in exchange for help on their plot or in exchange for produce and some things they may charge you for.  This would be something that you would need to sort out with them i.e. if want to get help trimming your privet hedge they might lend you the equipment, or do it for you, or supervise you doing it, you might pay them or give them a bag of potatoes later in the year.  In some cases you may just one person to help you, in other cases you might need a team.  To offer help you don't need to be a plotholder but you do need to be a member of the association, so if you are sitting on the waiting list and fancy a change to work up a sweat digging one Saturday afternoon, drop us your details.

Also if you have something you need help with, please don't hesitate to post a request on this blog.  All you need to do is to be a paid up member of the association, and contact and we will give you the password details and instructions so that you can post a blog.  Alternatively if you think posting up sounds too complicated for you just let us know what you are after and we will post your message up for you.

So to get or offer help please contact the association on

Do you have a spare corner?

Two association members recently approached the committee members working in the shop to ask if any current Scarcroft plot holders might have a spare corner or bed that they are not using on their plot which they wouldn't mind this young couple gardening. This couple already have access to a bed on a friend's allotment, equivalent in size to a quarter plot.  They are gardening this bed conscientiously and productively.  They would now like access to a little more space.

This is a controversial request.  If a plot holder is having difficulty maintaining thier full plot, City of York Council wants them to give up their plot or at least half of it to the next person on the waiting list, which is currently around 50 people long on Scarcroft.  The Association would also prefer this to be the first course of action.  However, we are also aware that this does not always happen in practice and the issue is not clear cut.  Some plotholders are nervous that if they give up half their plot, the people who take it on will not look after it properly and then their plot will suffer from encroaching weeds from the adjacent neglected plot.  Also they can prefer to just share it with or loan it to a friend, thereby retaining some control over the area and who gardens with or near them.  In some cases the official tennant hasn't actually gardened the plot for some years but has unofficially passed it on to a friend (this is outside the council rules).  In other cases friends share a plot and both of them share the tenancy and then after a period of time the tenancy transfers from one individual to another without the plot ever being offered to the waiting list (this is legitimate and well within the council rules).  Sometimes keen plotholders like to help out their neighbours who are struggling and therefore incrementally (and without particular intent) end up gardening more than thier own original plot on a permanent basis.

Of course, when any of these things happen it is not very fair on all those people waiting patiently on the list and allotment access just becomes an issue of who you know.

So.......let's put it this way.  If you have a small corner you would like to give over to this couple to look after, either temporarily or for the longer term, please contact us at and we will put you in touch with them.  However, if you are struggling with your plot more significantly or have half a plot which you are not cultivating please consider contacting the council on and giving it up to all those patient souls hoping to get the chance to give allotment gardening a go.

I would be really interested to know your opinions on this issue, which might engender strong opinions, so please feel free to comment, using the comment tool below.  You can do so using your name or anonymously.  It is not my intention to offend or point the finger at anyone.

Caroline Bush

Woodchips delivery - 50p a barrow

There has been a delivery of woodchips to the Scarcroft Site, in the shop carpark.  It is 50p a barrow load, which is great value, especially considering the convenience of having it delivered to the site.  Please pay in the shop.  If the shop is closed please put the money through the letter box on the front, ideally with a little note saying who it is from and what it's for, even better if you can put your plot number on it.  If you don't have a pen and paper to hand don't worry, just getting payment is the important thing.  The association does not get these deliveries for free so if you take it without paying then the shop loses money, and as you all know it is a not for profit organisation run by volunteers.

Next weekend we will be using some of the lower quality chippings, which is mostly conifer clippings, on the paths around the site as part of the Scarcroft Site Care Day.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Hospital Field Site Care Day

The folk at Hospital Field are such tidy souls that their site care day has been cancelled.  In preparation for the planned event, both Chris and Mike had a look round the site so see if anything needed to be done or if there were any particular problems with litter.  They thought there wasn't enough to warrant an organised event.  So you can put away your extra thick rubber gloves and your black plastic bags and sit back in the comfortable knowledge that Hospital Field is a paragon of cleanliness.  If you still have a burning desire to put your telescopic litter pickers or loppers to the test please feel free to join in on the Scarcroft Site Care day, between 1 and 4 on Saturday the 27th.  I think we can be fairly sure that Scarcroft won't be winning any awards for lack of litter, or for that matter dog mess, any day soon.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Seed Potato Delivery

We are expecting the seed potatoes to be delivered by this week so they will be available from the shop on Saturday.
The varieties we have on sale will be:
Extra Early Rocket, Lady Christl £1-10 per kg
First Early Arran Pilot, Pentland Javelin, Red Duke of York £1-10, Epicure £1-30 per kg
Second Early Maris Peer, Wilja, Kestrel, Charlotte £1-10 per kg
Maincrop Maris Piper, Desiree, Cara, Sante £1-10, Pink Fir Apple £1-25 per kg
If you have already ordered your potatoes we will keep them to one side for you until you can pick them up.


Sunday, 7 February 2010

Bulk buying timber and chicken wire

An association member from the Hob Moor site recently suggested that it would be useful if the association shop could bulk buy timber and wire netting for plotholders.  She recently created raised beds on her plot and had to buy a lot of timber to do so.  She also had to rabbit proof her plot using wire netting as rabbits are a particular problem for Hob Moor allotmenteers.  Bulk buying these kind of items sounds like a good idea to us, so if you are thinking of carrying out any similar projects and would be interested in using the purchasing power of the association to get a better deal please will you let us know either by commenting on this post by clicking on the 'comment' button below or by emailing us at  If there is sufficient interest we will look into brokering a deal with local suppliers to get the best deal possible.  We'll keep you posted.

Dig This! Winter / Spring 2010

Have you received your Winter/Spring edition of our association newsletter Dig This! yet?  It will either be in your in-box (singing and dancing colour version) or you will have recieved it through the post (old school black and white).

It includes information about our upcoming events and a great peice by Sara Robin on green manure.  Dig This! is principally written and prepared by our chairman Graham Sanderson.   It goes out 2 or 3 times a year and is the only info that non email members get.  If you haven't got your copy yet drop us an email and we will send you a copy or if you want a hard copy there are some spares available in the shop.

Another good edition, thank you Graham.

Council Allotment Newsletter

City of York Council recently sent out a newsletter to their allotment tenants.  It is a really good edition and has information on the letters that get sent out to under cultivated plots, allotment jobs that can be done over the winter, the policy of offering half plots,  facilities for those who have difficulty gardening, plotholders responsibilites for their hedges and fences, advice on bonfires, information on what seeds can be kept and which should be thrown out, where you can get seeds from and rules regarding sheds and structures.  So as you can see it covers a lot.  Now we know that some of our members garden plots which they are not the official tennant for, either because they share it with friends or have inherited it or are helping someone out.  Anyway this means that some people who are actually gardening the allotments may not have recieved a copy of the newsletter even though it contains a lot of information that will be relevant to them.  So if that applies to you and you would like a copy please e-mail us at and we will email you the electronic version.

2010 member benefits

Annual membership of Scarcroft and District Allotment Association is £2.50. This year we have added a whole range of new benefits to being a member but have not put the price up.  Benefits of being a member include:
  • being able to use the allotment shop which sells seed potatoes, onion and shallot sets, peas and beans, packeted seeds, vegetable plants, composts, netting, ground cover, fleece, fertilisers, soil improvers, manure, chippings, bird seed and much more
  • discounts on a very wide selection of pre-ordered packeted Mr Fothergills seeds (up to 35% on their specific list, with all other veg seeds from their catalogue at 10% discount)
  • a copy of the association newsletter Dig This
  • access to allotment advice, help or support through the shop
  • free fruit and veg glut share
  • invitation to association social events
  • invitation to the AGM and associated talk
  • invitation to community events like Dawn Chorus Walk and Site Care Days
  • invitation to fruit and veg growing skills demonstrations
  • access to the tool library in the allotment shop
  • ability to put your photos, comments, news, drawings, articles, recipes or general musings on this blog
  • a strong voice to the council and local police representing your allotment needs and opinions
  • 10% discount at Pextons and Deans Garden Centre on production of your membership card (see 15th Jan post for more detailsabout Pexton's discount and 10th Jan post for Dean's discount)
  • affiliated membership of the Royal Horticultural Society (see 9th Jan post for more details)

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Laura’s pruning demo – ‘Blimmin’ great!’

Around 15 people braved the low temperatures and the threat of frozen toes to attend Laura Potts’ pruning demonstration last Sunday. The folks who attended described the talk as ‘excellent’ and Laura as ‘very knowledgeable’. Laura, fresh from 6 hours pruning at Beningbrough Hall, gave a highly informative and interesting demonstration on pruning. She started on her own plot showing the bushes she had cut back last November and describing the shapes and goals a pruner should be trying to achieve. She then moved on to David’s plot where the majority of the demo took place and the pruning students were let loose.
Here Laura demonstrated her pearls of wisdom – pruning gooseberries into a goblet shape to try to prevent downy mildew by letting light and air in. She explained the principles of removing dead, diseased, damaged or crossing branches.  She showed the crowd how blackcurrants fruit mainly on the previous year's growth and the aim when pruning them is to remove about a quarter of the old branches right down to the ground, each year, to maintain vigour and productivity.   She also explained how redcurrants need different treatment as they, like gooseberries, fruit on the current season's growth, so each lateral can be cut back between a third and a quarter and weaker stems can be cut back even harder.
All those who had come armed with secateurs (well, at least those brave enough not to hide theirs in their pockets and pretend they had left them at home) were encouraged to give it a go and chopping began with abandon. (Sorry David, but if you will go away for the weekend.....).

Laura also covered the importance of a decent pair of long handled loppers and how to keep your tools sharp using a whetstone. The assembled throng then bombarbed her with lots of additional questions about all manner of other soft fruit and their needs, which she answered with ease.

One attendee, Iris Wells, afterwards commented 'I very much appreciated Laura's clear instructions. Looking at my gardening books, on returning home, it all made sense at last! It was so beneficial to have practical instruction.'
Overall, a thoroughly rewarding and educational event. Thank you Laura Potts.
(photos by Heather Dawe and Caroline Bush)