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Handbook

CONTENTS
  Page
 Page
 Allotment History  Gardening Notes 
 National 2 Basics 13
 Alton 2 Compost 15
    The Soil 17
 Town Council Rules for
 Allotments
  Green Manure
  Mulching
  17
  19
 
 

  Bees
  Organic Gardening
 19
  19
 Agreements 3 Gardeners with Special Needs 20
 Rents 3  
 Administration Costs 3  
 Plot Sharing 3   
 Caring for Your Allotment 4
 
 Water 4  
 Trees 5 Reference 
 Sheds/Greenhouses
  Glass
 5
 6
 National Society of Allotment &
  Leisure Gardeners
 21

 Plot Inspections 6 Alton Allotment Association 21
 Alton Allotment Association 7 Site Representatives 22
 Site Maintenance 7 Rents and Costs 23
 Dogs 7 AAA Discount Suppliers 24
  Bees 8 Contacting the Council 25
 Children 8  Information Sources  25
 Bonfires 8  Seeds  25
  Security 8  Books  26
  Waiting Lists 8  Seed Germination  26
 Allotment Working Party 9  
    
  Your Plot/Allotment Site  Appendices 
  General 10 ATC Strategy for Allotments 28
  Getting a Plot 10 Site Locations 30
 Giving up 11  
  Site Maintenance 11  
  Communal Sheds 11  
  Financial Aspects of
  Allotment Gardening
 12
 
  


Allotment History – National


The English allotment had its heyday during the Second World War when the government’s Dig for Victory campaign persuaded people to beat fresh fruit and vegetable shortages by growing their own.  As townspeople went back to the land to feed their families, the number of allotments soared to over a million.  These small areas of land reserved for urban farming go back further than this though.  The Allotment Act of 1887 meant that local authorities were obliged to provide allotments if there was a demand – and they have played a part in English life ever since.  The number of allotments fell dramatically after the end of the war in 1945, but recent years have seen a surge in interest, as people look for ways of growing cheap organic food and an escape from the stresses of modern life.

 


Allotment History – Alton

 

If you talk to an Alton old-timer he or she will tell you that there were once allotments where most of the houses built in the last fifty years or so now stand.  Alton must have been full of very active gardeners.  As recently as the 1960s the Ordnance Survey maps showed nine allotment sites in Alton.  Just as elsewhere, demand fell off as we all became more wealthy.  There are now just four separate sites: Borovere, Whitedown, Spitalfields/Wooteys and Hawthorn.  A few years ago there were vacancies, but with improved maintenance and greater interest in gardening, there are now waiting lists.



Alton Town Council Rules for Allotments

 

The allotment agreement is between the council and you, the tenant.  When you sign your agreement you are agreeing to take on a yearly tenancy and to look after your plot and allotment site.  You are agreeing to abide by the conditions in the agreement.

 


Rents

 

Rents run from January to December and are reviewed annually.  The full current year’s rent will be charged for plots taken from 1st September, but will be considered to include the rent for the plot for the following year.

 

The council provides and subsidises allotments for the residents of Alton.  Given the  pressure of the waiting lists gardeners from outside of Alton are not permitted to place their names on the waiting lists but are encouraged to speak to their local parish council to see if allotments are/or can be provided in their village.

 


Administration Costs

 

In addition to the rent, all new tenants will be required to pay a one-off amount equivalent to one year’s rent.  New tenants will also pay £5 for a site key, which will be bought back by the council when the key is returned by the tenant at the end of their tenancy.



Plot Sharing

 

You may have a private arrangement to share your plot with a friend; however, you will still be the tenant.  The tenant is always responsible for the maintenance of the plot even if he/she chooses to share.  If you decide to give up your plot, you should not pass it onto your friend directly.  Alton Town Council may, in appropriate circumstances, arrange a new agreement with your friend.



Caring For Your Allotment


The main requirement of your agreement is to keep your plot tidy by removing litter and rubbish, and controlling weeds regularly so they do not seed and cause problems for other gardeners.  If you cannot manage to cultivate your entire plot, it is acceptable, as a temporary measure only, to use mulch matting or heavy-duty plastic decently secured.  After use, the tenant must remove such mulch material from the site.  Do not use rubber-backed carpet as the backing may rot down releasing harmful chemicals into the soil and causing pollution.  


Tenants should compost all green waste that it is practical to do so.  Tenants are responsible for removing any other waste from their plots – dumping anywhere on the site is very strictly prohibited and will be regarded as putting the tenant in breach of their tenancy agreement.  The council may provide a limited rubbish collection service annually during the winter; notice of the collection will be posted on each site at least one week ahead.

Tenants are responsible for keeping the paths alongside their plots cut and in good order.

 

When spraying, tenants must prevent any drift onto any other plot.  Tenants should minimise the use of chemicals on their plots and ensure that they follow environmentally friendly practices.



Water


Water costs money, so use water from the standpipes carefully (and not at all if there is a hosepipe ban).



Trees

Only dwarf stock fruit trees and fruit bushes are permitted.  Full, standard or vigorous trees will not be permitted.


Sheds

 

Sheds are permitted on plots with prior written permission from the Town Clerk and must comply with the following:

  • Preferred size not more than 4’ x 6’.  Maximum permitted 6’ x 8’
  • Sheds must be professionally manufactured
  • The colour of sheds should be such as to minimise their visual impact
  • Sheds must be maintained in good condition or removed at the tenant’s cost
  • At the end of the tenancy the council will allow the outgoing tenant to leave it on the plot if it is in good condition and if the incoming tenant agrees
  • Sheds must not shade any part of an adjoining plot at any time of day
  • No part of a shed may be less than 12” from the edge of the plot

Non-glass material should be used for doors/windows


Hawthorns site is the exception where no sheds are allowed, but tool chests are permitted.  For guidance, please see a member of the Allotment Association or the Town Council.



Greenhouses

 

Greenhouses of the same sizes (above) are permitted only with plastic panes, with prior written permission of the Town Clerk.  Polytunnels may be permitted depending on the situation.


Hawthorns site is the exception where no greenhouses are allowed.



Glass

 

The council is phasing out the use of glass on allotments and new requests for greenhouses or sheds will be advised to install polycarbonate/plastic panes/windows.  The same will apply to the use of cold frames, etc.


Plot Inspections

 

All plots are inspected regularly during the growing season to ensure that adequate standards of cultivation are maintained.  There is no set style of gardening and a plot is deemed satisfactory so long as it is under control and being used for growing plants, whether vegetables, fruit or flowers, i.e. is under cultivation.  Significant numbers of weeds in seed is one thing that indicates a plot not under control.  Alton Allotment Association representatives accompany the inspection in an advisory role.  Any plots not showing evidence of cultivation by end- June in any year may have the tenancies terminated.  Tenants should let the council know as soon as possible if any special circumstances or difficulties have prevented them from tending their plots.

 


Criteria for assessing plots:

  • Non-cultivation
  • Weeds going to seed
  • Long grass
  • Unkempt plots


The administration procedure for a poor plot is as follows:

  • Letter A – First warning letter requesting tenant to tidy plot.
  • Letter B – Notice to terminate tenancy if plot not up to standard at the following inspection, or at any future inspection within the same or following year.
  • Letter C – Withdrawing notice if plot is up to standard at the following inspection.
  • Letter D – Notice to confirm termination of tenancy if plot is not up to standard at the following inspection.


Alton Allotment Association


The council liaises regularly, and shares information, with the Alton Allotment Association.  The association also shows prospective tenants over vacant plots whenever possible.  A list of site representatives can be found on the site notice boards at the entrance gates.

 

Alton Allotment Association also operates a seed purchase scheme in association with NSALG and King’s Seeds, offering discounts to members.  Details are available from their website or newsletter.



Site Maintenance

 

Subject to satisfactory performance and pricing, the council places an annual contract with the Alton Allotment Association to cut the grass on the main pathways, to cut most of the hedges and to strim vacant plots if necessary.  Rotavation or other preparation work on plots which are about to be re-let may be included.



Dogs


Dogs are permitted onto allotment sites but owners must keep them on a lead; they must be kept on the owner’s plot and prevented from causing any nuisance to other tenants; owners must remove droppings from the site.

 


Bees


Bees may be kept on allotments by suitably qualified persons with special permission (among the requirements for permission are a controlled flight path and adequate insurance).  Note: There are hives situated on Spitalfields/Wooteys (top/college end).


Children


Tenants’ children are welcome on sites, if properly supervised.  Children enjoy visiting the allotments with their parents, especially if they can help or can cultivate a small area themselves.  Many plot holders are happy to chat to interested children, but will be very upset if they are allowed to run around wildly.



Bonfires

 

Bonfires, or fires of any sort, are not permitted.


Security

 

Plot holders are required to ensure that the gates are locked at all times in an effort to minimise theft and vandalism.



Waiting Lists

 

When all plots on a site are let, the council will keep a list of people interested in renting a plot.  When a plot becomes available, it will be offered to the person who has been waiting the longest.



Multiple plots

 

Given the length of the waiting lists, only one plot per household will be allocated.  This only affects new tenancies.



Safety on the Allotments

 

Tenants must ensure that tools, equipment, etc are used and stored carefully to avoid injury to themselves and others.  If chemicals are used, the manufacturers’ directions must be followed.  Water storage containers should remain covered when not in use.



Your Plot and the Allotment Site

 

General

 

Allotments are primarily for food crops.  You can cultivate any fruit, vegetables or herbs you like.  Many people also grow flowers for picking, for encouraging bees, hoverflies, etc or just to cheer up their plot.

 

Plots are separated by a narrow path (or just a line) from one another and so we need to make sure that whatever we do on our plot does not make life more difficult for our neighbours.  If you use sprays, great care is needed to prevent drift, especially as many plot holders garden organically.  Make sure that you do not allow weeds to flower on your plot to prevent seeds being blown around the site.

 

If you have a problem in keeping control of your plot because of illness or other reason, you still have a responsibility to make sure that it is kept under control.  It is usually possible to get someone to do strimming or rotavation for quite a modest charge (ask any member of the allotment association committee).  Looking after the paths around a plot can be a nuisance because of the need to bring equipment on site for just a small area of turf; however, you will probably be able to find someone to mow or strim it for you – but you should expect to pay for this.

 

Allotments provide the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people from all walks of life on a friendly and informal basis.  Advice, seeds, plants and produce are frequently swapped.



Getting a Plot


The town council manages Alton’s allotments and applications for a plot should go to Samatha Brown at the Town Hall (contact details in the reference section of this booklet).  If there are no vacancies, names go on a waiting list and plots are offered to the person at the top of the list as they become available.  A member of the Alton Allotment Committee can usually show an applicant the plot being offered and give advice about allotment gardening in Alton.



Giving up

 

If you decide to give up your plot, please give the council as much notice as possible so that it can be offered to another gardener and there can be a smooth handover.  If you still have some crops you want to harvest but do not want to look after the rest of the plot, you may well be able to reach an agreement with the new tenant.  The new tenant will benefit from getting the plot in good condition and being able to make a start, whilst you will be able to harvest your crops.



Allotment Site Maintenance

 

In the past, the council was unable to maintain the sites to a reasonable standard because of the very high cost of commercial contractors.  In 2000, the association entered into a contract to firstly carry out catch up work and then to do the routine grass and hedge cutting on a regular basis.

 

Maintenance standards are now very good and we hope to keep this up.  The association pays association members to do the work.  Because it has no overhead costs, other than insurance, and  for repairs and a renewals fund, its prices to the council are low.  The result is that the work gets done well at a lower cost than the council has paid in the past.  Everyone gains from this and everyone has a part to play in keeping the allotment sites clean and tidy.

 

If repairs are needed to gates, locks, etc, please tell a member of the Allotment Association Committee, or contact the Council direct.



Financial Aspects of Allotment Gardening

 

If the time taken to run an allotment is taken into account at, say, the minimum wage rate, it is not an economic proposition.  However, the crops from an allotment can make a real difference to a tight budget.  What does it cost to become an allotment gardener?

 

Depending on what you choose starting from scratch can cost around £100-£150 for the basics: fork, spade, hoe, rake, trowel, watering can, seed trays, plant pots, compost, a large bag of Growmore, netting to keep off the pigeons, etc.  Car boot sales can help reduce the cost.  A shed and some power tools would double or triple this.

 

Each year you are likely to spend £40 to £80 on seeds, seed potatoes, onion sets, some young plants, some mature, and of course, your rent.  From time to time you will need to buy new fruit bushes and strawberries to minimise the risk of virus.

 

You will need to spend an absolute minimum of 50 hours in the course of a season on cultivating and harvesting; 100-150 hours is a more realistic figure if you want to get a good range of crops.  Some people spend much more time though, of course, they do spend some of it chatting with other gardeners!  At £7/hour, 100 hours would amount to £700 – if you could be earning instead of gardening.


It is not easy to value the crops because each plot is run differently, but a very rough estimate for a plot worked to provide variety and flavour comes to about £350.



Gardening Notes

 

Basics

 

There are lots of books about gardening (we recommend the Expert series in the section on information sources), however, here are a few general points.

 

Crop rotation

 

If you grow the same vegetables in the same place each year, pests and diseases will increase.  Rotate your crops to make life harder for the pests and to help keep your soil in good condition.  The usual rotation is:

  • Root crops – potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc (no manure the previous autumn/winter)
  • Brassicas – cabbage, sprouts, calabrese, etc (area manured previous autumn/winter)
  • Pod and salad crops – peas, beans, onions, lettuce, etc (area manured previous autumn/winter)

Deep beds

 

These are widely promoted in the gardening press.  They are made about 4 ft wide and as long as you like.  A deep bed should be double dug and lots of manure and/or compost added at both levels.  The bed is then never walked on, all the planting, weeding, etc being done from 2 ft wide paths alongside, and the bed is not dug again for several years.  To make a success of this method you will need to plan your crops quite carefully.  There are plots on every site which are wholly or partly divided into deep beds.  If you want to have a go, seek advice from someone who seems to be dong well with the system.

 

Several years of no-dig are labour saving, promote moisture and nutrient retention and help worms to thrive.  Contrary to popular myth, worms die when cut in two.


Friends and enemies

 

Slow worms, most beetles, ladybirds, centipedes, bees, lacewings, hedgehogs, frogs, toads are all on our side.  There are plenty of enemies, the main ones are slugs (above and below ground), snails, pigeons, aphids, flea beetles, millipedes, wireworm, cabbage and carrot root flies together with diseases such as blight and club root.  Crop rotation and encouragement of friends can make a big difference but each year one crop or another seems to be badly hit on most plots.  If you use sprays, use them very carefully, taking care to avoid drift.  Most people resort to slug bait, but if you do, use only a few pellets at a time – making the ground blue doesn’t help, is expensive and may be harmful to your friends (the packets appear to be designed to let out large quantities at a time; partially blocking the hole or using a different container with a small hole can help).


The manufacturers claim that metaldehyde slug pellets decompose to carbon dioxide and water, and do not get eaten by hedgehogs.  It is probably safe to use very small quantities.


Watering

 

In dry weather some crops do not need watering.  Try to apply a good soaking near the roots occasionally rather than a superficial wetting frequently.  This encourages the roots to go deep in search of the water.  Even lettuce and onion roots can penetrate 15” or so; many crop roots can go down 5 ft-6 ft in the right conditions.

 

If you use a spray on the end of a hose in bright sunshine, much of the water is lost to evaporation.  NB: keeping the leaves of potatoes and tomatoes wet is a good way of encouraging blight.  The best time for watering is very early in the morning; many of us water in the evening because that is more convenient but, of course, this helps the slugs to get around!


Compost

 

Don’t be put off by the experts who make compost sound so complicated.  Basically, there are two alternatives.  Choose the hot method if you are impatient, very energetic and have time on your hands – you will be able to amaze your friends by getting good compost in a matter of weeks.  The books will tell you how.  However, if you are impatient perhaps you should reconsider whether gardening is for you!

 

Most of us leave nature to work alone by using the cold method.  This will yield decent compost in about a year and all you do is pile in all your garden waste as you get it and take out the compost the following year.  Ideally for least effort, you should have two compost heaps putting your waste in each in alternate years.  Most people accept the chore of removing the recent deposits before using the compost below rather than have two heaps.

 

Your compost heap can be simply a heap, or you can buy plastic or timber compost containers, or you can make your own.  You will see many designs around you.  A good size is about 36-39 inches square and 24-26 inches or so high.  That will be big enough to generate some heat when lots of greenery goes in.  Elegance is not required but make sure that your bin is not unsightly and make sure that you have one.

 

All vegetable matter rots down eventually.  How long your compost takes will depend on the design you choose and what you put in it.

 

Do not put meat, fish, or cooked food in the heap: it will rot down alright but will attract rats.  Potato tubers should also be kept out – the dreaded blight can survive in live tissue.  It had been thought that it was OK to compost the tops, but some research now suggests that composting these is also risky.  This advice also applies for blighted tomatoes.  Dandelions, bindweed and couch grass should be killed by drying them out or putting them in a black plastic bag before they go in.

 

Everything else can go in! Some things take a couple of years or so to break down, e.g. raspberry canes and the woody stalks of cabbages, sprouts, etc.  Your choices are to take them away (a nuisance and loss of potential humus); to be patient; or to smash up the cabbage stalks and leave the canes in a separate heap for a year before composting them.  Old fruit bushes take much too long and are best taken to the council tip for their green waste system to deal with!

 

Paper and cardboard make good compost because they contain lots of fibre (printing inks are not a problem).  The downside is that they need to be torn up and crumpled first and, for most of us, that’s too much extra effort and time!  If you can get shredded paper from an office, that would take the work out of using paper.


A two or three inch layer of grass cuttings helps the process (it goes mushy if you put too much in without some drier, more fibrous stuff).


The Soil


Besides the friendly worms, each spoonful of soil contains a host of micro-organisms which are essential for plant growth plus a few enemies such as wireworms and millipedes (NB centipedes are on our side!).


To get good crops out, you must put in plenty of humus and plant food.  The traditional, best and cheapest way is farmyard manure.  Someone on your site arranges for deliveries from a local farmer during the autumn/winter and you should get on their list.  If you can’t find anyone, then perhaps you should take on the job for your neighbours.

 

Other ways of improving your soil include: mushroom compost; Pro-Grow which is made for the council from green waste (much cheaper in bulk if enough people group together to buy it or you have a trailer); commercial soil conditions (usually composted bark) and, of course, your own compost (excellent stuff but you are unlikely to be able to make as much as you would like).

 

Keeping a cover of vegetation on your plot will help to prevent loss of soil nutrients, especially during the winter – see the note on green manure.

 

Green Manure

 

Green manure has a similar use to the more usual animal manure.  Green manure is plants grown to benefit the soil.  This works in four ways:

  • Covering the ground, so preventing loss of nutrients
  • Suppressing weeds
  • Provide humus when dug in
  • In the case of the bean family, enhancing the soil by fixing nitrogen

Green manures have been a part of agricultural systems for centuries and still play an important part in organic farming.  The big snag is that they take up space but most plots have some bare ground by September and some green manures can be sown then.  The following are some winter-hardy plants (there are several other options if you expect to have a part of your plot unused during the spring and/or summer).


  Nitrogen FixerSow Seed  Easy to dig in? Comments
 alfalfa  April - JuneFairly  Long term cover
 winter/field beans Yes September - NovemberEasy  Poor weed control
 cloverYes  April - AugustFairly  See below
 phacelia No April - September Easy See below
 grazing rye No August - NovemberDifficult  Good for breaking  
 in new ground


Clover and phacelia encourage bees if left to flower, phacelia seed is easy to save.


Mulching


A layer of mulch between rows keeps down weeds and reduces loss of moisture from the ground, both of which will help your crops.  It will also encourage beneficial insects.

 

You can buy porous mulch matting but it is rather expensive except for special jobs.  Options include old newspaper (messy and ugly), black plastic (doesn’t let the rain through and very popular with slugs), compost if you can spare it.  Grass cuttings are very good, if you can get enough (contract gardeners are usually glad to get rid of it but you must check that the grass has not been treated with weed killer for at least a couple of months.


Bees


Bees are essential for fertilisation of beans,peas,strawberries, raspberries,etc (sweet corn is wind pollinated which is why you plant it in a block rather than a row).


Beekeepers are, therefore, especially welcome on an allotment site – so long as there is a barrier around the hive to ensure that the bees’ main flight paths are above head height.  Permission is needed for a hive.


The many varieties of bumble bee make a critically important contribution to pollination. Make sure there are plenty of flowers around to attract them: once they have arrived they will go to your fruit and vegetables as well. Single flowers are best because few double flowers are pollen-rich.


Organic Gardening

A survey in 2001 indicated that about two-thirds of Alton allotment gardeners are organic i.e. they use no pesticides or herbicides except for a few permitted natural ones such as derris, pyrethrum and Bordeaux mixture.  Even the use of these is under review.  Almost every plotholder is very sparing with chemicals as we don’t want to eat nasties.


Reasons for going organic include:

  • Production of synthetic fertilisers involves heavy energy consumption
  • Keeping chemicals off your plate and out of the soil
  • Claims of better flavour (challenged by many)
  • No health risk from handling chemical

If you want to go organic you should consider joining HYDRA, the organisation for organic gardening (details in the address section).  They provide lots of useful information and hints (some non-organic gardeners also find membership worthwhile).


Gardeners with special needs

Some allotment sites elsewhere have a few plots for the disabled.  These are small plots with wheelchair access all around and raised about 24” so that they can be worked from a wheelchair.  With the help of a Lottery grant the Alton Allotment Association and Community Service Group,  a special needs area has been created at Wooteys/Spitalfields with 2 raised beds and 1 small ground level bed. 


REFERENCE

 

National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners (NSALG)

 

NSALG represents the interests of allotment gardeners nationally.  The society provides advice on allotment law, advice and, if necessary, legal support to allotment associations under threat.  Alton Allotment Association is affiliated to NSALG, thus supporting the national allotment movement.  This costs us £1.50 a member a year.  Affiliation is fully justified from a cost point of view because of the NSALG group insurance scheme which is specifically tailored to the needs of allotment associations.  Our annual insurance for the maintenance contract premium is several hundred pounds a year less than any alternative commercial company will offer.

 

We get three copies of the NSALG quarterly journal.  This is circulated to all committee members and, thereafter, put into the communal sheds at Borovere and Whitedown.  Until we have some communal facilities at Spitalfieds/Wooteys, it is difficult to display the journal there.  Extracts from the journal are often included in our newsletters.


Alton Allotment Association


Alton Allotment Association was founded in 1994, originally to fight the development now known as Hermitage Close, which took half of the Borovere allotments site.  The Association was too late to save these 24 plots, many of which had been vacant for various reasons.


Around the year 2001, the Whitedown allotments site was also considered for development, but thanks to a concerted campaign, which included strong support from local residents and groups, Friends of the Earth, the Alton Society, the Natural History Society and others, the site was saved.


We have developed a good relationship with Alton Town Council, to whom the Association makes recommendations for improvements, some major, some minor, when considering budgets for subsequent financial years.

The aims of the Association are:-


  • To promote the interests of members in allotment gardening
  • To take joint actions, where appropriate, for the benefit of members
  • To negotiate with Alton Town Council and other landlords over use of land for allotment gardening, and to meet Council Officers on a regular basis
  • To take action to protect members against damage, trespass and theft
  • To obtain supplies of garden products, if practical, for the benefit of members
  • To arrange meetings, talks, demonstrations, competitions and social events, and to issue a newsletter at least three times a year
  • To collaborate, where appropriate, with other gardening associations
  • To set up and equip a team of volunteers to undertake general site maintenance, on a contract basis for the Council, for the benefit of the plotholders on Council allotment sites.
Members benefit in many ways from the activities of the Association and also

lend weight to our committee, in their various negotiations with  Alton Town Council.

Site Representatives


All sites have site representatives on the Allotment Association committee.  Their names, plot numbers and telephone numbers are posted on the association noticeboards each year and they will be happy to try to answer your queries, hear your suggestions or to pass on details of problems to the Council or the Association.

 

The association committee consists of the site representatives plus the chairman, secretary and treasurer.


Rent and Costs

 

Allotment rents are thought too low by some councillors and too high by some tenants.  Over the last 20 years or so allotment rents in Alton have risen much faster than the rate of inflation.  However, when the association did an extensive survey of Hampshire and national rent levels in 2000, it was found that Alton’s were around average.  Account was taken of plot sizes, though precise comparisons were difficult because some sites had much better and some poorer facilities than Alton; also may councils allow reductions for people on benefits.

 

In the past, rents were set low to encourage food production and to help the poor.  Councils nowadays regard allotments as a leisure facility like any other.  Subsidies to allotments are therefore set on the same basis as they are for other leisure activities.  The association hopes and expects that the council will ensure that future rent rises and subsidy levels are kept in line with those applied to other leisure services.

 

In the early 1900s the council actually made a profit on allotments and allowed them to get badly run down.  Much better relations between the council and the association led the council to review the situation and some valuable catch up investment has been made.  This resulted in some quite big subsidies in one or two recent years.  On the other hand the amount the council obtained for the Hermitage Close site could provide big subsidies for allotments for many years.  The legal position (widely ignored) is that income from selling allotment land should first be used to acquire land for allotments or to improve the existing ones.  The association’s view, therefore, is that some substantial investment in allotments was very appropriate.  Unfortunately, once-off sales of town assets to meet other needs can be a very tempting proposition.


Alton Allotment Association discount suppliers


A number of local garden centres have been approached about offering a discount to members of the Alton Allotment Association, on production of a current AAA membership card.  A list of these will be made available on our website in due course.

Contacting Alton Town Council

The Council's Allotments Officer is Samatha Brown.  You can contact her by visiting the Town hall, by phoning here on 01420 83986, or by email at info@alton.gov.uk.  There is also information on allotments on the Councils website at http://alton.gov.uk.

Information Sources

The internet provides a vast resource of information, some more reputable than others.  Some reputable sites include:-

      •    The National Society of Allotments & Leisure Gardners (NSALG)
           Telephone: 01536 266576
           Website: http://www.nsalg.org.u

      •    Centre for Alternative Technology
           Website: http://www.cat.org.uk

      •    Henry Doubleday Research (HDRA)
           Telephone: 01203 303517

Seeds

 Company Website Telephone
 D T Brown  http://www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk 0845 371 0532
 Samuel Dobie http://www.dobies.co.uk 
 Mr Fothergill's Seeds http://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk 0845 371 0518
 E W King http://www.kingsseeds.com 01376 570 000
 S E Marshall http://www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk 0844 557 6700
 Organic Gardening http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk 024 7630 3517
 Simpson's Seeds http://www.simpsonsseeds.co.uk 01985 845004
 Thompson & Morgan http://www.thompson-morgan.com 0844 573 1818
 Edwin Tucker http://edwintucker.co.uk/seeds/#.VYgLg5gyzwo 01364 652233
 Unwin Seeds http://www.unwins.co.uk 0844 573 8400
 Wallis Seeds http://www.wallis-seeds.co.uk 01245 360413

There are also specialist suppliers for unusual and/or heritage seeds, for example:-
  • Suffolk Herbs - big range of vegetables and herbs, many organic; part of Kings (same telephone number) but separate catalogue.
  • HDRA Heritage Seed Library - an add-on to HDRA membership.
  • Thomas Etty Esq - mostly pre-1900 veg 01460 57934
  • Future Foods  organic, oddities 01398 361347
  • Association  Kokopelli - very big range, all organic, outstandingly informative but expensive catalogue (buy once then use their order lists); now necessary to join in same way as for HDRA 01227 731815 (see note below on EU regulations)
The European Union and seed varieties.  There has been a huge reduction in the number of seed varieties available because of an early, much challenged, EU regulation which requires that only seeds on National Seed Lists may be sold.  The snag is that registering and maintaining a variety can cost £2,000 initially, and then £300 every year it is on the list.  This is only worthwhile if it can be sold in large quantities.  HDRA, Kokopelli and others, do their best to rescue and sustain the genetic diversity (and flavour) of many of the unlisted varieties.  The problem is that Brussels made it illegal to sell anything not on the lists.  There was good sense in trying to establish reliable standards for varieties, but sadly the bureaucrats cannot see the benefit of allowing non-standard seeds to be sold: biodiversity, choice and the encouragement of new varieties.  The mindset seems to be that anything not specifically allowed should be banned.  Even the French have finally had to toe the line some 20 years after the regulation was issued; hence the change at Kokopelli.  This was one of the EU’s very first regulations and reluctance to admit that they started off on the wrong foot is an extra obstacle for 
those fighting for reform


Books

TheVegetable Expert and The Fruit Expert – Dr DG Hessayon:h.

These well presented books tell you:-

  • What to do for each variety
  • when to do it
  • what to do when things go wrong.

Highly recommended.

Collins Kitchen Garden  covers both fruit and vegetables in a similar style but more briefly.

 

Grown your own vegetables – Joy Larcome approx  

 

Comprehensive for the organic gardener.

 

Vegetables – Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix – approx

Over 650 excellent colour photographs of vegetable varieties (no guidance on cultivation).


Seed Germination


For a seed to germinate its water content must be brought up to about 70% from as little as the 15% it had during storage.  The soil or compost must, therefore, be sufficiently damp to give a constant supply of moisture.  However, too much water will reduce the temperature, encourage fungal disease and reduce air spaces.

 

The temperatures shown below are the minimum ideal.  Seeds will often germinate at lower temperatures but will take longer and be more liable to rot.


Vegetable Days to germinate Minimum
temperature
 Vegetable Days to germinate Minimum
temparature
 Beetroot 7 - 14 7°C/45°F Onion 5 - 10 10°C/50°F
 Brassica 7 - 12 5°C/40°F Parsnip 14 - 21 12°C/55°F
 Broad Bean 5 - 10 5°C/40°F Pea 7 - 14 10°C/50°F
 Carrot 12 - 15 7°C/45°F Radish 5 - 7 5°C/40°F
 Cucumber 7 - 10 18°C/65°F Runner Bean 5 - 10 12°C/55°F
 French Bean 5 - 10 12°C/55°F Squash 7 - 10 21°C/70°F
 Lettuce  7 10 15°C/60°F Tomato 7 - 14 21°C/70°F



Alton Town Council

Strategy for Allotments


Alton is a small market town of character with a strong agricultural and horticultural tradition.  The Town Council is committed to preserving the town’s best elements, whilst adopting progressive policies to make sure that Alton moves with the times.  The council’s overall strategy includes the preservation and enhancement of the town’s green spaces, ranging from public gardens through playing fields to natural open spaces and allotments.  Its policies towards allotments are geared to maximising the benefits of allotments to the community:

 

Social contribution

The very wide range of people who take part in allotment gardening makes a valuable contribution to social integration in the town.  About a quarter of tenants are women; while the ages of those participating range from pre-teens to the late eighties; families and single people; professional and artisan.

 

Physical and mental health

The well-recognised physical and mental benefits of gardening make it a valuable leisure activity for those who do not wish or are unable to participate in more vigorous sports.  Modern housing density means that few people have enough space to grow fruit and vegetables at home.  The council aims to ensure that allotments are available to those who wish to grow their own produce.

 

Environment

The council values allotments for their environmental contribution as green lungs and wildlife corridors.  By ensuring that sites are well-located, car travel is minimised.  Locally produced food helps reduce food milesand thus also contributes more widely to the environment.

 

Rents and funding

The town council aims to recover day-to-day operational costs through the rents.  The cost of administration and site improvement is borne by the council.  This is intended to ensure that rents are kept within the means of those on low incomes, and also broadly in line with those for other authorities in Hampshire.  Financial constraints affect the implementation of allotments strategy in the same way that they affect other aspects of the council’s responsibilities.

 

Management

The council operates a programme of regular inspections with set criteria from March to September with one or two further inspections in the winter.  Council officers will continue to make regular inspections and appropriate action will be taken to ensure that the tenancy conditions are strictly respected.  The council holds an annual allotments competition to encourage plot holders to operate their plots in a tidy and attractive manner.

 

The council is determined to see all plots being properly cultivated and any plots not showing evidence of cultivation by the end of June are likely to have their tenancies terminated, in order to ensure a supply of suitable plots for those who wish to take up allotment gardening.

 

The council encourages participation of the Alton Allotment Association in as much of the management process as possible to ensure the involvement of stakeholders.  (Currently Alton Allotment Association involvement includes all routine site maintenance, assistance with plot inspections, showing new tenants their plots, and care of any vacant plots.)

 

Security

Site security is a key factor in preventing vandalism and theft and in keeping allotments fully occupied.  The council, therefore, seeks to ensure that adequate security is provided at all sites in partnership with tenants.

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome, Rules and Strategy: Copyright - Alton Town Council

Other sections: Copyright - Alton Allotment Association

 

This document initially prepared by Bill Poulter & Roy Daisley in consultation with

Alton Town Council and

Alton Allotment Association

















 
 
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