Sunday 25 November 2012

Mal's Allotment has moved...

... to

Mal's Edinburgh Allotment

This blog is now an archive.

Hope to see you at the new site.

Thanks to all contributors over the last three years .

It's like starting over...

Well that's the limit!

Looks like Google have had enough of running Blogger as a loss leader and  have introduced charging. So anyone  wanting to post pictures on their Blogger blog will have to pay in future. Would like to be mistaken.

I did so enjoy comparing notes with other vegetable growers!  If it isn't just a glitch - Bye!

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Good News for the BBC...

It's been such a horrible time for the BBC that, fresh from their success with City of Edinburgh Council, FEDAGA have offered to step in.

They have got a bit carried away and already made a pilot show for broadcast to the plebs public.  And here it is:

Who said history doesn't repeat itself?

Just a few notes:
FEDAGA is Edinburgh's Allotment representative association.
FEDAGA came up with the proposal to "ramp up" the rents from £30 to £100 in steps of £10 per year.

Members of the Committee have advocated to me that there are no such things as allotments anymore:  they should be called "Leisure Gardens";  Rents should go up by several hundred pounds; Peppercorn rents should be consigned to history, and bizarrely. "People don't appreciate what they've got unless they pay for it". There is truly a collective madness abroad.  And it's one that suits the Council down to the ground!!!

Monday 19 November 2012

It's not the Canaries, but...

Here's a picture from  a Scottish tomato grower - mid November.

The same tomatoes in October
Scotland's not good for tomatoes... but if you are stubborn you can get some results.

Here's how they looked in June!

Saturday 17 November 2012

Autumn Reflections

I like autumn - Once plant production shuts down, you have so much more time...  for planning.

There's a show of colour put on by nature that rivals any firework display::

Autumn variagation

Then out of the blue this Calendula by our front gate put on a last gasp effort! 

Better late than never

As the weeds have stopped growing too and the evenings are dark there's time to pore over the seed catalogues and to plan for next year.  This year was wet, cold, plagued by slugs and bugs, blighted (literally) and, all in all, a disappointment.... But next year is immune from all these disasters as you flick through the brochures.

Stepping back from the dilemma of choosing which sort of courgette to grow next year, there are more general strategy decisions:  Am I growing to save cash, to get that flavour that money can't buy (carrots), or that unavailable vegetable (turnip rooted chervil), to increase biodiversity with some heirloom varieties (that will probably have a very poor yield)? Grow native plants to encourage wildlife?    Am I growing as wide a variety of different veg and experimenting just for the heck of it? Guess what, I'm planning to do all these things!  And so far none of my plans have been thwarted!

Next to move from planning to preparation.  An allotment keeps you going the whole year round.

Friday 9 November 2012

Trick or Treat

After the rain and cold of 2012 I'm worried about 2013. I'm hedging my bets.

The big question is:  have the past 5 years been a downward trend that will continue with an even colder wetter year ,  or have the we bottomed out and are due for a sharp correction to restore the equilibrium?

What's your strategy?  How are you preparing for the worst while hoping for the best?  

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Extra, Extra, Read All About It

Just time to say I made the paper today with the Edinburgh plotholders' plight:

See this link:

Edinburgh Evening News

Saturday 3 November 2012

Edinburgh Allotment Factsheet

In 2012 City of Edinburgh Council are renting out 1,037 allotment plots (and 21 raised beds).

The rent is £80 per plot (and £35 per raised bed)

Full rental income (plots x rent) = £83,695

The Council estimates its costs as £81,370.37  (up 18%  from an actual figure of £69,102.99 in 2011)

Edinburgh Council offers a 50% rent discount to tenants on state benefit or over the age of 60.

Over half Edinburgh allotment tenants (541) qualify for the discount.

The resulting shortfall on the full rental is £21,550

The shortfall in the allotment budget - the amount the Council actually pay - is  £16,745.87, nearly £5,000 less than the subsidy.

2013 Rents are being increased to £90 (£45 subsidised) yieding full rental income of £94,170

2014 rents are being increased to £100 (£50 subsidised) yielding full rental income of £104,660

Based on a projection of the 2012 figures, actual rents collected are expected to be £70,000 in 2013 and £77,700 in 2014, so the Council's annual  'top up' contribution will all but disappear, by how much will depend on how costs are kept under control. The cost of the subsidy will be £27,000 but this will be covered entirely by the higher rents paid by both the subsidised and non subsidised tenants.

When you consider that over 50% of Edinburgh allotment holders are on benefit or over 60 years old you realise that these are two groups whose income has not risen much in the last decade, yet their allotment rentals will have risen by 333% between 2005 and 2014

Tuesday 23 October 2012

One for Tanya - Celebrating Celeriac

Last year I tried growing celeriac, and all I got was straggly roots. See here    So this year I was pleased when I got a celeriac this big:

How big?    Well not that big....

...but at least the stem swelled.  Obviously they got enough water. Just have to ensure they get more  nutrients next time.

Monday 22 October 2012

Is that all there is?

Beans have been a waste of time this year - even runner beans! I grew them at the allotment and I grew them in raised beds but the results were like the weather - dismal!

Barlotti -  Nul points
Blue Lake - Nul points
Canadian Wonder - Nul points
Sungold - 1/2 point
Painted Lady - One point
Scarlet Emporer - Nul Points

Clearly I've been barking up the wrong pole this year. I'm tempted just to grow tatties and neeps next year (except that my neeps failed this year too and the tatties got blight!)

For the record I planted garlic, shallots and onions today.  The new year has arrived!

Saturday 13 October 2012

At the end of the year

A visit to the plot today confirmed the inevitable   The frost and wind have stopped the beans in their tracks and killed off the courgettes. That's it for this year!

2012 has been the wettest coldest year on record. Despite everything there were some results:

One day in September...

Proud of this one 

The label says it all

Beans and sky

A forrest of fennel

Late beans

Barlotti bean pods - but no beans to speak of.

Curly Kale

Leek flowerhead

This year's tomatoes - all of them!


Jerusalem artichoke, cabbages, brussel sprouts, parsnips and leeks to look forward too.  Roll on 2013.

Sunday 7 October 2012

Gardening 267 Golf 6

In its first Allotment Strategy: Cultivating Communities(2002) City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) adopted the following comparability factors:
  • The level of allotment rents in the rest of Scotland and the scale in England
  • costs of other outdoor recreational or leisure activities provided by the authority.

The second of these factors was underpinned  by the  court case of  Harwood  v Reigate & Banstead Borough Councils in the High Court Chancery Division when Mr Harwood challenged a 300% rent rise and succeeded.  The judge ruled that as other amenity charges had not been raised in proportion this was a discriminatory practice and unlawful. The full transcript can be read here

So what has happened to allotment rents?  Since 2005

  • Edinburgh allotment rents have gone up 267% and are set to £100 for 2014.
  • Glasgow rents meantime have tracked the RPI and are currently £33.50
  •  In the same period the cost of an Edinburgh Leisure Card has dropped from £43 to £25 and the following increases made on the sports tariff:

Gym           6%
Swim           39%
Tennis          8%
Golf             6%
Football       32%

So inflation for Edinburgh golfers is 6%.  For allotment gardeners it is 267% !

What happened to the comparability factors?  They have been dropped in a dash for cash. Clearly allotment holders are an easy target. Once FEDAGA sided with the Council the rest of the 1,300 Edinburgh Alltment holders were deprived of a voice.

No one can be in any doubt that City of Edinburgh allotment rent rises are illegal. 

*Note - this post has been updated to include data for the current year

Tuesday 2 October 2012


The first column of this table shows the rent agreed by the Edinburgh wide allotment association FEDAGA (Federation of Edinburgh & District Allotment and  Garden Association) and landlord City of Edinburgh Council (CEC)  for each year.

The last column shows what our rent would have been if it had tracked the RPI. (? - Of course we don't know the RPI for the next two years -although we do know our rent hike) Here's what a graphic comparison of the figures reveals:

The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999 makes it automatically unfair for a landlord to impose an arbitrary increase in rent. Guidance by the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) on unfair terms in tenancy agreements indicates that unless increases are linked to such external factors as the RPI or evaluated by an objective person independent of the landlord they may be deemed to be unfair. It does not foresee that the representative body of the tenants might collude with the landlord in putting up rents! Clearly an oversight.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Edinburgh Allotments - FEDAGA

FEDAGA is the representative body for Edinburgh allotment holders. Every Edinburgh allotment tenant (about 1,300 in total) is a paying member.

You might be surprised that FEDAGA has suggested to City of Edinburgh Council that rents are INCREASED and that they dispense with funding the scheme for funding a 50% subsidy to the elderly and unemployed.

Here is the FEDAGA document that proves both these:

The "Analysis" makes it clear that the Acting Chairman and Show Secretary knew what he was doing when he drafted this:

It states

1. This level of rents would cover the Council's costs of administering the allotments and generate a surplus.

2. The above surplus, coupled with savings made by elimination the Councils own proposed "subsidy" deficit, generates £57,725 of capital over 5 years."

That's the FEDAGA Committee proposing to take £57,725 out of the pockets of FEDAGA members!!!

To add to the irony, there is a limit of one plot per person, so the justification of new plots cannot benefit those existing members whose cash is being allocated for that purpose.

No surprisingly FEDAGAS proposals were accepted by the Council and the program has reached the £80 level this year and will rise to £100.

I don't think the members realise what their executive has done in their name.

If you are an Edinburgh allotment holder you need to be aware of what has been done in your name - It's going to be costing you £60 extra on your rent every year!

Monday 17 September 2012

BOGOF - City of Edinburgh Council Style

Don't you wonder when the supermarkets offer a 50% discount - Isn't the price of one double what it used to be?

In a similar vein, City of Edinburgh Council offer 50% subsidized allotment plots for those people on pensions and benefits. But they also insist that the allotment pay for themselves. The two goals are incompatible.

By the Council's logic, because 1/4 of the rental income is missing as a result of the "subsidy" everyone's rent has to rise  by 34%  (including the subsidized rate) to make good the shortfall. So the 50% subsidized rate is only a 16% cut at the break even point where income equals outgoings. This is the road we are travelling down in Edinburgh.  The attractive subsidy just comes from putting up rents.

Here are the figures:

City of Edinburgh Council collects rents on 1,019 allotment plots.

 506 are full rentals (£80), 513 are concessions (£40). So the split is just about 50:50.  

If everyone paid the full rate the full 2012 rental income (£80 per plot) would be £81,520. 

Instead as roughly half of the rentals are at the subsidized rate the rental income is in fact £61,000

The Council calculates their actual allotment costs for 2012 as £73,337  (revised up from  their initial estimate of £63,654) . 

These costs are greater than the actual rental amount received  (£61,000 as above) but less than
the rental income plus the the subsidy due from the Council (£81,520 as above).

So inclusive of the Council's contribution Edinburgh Allotments already run at a profit. And yet rents are going up £10 next year and another £10 in 2014 up to £100.  By that stage City of Edinburgh Council, having washed their hands of financing the subsidized rates, will be making a fat profit from the allotments.  The allotment holders will be saddled with funding the subsidy and paying the Council a new tax.

But this is not going to be a shock to FEDAGA,  the organisation supposedly representing the interest of  allotment holders in Edinburgh, because the FEDAGA committee came up with this scheme specifically to generate a profit for the Council.  Their cockeyed justification is that by making a profit from allotments the Council will then have a capital fund to purchase new sites.  Effectively the burden of the allotment expansion scheme fall on the existing allotment holders (who cannot benefit there being a limit of one allotment per person).  How this madness won the day is easy to see from the Council's point of view.  From any other angle it is completely crazy logic.   You can buy a lot of veg for £100, and you have to fork out quite a bit to run an allotment, in terms of sweat, time and money. The rent rises are just not fair. Something to discuss at our site AGM this weekend, along with the flooding problem!

Friday 14 September 2012

No watering this year!

The one area that has benefited from all the rain this year is our normally neglected front garden.  It is north facing onto a busy street and is the one area that is reserved for ornamentals.  Ordinarily I am reluctant to water as I have to cart water through the house or trail the hose through it, never a good idea as you soon discover if you have a leak. But this year there has been no need to water at all! 

No water tub

Aside from the tubs we have a couple of hydrangeas, and they love water. They have rewarded us this year with a giant flower show:

Happy Hydrangeas

All puffed up!

So there's always a silver lining, if you look for it.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Slugging It Out

Late season review - 

There's a sense of panic here as the days are noticeably shorter and the nights are cooler. Will the tomatoes ripen?  or the blueberries?

Green Bluberries
It's time to start picking carrots. Two nets have produced after resowing, but when I weeded the third there was just one carrot!

Parsnips and Carrots
 Thank goodness the runner beans are producing at last!

Runner Beans - At Last
Jerusalem artechoke
Perhaps I planted the jerusalem artechoke just a bit too close to the beans, but this is one crop that has thrived in the conditions this year.

 My 100 brassicas have reduced to around 90 as the early sprouting broccoli and most the cauliflowers bolted. Today I uprooted the lost causes and weeded the rest.

For the record here's the potato patched ravished by blight I cut the tops off a couple of weeks ago.  No one escaped.

The alliums are looking a bit sorry, but next year's leeks are in good shape for next spring.

The slugs - no horror pictures, but they have been the biggest threat this year.  I would have had a decent crop of late strawberries - but the slugs got there first.  The few in the first picture were all that ewere salvageable. But look on the bright side. At least I never had to water this year!

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Weeds 0 Mal 1 (After Extra Time)

What to do with that extra Bank Holiday day? Given the state of the plot there was no question: Weeding.  I started at on end and just got on with it.  Of course it rained incessantly. After three hours I had progressed 6 metres along the bed through raspberries, strawberries, runner beans, jerusalem artichoke and french beans  I have now discovered that my average weeding rate is 10 minutes per square metre or  6 square metres per hour. Given the overall plot size is 180 square metres, if it was all planted, it would take me 30 hours to hand weed the whole plot! Crikey! Thank goodness for potatoes!

The view from the shed - in the rain

And now something for Tany:

It's the reserve celeriac!

Sunday 5 August 2012

Blue Gold

It's taken two years but the first blueberries have arrived:

First Blueberries

Here's how they look today:

Bushes today

It all started as a big disappointment as the three "bushes" I ordered turned out to be more like twigs.

Bushes - or twigs -  Day 1  21-3-2010
Their first winter was spent especially well protected 

Winter 2010/11
Even before they arrived I had spent a lot of time and money preparing the ground for them.  I had a paddling pool/sand pit that the children had grown out of.

Preparing the ground Autumn 2009
This was buried two foot down

Preparing the Ground 2
...and filled with ericaceous compost- about 5 bags worth in the end.
Preparing the Ground 3
At one point it looked as if it was all for nothing:

Winter 2011/12
but they bounced back.
One year Old 

Now, two years on, things are looking rosey

On the vine

Unfortunately given the recent inundation we can't have the confidence to eat the crop, but at least we are providing some  snail food!