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We get a glimpse of the early signs of the arrival of Spring this month. The soil begins to warm up around the middle of February and we can see for the first time this year the buds beginning to swell on fruit trees and bushes. Overwintering vegetables begin to look less sorry for themselves and they start to produce new growth. These are the signals that it is now safe to think about sowing a row of early, peas and broad beans using a hardy cultivar. It is too late to sow the broad bean ‘Aquadulce’ it is only really suitable for growing overwinter.
Sowing and Planting
After the middle of the month it is safe to think about sowing the seeds of early vegetables. Prepare a seed bed and sow ‘White Lisbon’ Spring onion, early short horn carrots, early types of lettuce.
Top dress all of the fruit trees and soft fruit bushes with a general fertiliser at the recommended application rate. At the same time top dress the rest of the plot with a general fertiliser as land becomes available.
Check over any fruit trees and bushes for damage and disease problems and take appropriate action.
Prune late/autumn fruiting raspberries down as low as possible and mulch around them. Tip back summer fruiting back to around 6ft/1.9mts to encourage the development of fruiting side growths
Complete any outstanding winter pruning of soft fruit bushes cutting out down to soil level the older dark stemmed shoots of blackcurrants.
Cover the soil with cloches or sheets of plastic to warm it up in readiness for the next batch of sowing and planting. Don’t overdo it little and often is the plan over the coming weeks.
Check over the chitting potatoes and begin to rub off any eyes that are unwanted leaving three or four well-spaced shoots. Keep some fleece or newspapers nearby to cover them up on starry, frosty nights you don’t want to run the risk of losing them at this late date.
Keep checking frequently on the condition of any produce in store it will begin to wake up after its winter dormancy and start to regrow.
The history of Allotments can be said to go back over a thousand years to when the Saxons would clear a field of woodland which would be held in common.
Following the Norman Conquest in 1066, land ownership became more concentrated in the hands of the monasteries and church. The reformation in the 1540’s confiscated much of the church lands but they were transferred via the crown to the lords.
In the late 1500’s under Elizabeth I, common lands used by the poor for keeping animals and growing food began to be enclosed dispossessing the poor. In compensation allotments of land were attached to tenant cottages. This is the first mention of allotments.
Plot sizes, even today, are measured in rods, an old Anglo-Saxon unit so-called because it was the length of the rod used to control a team of oxen. A rod is 5.5 yards (5.03 metres).
There are 4 rods in a chain, that is 22 yards (20.12 metres).
There are 10 chains in a furlong and 8 furlongs in a mile. So a mile is 80 x 22 = 1760 yards (1609.3 metres).
An acre is the area of land that could be ploughed in a day, being a furrow long (furlong) and a chain wide, or 160 square rods, which is 4840 sq yards (4048 sq metres). A hectare is 10,000 sq metres so an acre is 0.4 of a hectare.
A 10 rod allotment is 10 square rods in area, that is 10 x 5.5 x 5.5 = 302.5 sq yards (253 sq metres). Plot sizes are usually 10 square rods. (half plot = 5 square rods).
Allotments are normally 10 square rods, a 10 square rod allotment is one fortieth of a hectare: in imperial units it is one sixteenth of an acre, in metric units approximately 250 square meters.
An allotment is supposedly the amount of land needed to supply a family of four with food .
Allotment History 17th to 19th Century
Land was being enclosed and more people began to live in cities and large towns. This move from a subsistence economy to the more modern industrial system was increasing the numbers of the poor who, without the benefits of a social welfare system, could literally starve for lack of food or the land on which to grow their own food.
Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908
The Smallholdings and Allotment Act 1907 imposed responsibilities on parish, urban district and borough councils to provide allotments, and further legislation in 1908 consolidated previous acts and resolved anomalies.
Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908
The Great War 1914-1918
During the First World War Germany’s blockade caused food shortages which increased the demand for allotments. One source of land suitable for allotments but not large enough for general agricultural use was the land owned by railway companies. These parcels of land were often allotted to railway workers and this is the reason you will often see allotments by railway lines today.
Following the Great War there was a decrease in demand for allotments and this, combined with increased demand for land for housing, reduced the number of allotments.
The Rise and Fall and Rise once more, of Allotments
The Second World War resulted in the dig for victory campaign in order to feed the nation. Although the Second World War ended in 1945, food rationing continued until 1954, and allotments played an integral role in society into the 1960’s. In the 1960’s the disposable income of families increased providing freedom of choice in an expanding market, and many people chose to buy their fruit and veg from the newly established supermarkets instead of growing it, resulting in a decline in allotments.
In 1943 there was 1, 4 million allotments in Britain, this figure had dropped to around half a million allotments by the 1970s. The 80’s and 90’s saw even more decline in allotment provision, encouraged by the increase in land and housing costs which created an incentive to hard pressed local authorities to sell underused allotment land for high prices to housing developers.
In 1996 there were around 297,000 plots available nationwide; showing that since 1943, 4 out of every 5 plots had disappeared. Since 1996 the rate of decline appears to have slowed whilst at the same time there has been an upsurge of interest in growing food crops. In recent years concerns about the purity of foodstuffs, environmental pollution and global warming combined with the desire for the ultimate in freshness has seen empty plots filled and waiting lists appear for allotment sites that previously had high vacancy rates. It is now estimated that nationwide, 100,000 people are waiting for a plot.
History of Walton Allotment Gardens Association
(Seeds Lane Allotments)
A look at the history of Walton Allotment Gardens Association shows that in 1900 the land which comprised “Seeds Lane Gardens” was bought by “Kirkdale Burial Board”, as a possible future extension of Kirkdale Cemetery and at time of purchase was rented out as allotments. The introduction of crematoriums in the 1930's prevented the land from being used for burial purposes and during the course of a century and more, City Authorities have changed the use of almost two thirds of the land which originally comprised the allotments (Barlows Lane School, housing, Seeds Lane Park). What remains of the original "Seeds Lane Gardens”, 9.3 Acres, has been around for at least a Century and as far as we are aware is the oldest allotment site in Liverpool.
A book on the local history of the area, reads…
“At that time, the land located between Seeds Lane and Barlows Lane (which had been purchased in 1900 from the Milbourne family by the former Kirkdale Burial Board) was owned by Liverpool Corporation and under control of the Burials Committee. Much of this land was rented out as allotment gardens to local residents but following the Council's having taken control of Kirkdale Cemetery in 1905 plans were set in motion for its alternative use.”
Below is an extract from the minutes of a meeting of Liverpool City Council on the 22nd October 1919 concerning sale of land to the education committee in order to build the original “Barlows Lane School” (since demolished and rebuilt).
'The land referred to in the above motion forms part of an area of about 30 acres purchased by the late Kirkdale Burial Board in the year 1900 for the purpose of providing for a possible future extension of the Kirkdale Cemetery, which extension, however, has not up to the present time been found necessary. A large portion of this land (which it should be mentioned has not been consecrated) comprising about 20 acres is laid out and let as allotment gardens and is known as Seeds Lane Gardens. The remaining portion, which includes the land referred to in the motion, is situate between Seeds Lane Gardens and Longmoor Lane.'
Following the Allotments Act 1950, which afforded certain rights to Allotment Garden Associations, “Seeds Lane Gardens” changed its name to “Walton Allotment Gardens Association” and adopted a written set of rules at E.G.M. 6th July 1950. At this time the Allotments comprised approx. 270 plots, stretched from Barlows Lane in the East to Seeds Lane in the West, and from the “Loop Line” in the North to (in part) Longmoor Lane in the South. The Allotment Association at this time had 3 committees, a plot management committee, a trading / finance committee and a competition committee. At this time the Allotment Association managed a building on Long moor Lane (adjacent to The Long Moor Social Club and now rented by Liverpool City Council to the flower/plant salesman) which many local people still remember as the "WAGA Hut".
Allotments Act 1950 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo6/14/31
In 1959 the Liverpool Corporation “Cemeteries Committee” repossessed 153 allotments for burial purposes. However, none of the land originally purchased by the local authority in 1900 for burial land has ever been used for burials, the allotment land repossessed in 1959 is now the grassland park at Seeds Lane. All affected plot holders were relocated within what remained of the Association. The main entrance to the allotment site was moved from Seeds Lane to Barlows Lane, but the name "Seeds Lane Allotments" has survived for over half a Century as local people to this day still refer to the allotment site as "Seeds Lane Allotments" . Also, since the allotment site was reduced in size the numbering of individual plots has never been changed, which is why allotments on the three sections do not start with the number 1. "A" section start at A29, "B" section starts at B45, and on "C" section they start at C39. Links to the past.
Seeds Lane Historic boundaries
If one follows the central allotment pathway to the western perimeter fence and looks through into the Seeds Lane Park, a small “roundabout” can be seen, one can be led to believe this was the centre of the complete allotment site.
Since the 1960’s, Barlows Lane School has been extended, and the houses and industrial units to the North and the sheltered accommodation to the East have been built (late 1990’s) on what was previously allotment land. Today “Seeds Lane Allotments” constitutes 3.77 hectares of land (9.3 acres) and is the 4th largest allotment site in Liverpool. Perhaps one day lost land will be reclaimed and lost plots established for would be allotment holders.
Between 2007 and 2009 “Seeds Lane Allotments” membership increased from 62 to 110 members, at time of writing in September 2013 we have no vacant plots and a waiting list. We have a website, a robust management committee, and A.G.M. attendance figures show that association members are actively engaged with the responsibility of self managing the association and managing the land on behalf of the Liverpool City Council. In addition to over 100 individual allotment holders, Community groups such as "Fusion", "Mersey Care", "Macmillan Cancer Care" and "Barlows Lane Primary School" are members of Seeds Lane Allotments and together we present a sound argument against any further loss of allotment land.
Longmoor Lane, an historical survey, compiled by R.R.S. Crawford
Association Minutes from E.G.M. 1950, and A.G.M. 1958 & 1959.
Aitkens report on Open Spaces for Liverpool City Council 2005