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Nest boxes

At the beginning of the year we were alerted by the results of a European study which noticed the very sharp decrease in the number of birds, especially of sparrows, around inhabited places. There are several reasons for this situation. On one hand, the disappearance of a large number of suitable nesting sites and, on the other hand, the reduction of the available prey volume, as a result of agricultural practices and the use of insecticides.

01On our allotment sites and on our plots, though modestly, we can act on both of these factors. First, by installing nest boxes, then, second, by making sure that, there is a well-stocked natural pantry all around.

Before setting up a nest box, you must choose a place that best guarantees the, safety both of the brood, and the parents who look after it. In our gardens there can be wild predators as, for example, beech martens or weasels. Above all, however, there are cats. It might be wild cats or cats with owners, filled bowls and soft cushions, but who, as soon as they leave the home of their master, go hunting. Recent studies show not only that this expedition is much longer than previously estimated, but also that the cats found were often not the ones expected.

So, watch out for anything that can be used as a footstool, hiding place or perch for cats.

For the same reasons a nest box must be very strongly and securely fixed. It must resist all weather conditions and possible unwanted solicitations, as for example, from magpies and crows in particular. The presence of a few bushy shrubs will allow the young birds to go to safety when they leave the nest for the first time.

For a nest box to function, it must comply with a certain number of constraints: it must be adapted to the nesting sites needed by those species of birds present on the site or for those you want to attract.

One of the most important elements is the diameter of the flight hole. For small birds (blue tit, crested tit, marsh tit, coal tit) and tree sparrow it should be 26 to 28 mm. For birds a little bit bigger, like the tit or the red tail white face, it should be 32 to 34 mm. The distance between the base of the flight hole and the bottom of the nest box must be at least 17 cm, so that the young birds remain out of the predators' reach.

Inside the nest box at least one of the boards must be sufficiently rough, so that the nestlings can cling to it to climb and leave the nest. Do not hesitate to "rework" it with a chisel if necessary.

Here are the dimensions of the different elements for a simple nest box, which can be cut from a board of 2 meters long, 180 mm wide and 20 mm thick:

02Roof: 180 x 220 mm
Base: 120 x 140 mm
Back: 120 x 270 mm
Front: 120 250 mm
Sides: 270 x 180 mm

To accommodate other species of birds, different types of nest boxes can be integrated during the construction of a garden shed. In the North of France, we still can find "sparrow pots" that work very well. That's all for the shelter. Let's now go to the table.

Herethe strict application of the allotment gardens rules established by the Fédération nationale des Jardins Familiaux et collectifs (French allotment garden federation) finds its full justification.

In order for young birds, as well as the gardener's children, to receive a healthy and sufficient diet, the use of any chemical product and insecticide must be permanently banned. These products are considered as being insectivores so you must leave them their prey at least during the feeding period of the young. They take extremely well care of them. It is rare for cabbage white butterfly caterpillars to fully develop in a garden with a busy nest box. And it is the same for many insects.

In addition, the mulching of crops and a few piles of decaying plants in the corner also bring prey in large number.

Remember to have a bowl with clean water near the nest box. If the bowl is large, always leave a bundle of wood that will serve as a perch and will prevent drowning.

New nest boxes must be installed in early winter. The existing nest boxes that have already been used, have to be cleaned and disinfected before they are put back into place at the same time in early winter...

If you want to get started with the installation of nesting boxes at a large-scale, it is absolutely necessary to get into contact with the bird protection league, which has up-to-date information and scientifically validated technical data.

Serge Ratié

Recommendation of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe "Climate Change and Human Rights"

Recommendation of the Conference of INGOs* of the Council of Europe
for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24) to be held in Katowice, Poland, from 3 to 14 December 2018

Alarmed by the violence, the diversity and impact of climatic disturbances, which are becoming more intense and more widespread;

Alarmed by the conclusions of the last report of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change, adopted on 8 October 2018 by the delegations of State Parties in Incheon (South Korea), which makes the future of the planet more dependent than ever on decisions related to human activity, and by the absolute silence of political leaders regarding this report;

Concerned by the inability of the signatory States to the Paris Agreement (2015) to implement their commitment to maintain or reduce their own GHG emissions in order to achieve the overall target of +2°, which is reduced again today;

Being aware of the difficulties of the drafting and future implementation of the Rule Book of the above Agreement by numerous signatory states with their very diverse levels of political, economic and social development as well as a very uneven level of awareness and regulation of human rights;


Considering the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948, whose 70th anniversary will coincide with COP24;

Considering the specific reference to human rights in the Stockholm (1972) and Rio (1992 and 2012) Earth Summits ;

Considering that the United Nations Framework Agreement on Climate Change adopted in Rio in 1992 stipulates that "The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities";

Recalling that the Millennium Development Goals state that those concerning health and environmental protection can be achieved while guaranteeing human rights; that the development goals 13-16 are focussed on environment and climate questions and that the COP23 decision 3 recommends an equal representation of women and men on all levels of decision making and of the fight against climate change ;

Considering the principles and values promoted by the Council of Europe, through its founding text, the European Convention on Human Rights (1950), but also through the European Social Charter (1996), the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (1979) and the European Landscape Convention (2000);

Considering the Recommendation CM/Rec(2002)1 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent;

Recalling the Recommendation 1885(2009) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the drafting of an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the right to a healthy environment;

Appreciating that public access to information and justice and public participation in decision-making, recognised in principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development as essential human rights, have been formalised in the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention, 1998);

Considering the Guidelines CM(2017)83 on civil participation in political decision-making of 27 September 2017 and Recommendation CM/Rec(2018)4 of 21 March 2018 adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on citizens' participation in public life at local level;

Supporting the statement of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment of 8 October 2018 at the date of the publication of the latest IPCC report that: "Climate change is considered to be one of the greatest threats to human rights... It has and will have devastating effects on a wide range of human rights, including the right to life, health, food, housing and water, as well as the right to a healthy environment.";

Considering the above-mentioned report, which recalls the absolute urgency of respecting the Paris Agreements to keep the increase in global temperature below 1.5°;

The NGOs with participatory status with the Council of Europe:

- affirm the utmost importance of placing climate change at the top of the agenda in order to ensure the future of humanity and the planet;

- are convinced that the necessary and urgent solutions can only be found by involving the whole of civil society at all levels of mobilisation and decision-making;

- demand that international negotiations go beyond the strict context of greenhouse gas reductions and include the protection of the fundamental rights of all human beings, taking into account the impact of all phenomena related to climate change on the enjoyment of these rights;

- demand that respect for the right to life, dignity and mobility include the establishment of international rules that require States and regional institutions such as the EU, regional and local authorities to take immediate consideration of:

o the threat to habitats, water and food resources from extreme weather events and slow degradation of soils and subsoils;

o regular assessment of natural and industrial risks aggravated by climate change;

o prevention of political and social conflicts related to the resulting sharing of resources;

o admission of populations driven out of their territory by rising water levels, the scarcity of vital goods or the deprivation of essential services;

o compensation of populations deprived of their property, aid or assistance to these populations;

o consideration for the poorest and most vulnerable populations, being potentially the most exposed;

- recommend that States and regional institutions put in place effective and fair regulatory measures accompanied by financial incentives to achieve the goals set out in the above-mentioned texts.

*(INGO ... Conference gathering 307 international NGOs having participatory status with the Council of 'Europe)

Updates from the United Kingdom

Prestigious International Award for Carterton Allotments

Mike Alcock, Secretary – Phil Gomersall, President, NAS – Garry Collicutt, Chairman – Town Mayor, Cllr Martin McBride.

A Diploma for innovative activities was awarded to Swinbrook Allotments, Carterton from the Office International du Coin de Terre et des Jardins Familiaux, the international allotment organisation with members throughout Europe and Japan in Kortrijk (B) on 25th August 2018.

Swinbrook Allotments

The opportunity to be awarded a diploma is open to all member sites of the National Allotment Society. The prestigious award is granted by a panel of international judges and the allotment site must fulfil criteria laid down for the award and submit a presentation of how this was achieved and confirmed by a letter of commendation from the National Allotment Society.

Swinbrook AllotmentsPhil Gomersall the rather flamboyant President of the National Allotment Society who represents Gt Britain at the International Allotments Office, travelled to Carterton to present the Diploma to Garry Collicut the Chairman of Swinbrook Allotments, at Carterton Town Hall in the Presence of the Town Mayor, Cllr Martin McBride. New site in Carterton.

Also present at the presentation was the Regional Representative of the National Allotment Society Jenny Crawford and a good number of allotmenteers from the site.

Following the presentation Phil Gomersall and Jenny Crawford were shown around the allotment site by Mike Alcock, Swinbrook Allotments Secretary and the Mayor to see first-hand all the innovative activities the site was involved with. It is a very popular site with over 30 people on the waiting list.

They were also shown one of the two new allotment sites being developed in Carterton as part of a building development.


President of National Allotment Society receives British Empire Medal for services to Horticulture in Yorkshire

Phil Gomersall with medal and accompanied by his wife Janet.Phil Gomersall was very proud to be awarded the British Empire Medal for services to Horticulture by the Queen's representative to Yorkshire the Lord Lieutenant Mr Ed Anderson at Bowcliffe Hall on Tuesday 23rd October 2018.

Phil Gomersall with medal and accompanied by his wife Janet.

There were 13 other BEM and 1 OBE recipients at the awards ceremony. In attendance also was the Vice Lord Lieutenant and 10 Deputy Lieutenants including Sir Gary Verity.


A very pleasant ceremony it was too. For more information see info flash from 19th June and 30th August 2018.

I just got a plot, how to get started?

What has to be done?

You join an allotment garden group. Normally your plot was already cultivated by a gardener before you. If you are new to gardening, your immediate neighbours will be able to tell you about the persistent plans, which are already in the garden. There may already be aromatic plants (thyme, mint) or others such as sorrel and rhubarb, flowers and other plants that you do not yet know. These gardeners can help you while getting started in the garden. They will make you benefit from their experience and knowledge.
Go and see them, observe their gardens, listen to their advice, ask questions, both about gardening, but also about the functioning of the allotment garden group that welcomes you.

Gardening is not a sprint, but a long distant race. In the garden one has to respect the cycle of nature, the four seasons. Remember that you are going to garden for a whole year, on a continuous rhythm and if possible, without jolts. Plan your work and limit the periods of hard work according to your abilities. If you love and respect nature, your work will be easier. Otherwise, watch out for back pain, body aches and blisters.

For gardening you do not need complex tools, a fork (grelinette) to loosen the soil, a claw to break the clods and a rake to level the ground. Buy high quality tools, good and solid. It is better to have less of them than many fragile and useless tools. They will accompany you for many years, allowing you to work while respecting the structure of the soil.  

Normally when you arrive in the winter season, this is the correct time to prepare the ground. The ground is often covered with grass. This vegetation is detrimental to the next harvests and has to be removed and composted. It will be later used to feed the plants. Herbs with tough roots (bind weed and quack grass for example) are not to be put to the composter as such. Let them dry in a corner of the garden.

Regular work with a fork (grelinette) will allow you to obtain a favourable support for a quick growing of your fruit and vegetables. Your plot should not remain uncovered for a long time before putting in the seeds or the plants. Think of mulching and green manures that will prevent leaching and soil compaction. A few weeks later, before planting, it will be sufficient to crush the plant cover and introduce it into the soil. You will then have a soil with enriched nutrition for your future vegetables. Do not wait for spring and sunny days to do all this, your land must be ready to welcome your seedling at the right time. They must not be in competition with unwanted plants that, well established, will have the upper hand when your vegetables want to grow.

Even if the weather is cloudy, a passage in the garden is necessary for two reasons:
•      It is better to work a little bit from time to time, than to try to do everything in one day.
•      You should meet your neighbours, observe your garden regularly, watch the evolution of nature and the rain level, check the general condition of the equipment, clean them etc.
In short acquire good habits that will then facilitate your gardener's life.

In the garden, the secret of success is the right plant, put in the right place at the right time and grown in good conditions.

This you should not do.

•      Buy plants or seeds that are not adapted to the region or are of poor quality,
•      Not respect the good exposure in the garden plot (sun of shade),
•      Sow too early in the season (a too low temperature for germination or frost will damage the plants),
•      Sow too late (cycle too short to harvest),
•      Not to work the plot enough (unwanted weeds, compact soil that prevents normal growth),
•      Water too little (difficult recovery of the plants) or on the contrary water in excess (diseases, wastefulness),
•      Not to regularly monitor garden crops (hoeing, pruning, observation of diseases and pests).

In the kitchen garden do not forget the floral part that allows the welcoming of auxiliaries and useful insects (as for example pollinators and predators of pest) but also provides well-being and pleasant sensations. Leave a little bit of nature, but also associate some plants which each other.

All this you can discover from your garden friends, but also by reading regularly the national allotment reviews.

Olivier Guérin & Jean-Claude Férail

21st allotment award of the city of Vienna

KleingartenpreisOn Saturday, September 22nd 2018, the time had come again: For the 21st time, the Allotment Award took place in the large ceremonial hall of the Viennese city hall. The theme "My allotment and the moon" again had an enormous amount of submissions, which made it difficult for the jury to choose the winners.

After the presenter, Alex Jokel, had welcomed the guests, the evening continued with an interview with city councillor for women and housing in Vienna, Kathrin Gaal. She talked about how the city is supporting gardening in Vienna. Afterwards there were talks with the president of the Austrian federation, Ing. Wilhelm Wohatschek, and the chairman of the Viennese association, Helmut Bayer. They talked about the very hot summer in the allotment garden and the role of the moon in their own allotment gardens.

KleingartenpreisThen the prizes were awarded to the different groups, whereby the prizes for the children, which were awarded for the third time this year, were very popular again. The buffet, which was excellent as usual, got great attention as well. Musical entertainment was provided by Martha Butbul, better known as "Jazz Gitti".

Next to the liqueur tasting organised by the women's groups, the extensive supporting programme in the lodges and the adjacent rooms included a photo corner for souvenir photos and the video lounge "allotment TV ". Around 10 p.m. it was time to leave and the guests went home with a little farewell gift, which consisted of a glass of strawberry jam, homemade by the women's groups of Simmering and Floridsdorf in Vienna.

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