The horticulture production in the allotment gardens - 24.06.2014

Professor Kazimierz Wiech 

The horticulture production in the allotment gardens

The horticulture production coming from the allotments garden is difficult to estimate, but probably it is still no less that 10% of total production of fruits and vegetables in Poland. Horticulture products obtained from the allotments are mostly produced according to IPM and ecological methods, so they are willingly consumed because of general opinion about them as being free of heavy metals, harmful nitrogen compounds as well as the remains of pesticides. Many allotment holders still produce vegetable and fruits for their own needs, but there is still growing group of people for whom the allotment is not only the place for activity but mainly a place for relaxing after everyday very often physical work, and the address where they meet friends and organized parties.  


Beneficial effect of the allotments garden on the quality of life in big cities

Improving the microclimate in urban areas

Over 4600 allotment gardens is located in the centers of big cities being real “green areas” or “green lungs” with diversified species composition and structure. We should remember that oxygen production of a 50 year old tree eguals annual oxygen consumption of a human being (the same amount of oxygen is produced yearly by 3-4 acres of lawn).

In one family garden in Kraków, consisted of 150 single allotments with the total area of 10 acres there were 600 fruit trees, 3000 fruit bushes, and difficult to calculate number of ornamental trees and bushes as well as annual plants and others. The energy produced by plants as a result of assimilation of CO2 is then deliver to the soil microorganisms (10 000 species of bacteria and 3000 species of fungus)

Numerous trees and bushes cultivated in allotment gardens cause the decrease of temperature in surrounding area in degree of 2-30 C creating the feeling of comfort for the people staying in the garden.


Soil protection methods in the allotments


Soil is the basis of horticulture production everywhere in agriculture including allotment gardens. In Poland allotments were very often planned and located on uncultivated lands as well as on areas formerly covered by industry or being devastated by building companies and others. Owing to the allotment holders work this areas were gradually returned for agricultural usage.

In last years in Poland, as well as in other european countries the gradual decrease of the contents of organic matter (humus) in the soil was observed (for example in last century in Germany the average amount of humus in the soil dropped down of about 20%) . In such a situation the allotment gardens play an important role as places where humus is created as well as where soil is protected against the erosion. A 300 m2 allotment produces around 10 m3 of organic remains which, further re-composted, make around 0.8 m3 of compost containing about 30 kilos of pure food nutritives for plants.

The ways of soil protection applied in allotment gardens:

-          intercropping and inter-row cropping

-          cover crops

-          providing compost, mulching (bark products, woodchips, straw and hey)

-          applying green manures

-          utilization of organic remains

Biodiversity protection in allotments

In the area with numerous plants finding the host plant is for the most of pests more difficult  because of mixing smells coming from different plants (smell camouflage). Moreover the plants cultivated in close mutual neighbourhood, in a dense green group are for phytophagous insects the physical barrier through which moving/flying as well as finding the proper host plant is not easy (visual camouflage) – very often impossible

Biodiversity in the allotments gardens

There is no necessity to convince anybody about the need of plant and animal biodiversity protection in the allotment gardens. Even though, we do not understand the importance of particular plant or insect, our satisfaction connected with the consciousness of existence of different species in the allotment is an important “added value”.

We should always remember:

„The greater is the diversity of species  and mutual relations between plants, insects and other organisms, the stronger and more resistant is the meticulous network of these interrelations”

On the other hand, the presence of different plants being source of nectar and pollen cause that the allotment is visited by enormous number of pollinators like honeybee and other wild bees as well as beneficial insects (parasite and predators of pests) which after consuming proper amount of nectar and pollen produce optimal number of eggs and will be able to look for the suitable places for their offspring in aphids colonies, inside bodies of caterpillars, larvae and pupae of other insects to reduce their number.

We should not be surprised that in the garden without “smell of pesticides” the parazitation level of tussock moth larvae by Trichogramma and other parasites of eggs reaches 90%. The same parasite destroy great number of eggs also other pests like apple moth, cabbage moth or cabbage white butterflies. Another important parasite – Cotesia glomerata kills 50-90% of Pieris brassicae larva, and closely related – C. rubecula, 20-40% of imported cabbage white (Pieris rapae) 20-40% of its caterpillars. Diadegma fenestralis larval parasite of diamond-back moth kills yearly 70-90% of mentioned pest caterpillars, whereas the predatory larvae of hover fly (Syrphidae) during its life lasting 4 weeks consumes even over 1000 of aphids. Carabid beetles which penetrate the surface of every allotment kill difficult to estimate number of insect eggs, larvae, pupae and also aphids which fall down from the plants. We can say that because of the activity of beneficial insects and other biotic and abiotic factors about 95% of all development stages of phytophagous insects is reduced every year. In spite of the great activity of beneficial insects, this high mortality in many cases is not sufficient and some pests damage cultivated plants. It happen not very often and only few among thousands of insects are able to do that. Very often people axaggerate, considering as a pest insect or mite which, truly is not dangerous for yield and plant development.

Every allotment holder should ask himself a question:

What lies within my limit of acceptance, and what does not?”


I can survive on 90% of fruit only, may the remaining 10% be generously left to other organisms

What is biodiversity?

We can imagine the surrounding nature as a big puzzle divided into numerous pieces. Single plants or animal species are elements of this natural puzzle. We should also know that nature is much more complicated than any known puzzle, and every piece of this natural mosaic is connected with difficult to describe number of species fit to each other. Lack of single element may cause the destruction of these complicated puzzle resulting in yield loses due to increased activity of – for example: apple moth, apple blossom weevil or other insect.

Biodiversity on apple tree:

-          on single leaf there are about 50 different development stages eryiophyids mite, 15 – 50 spider mite, 1-3 phytoseid mites (predators of spider mites and eryiophyid mites

-          on sigle apple tree may exist 30-50 colonies of aphids (each colony may reach few thousands of aphids), leaf miners – 1/100 leaves, tortricide moth larvae – 5% of shoots, winter moth caterpillars – 1/300 leaves, apple blossom weeveil destroy yearly less than 10% of flower buds (but in some years even 50%), scale insects – few “scales/branch

Biodiversity protection:

- maintaining the widest possible variety of plant species – which cause the increase of the number of phytophagous insects and mites which number never reach high level of abundance because of growing number of beneficial insects (parasites and predators)

- providing insects with access to food – pollen and nectar  throughout the entire season increase the number of pollinators as well as beneficial (parasitic wasps and flies)  

- preserving wild plant areas – alternative places for the development of beneficial organisms as well as rare, endangered and beautiful butterflies and beetles 

- building shelters for birds, predatory mammals and some other animals  

The protection of beneficial insects

The protection of beneficial mites and insects should be the duty of eaach allotments holder. With every “pest” is connected higher or lower number of parasites and predators playing the crucial role in decreasing the number of pests and mites which damage plants.

The importance of some pests parasites and predators

Species of „pest”

Species of parazite

The importance of parazites and predators

Apple weevil (Anthonomus pomorum)

Parazitic wasps – parazites of weevil larvae


Apple moth (Laspeyresia pomonella)

15 species of parazitic wasps – eggs and larvae parazites


Leaf rollers (tortricide Mohs)

Over 30 species of parazite wasps


Tent caterpillars (Yponomeutidae)

Over 20 species of larval parazites



5 species of predatory mites



Many different species of parazites and predators


+ - low importance

++ - mean importance

+++ - high importance



IV. Rodzinne ogrody działkowe, a ochrona przyrody

Protection of rare insects

Insects in Poland constitute about 60-85% of all known animals occurring in this country. Among them 17-36% of species was placed on the list of endangered. In Polish “Red book” of endangered and protected species there are 2173, among them several can be found in allotment gardens belonging to carabid beetles (Carabus sp., Calosoma sp.) – predators of development stages of other insects.

In trunks and branches of old trees undergo the development some rare insects belonging to family Cerambycidae, so old trees shuld be particularly protected and thei presence is necessary from the point of view of environmental protection.

Also All species of bumblebee are on the list of protected Animals. Their abundance in Poland in recent years decreased dramatically so aallotment garden became a comfortable refuje for them due to obfitość of food as well as many suitable places for nesting.

Ochrona rzadkich i zagrożonych wyginięciem gatunków roślin

In Poland at least 219 species is on the official list of the protected plants. One of the methods of their protection is encoureging allotments holders to their cultivation. Many rare and endangered plant species can be found in the allotments as well as in other small gardens in the cities bought from private breeders or straight from botanical gardens. In such a case, the allotment gardens play similar role like botanical gardens protecting plant species which number dropped down in last years, due to environmental changes caused by human activity.

Plant species



Adonis vernalis


Quite often found on the market and in the shops

Anemone sylvestris


Cipripedium calceolus

Pulsatilla pratensis

Aquilegia vulgaris


Galanthus nivalis

Hepatica nobilis

Otana martagon)

Matteucia struthiopteris



Arnica montana)

mountain meadows

Crocus scepusiensis

Trollius europaeus

- Black colour – plants particularly often fund in the allotments and home gardens

Creating butterfly garden

Butterfly gardens provide an attractive alternative to monotonous gardens designed around a lawn scheme and numerous coniferous trees and bushes. “Butterfly plants”, not only those that butterfly adults feed on but also species such as a stinging nettle which provide food to caterpillars, can be divided into several groups:

Ornamental plants often visited by day butterflies (Marigold,

Aster, Butterfly Bush, Sedum)

Ornamental plants often visited by night moths (Tartarian Honeysuckle, Evening Primrose, Datura)

The research carried out in some allotments in Kraków showed over 40 species of butterflies visiting allotments in the gardens in the centre of the city


Number of observed butterlies


Papilion machaon


May - August

Pieris rapae


May - August

Gonepteryx ramni


July  – next spring

Polyomnatus ikar


May - July

Argymnis paphia


June - September

Vanessa atalanta


May - July

Inachis Io


July  – next spring

Numphalis athiopa


July  – next spring                              

Protection of cultural values in the allotments

Protection of old cultivars of fruit tree and bushes

The allotment gardens play in this matter particularly important role. The cultivation on the allotments of old cultivars (existing only as local populations) and not placed on the official list of recommended varieties for fruit production, secure protection of cultivar biodiversity with its unique taste and nutrition value. Old cultivars protected on such a way, can be treated in future as a specific “bank of genes”, being an important source and starting point in obtaining new cultivars. One of the points of Agreement for the Protection of Biologic Biodeversity (ratified by Poland) says about “necessity of protection of domesticated varieties   and cultivars of plants and animals, in particular old and local”. In last years we observed growing interesting among people searching for old and very often forgotten cultivars of apples (Złota Reneta, Szara Reneta, Grafsztynek, Kronselska, Glogierówka), pears (Józefinka, Paryżanka, Dobra Szara, Boika, Kongresówka, Pstrągówka) and cherries (Bladoróżowa, Kurzego, Wolska, Przybrodzka)

Rearing of wild polinators (for example Osmia rufa)

Osmia rufa belongs to the most effective pollinators. It is easy and safe to breed (it belongs to the stingless bees). The list of protected insects contains almost all bumble bee species which find favorable conditions for their development on the allotments. Moreover, the allotment are also visited by wild bees ( in Poland about 500 species), for which we promote establishing “insect hotels”

Return to traditional methods of cultivation and plant protection

Old, very often abandoned methods of cultivation and plant protection should be widely applied in the allotments because of their simplicity and easy way of application as well as safety for human being.

Methods of plant protection reccomended to apply in family allotments gardens:

-          farming- hygienic methods – removing parts of plants after harvesting is particularly important in plant protection against many important vegetable diseases

-          proper date of sowing, plant neighbourhood, plant rotation

-          mechanical methods – cutting of shoots of currents and raspberries decrease the occurrence of several pests like stem borers, and flies building galls on the stem

-          using artificial covers and different plastic nets and other barriers protecting plants against some flying pests

-          breeding methods – correct selection of plant cultivars for growing in the allotments (introducing plant cultivars resistant against pest and diseases

-          biological method – the usage of beneficial organisms to protect plants cultivated in glasshouses and under over artificial covers.

-          Biotechnical methods – applying coloured sticky traps, pheromone traps for monitoring and trapping pests

-          Using the registered plant pesticides (based for example on garlic and grapefruit)


Building ethical attitudes among allotments holders

About 25% of allotment holders still apply chemical control against pests and diseases which do not correlate with the ecological/organic methods propagated by us as the proper method of plant protection. Many people until now do not understand and is not able to appreciate the need of environmental protection. In magazine działkowiec” we elaborated and recommended to usage – the list of some recommendations eliminating chemical protection and substitute itt with other methods safety for the biodiversity.

Creating the appropriate mindset

-          when applying plant protection measures, always remember about your own safety and about the safety of others  residing on the allotment

-          remember that although your allotment is your castle, your  neighbour pertains to the same right to peace and relaxation

-          always protect plants against pests and diseases according to the ten commandments of an allotment farmer as well as all the recommendations which stem from the principles of  plant protection practice

-          always choose the safest method when thinking about the  protection of fruit and vegetable yield; try to use other methods  instead of the chemical one.

-          think about those you will say ‘help yourself” to, when offering fruit and vegetable as well as about your potential customers;  your produce should be the source of nutrients and not the remains of badly applied pesticides and fertilisers

-          maintain biodiversity on your allotment; aim at creating appropriate conditions for the development of beneficial organisms which, most often without you even knowing, help to diminish the number of pests

-          remember that every single existence/living organism is there for a reason and may thus have positive influence on the quality of the produced fruit and vegetables.

-          maintain what is around you with care and diligence; remember about a delicate approach to plants, keeping in mind that your life will be better surrounded by a beautiful garden with a great diversity of flora and fauna

-          remember that methods of protecting your yield undergo a constant evolution together with the development of science and the change of aims of horticultural production

-          do not forget about constant education and improving your qualifications



To spray or not to spray

That is a question …

To eat a cherry with a cherry fly

Peas with pea beetles, on the side

Plums with plum moths

Leaks with leak miners

Or carrots with a carrot fly

Yet what is pest?

Does it deserve this cruel name

Only because it eats again and again

What a man eats?

Should it be the one to blame

Seeing this “enormous plate”

Of insects’ snacks planted everywhere

A man then suddenly

Screams out loud

Aiming huge arsenal of pesticides

To kill the “pest”…

Spraying out blindly

Without a glance

Not even checking if nearby

Innocent creatures share

This cruel fate …

He often puts near insect’s nose

A fruit or wheat…

Against the cause

And effect of Natural logic

Then every bite is punished hard

With heedless calamity…

Still there’s a question hanging by:

Who is a thorn in whose side?                         

Poem by

Alicja Zięba

Translated by

Joanna Wiech


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