Whetstone Stray Allotments Newsletter March 2018
The next work party will be from 10am on Saturday 10th March (not the previous week, as previously announced). This month we will continue to cut back and clear paths (before the birds start nesting) and plant hedging and flowering native shrubs near the Trading Hut (which many of you said you wanted in the survey.) The work party will be followed, as always, by lunch in the Trading Hut. Do come along, especially if you have never been before – it’s a great way of meeting fellow plotholders and hearing what’s been going on, while helping to maintain and improve Whetstone Stray.
On a beautiful, but freezing, Sunday in February, Allison, Sean, Phil, Carmen, Dorothy and Les C made an impressive start on restoring the communal orchard on Field 2. We cut though the brambles that were threatening to choke the apple trees and drank tea round the resulting bonfire. With a bit of care the orchard will become the site of lazy summer picnics and provide lots of fruit for juicing on Apple Day in October. This is a communal project so please look out for details of the next session and come along.
The Trading Hut will be open on Sunday 18th March from 10.30-11.30am, selling compost, manure, weed matting, canes and lots of other useful things. It is particularly useful for members without cars. Many sites no longer offer this service because it is so hard to find enough volunteers, so thank you to everyone who offered to help staff the shop in our survey. Come along to stock up, say ‘Hello’, have a cup of tea and a chat, and browse our useful reference library.
The next meeting will be on Sunday 18th March at 12 noon (so you can come after buying your supplies from the Trading Hut.) All plotholders are welcome to come and join in discussions, keep up-to-date with what has been happening (did you know that Les M has retired as Rent Officer and Sean E has taken over?) and help make decisions about managing the site.
Thank you to everyone who completed our survey – we heard from 58 of you about how you would like Whetstone Stray to develop and how you would like to be involved. Getting people to complete the survey was even harder than expected – it took a lot of emails, Facebook posts, nagging and phone calls – all the results and the name of the lucky winner, who completed the survey by the end of February, will be on the website in the near future. If you still want to take part visit this web page. Enormous thanks to Dominik for creating it.
Our first Seedy Sunday was a great success, with lots of plotholders rifling through the assorted packets, asking and giving growing advice and taking home lots of free seeds. Everyone agreed it should definitely become an annual event. Thank you Rita, Weldon, Peter and Dorothy for organising it.
What to do on your plot this month
Gardeners never stop, but if you have had a few weeks (or even months) away from your plot, now is the time to get back to it, to avoid being left behind by the rush of Spring growth – daffodils and blossoms but also weeds.
You can start sowing tender seeds indoors (tomatoes, peppers, chillies) as they need a long growing season. Seed potatoes should be chitting – sitting in egg boxes with an eye pointing upwards to encourage new shoots.
It’s the last chance to plant garlic this month and you can also plant shallots – use fleece to protect them from the allium moth that arrived in London last year. If the weather is kind, you can sow broad beans and peas at the end of the month.
By the end of March, there will be potatoes to plant, and all manner of seeds to sow, so now is the time to get your beds ready for sowing – weed, mulch them with compost and/or manure and cover them to warm the soil and stop new weeds from emerging. If you don’t have a compost heap, now is a good time to make or buy one. The simplest way of making compost bins is to tie or nail four pallets together or attach chicken wire around four posts.
Pruning of apples, pears and grape vines should have been carried out by now, but stone fruits (plums, cherries etc), should wait until June, to avoid leaf curl and other possible viruses.
Now is the time to cut back hedges and vegetation from paths, before birds begin nesting. Watch out for hibernating frogs, toads, slow worms and hedgehogs when you are digging, especially when clearing pondweed and digging in compost bins. A new report from the Woodland Trust says that hedgehog numbers have halved since the millennium – to find out more about the environment they need to thrive visit the Woodland Trust.
Recipe for March Harvest
If you have rhubarb on your plot, here is a delicious alternative to crumble. If you don’t have any rhubarb think about planting some – it’s one of the easiest crops to grow if you have full sun and can sort out drainage, and comes back year after year.
Juice of ½ lemon
165g self-raising flour
175g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
175g caster sugar
3 large free-range eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
25g unsalted butter
2 tbsp self-raising flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp icing sugar, to dust
4 tbsp crème fraîche, to serve
2 tbsp clear honey, to serve
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Grease a 23cm square cake tin and line with baking parchment.
Trim the rhubarb and chop into 3cm pieces. Place in a bowl with the lemon juice. In a separate bowl, beat together the flour, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Fold in half the rhubarb and spoon the mixture into the bottom of the tin, spreading it out with a spatula. Scatter over the remaining rhubarb.
For the topping, rub the butter into the flour, then stir in the sugar and ginger. Sprinkle over the cake mixture and bake for 40-50 minutes. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin. Dust with icing sugar, then slice into squares. Serve warm or cold with crème fraîche, ice cream or Greek yoghout, drizzled with honey.
Recipe from Sainsburys