Whetstone Stray Allotments Newsletter Spring 2019
Traditionally, March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, so by the end of the month we should be enjoying milder days; but with the strange weather that climate change has been bringing it’s anyone’s guess what will be happening.
As you should have already heard by email, a stolen car was reversed through the front gates of our site over the weekend causing extensive damage. The smashed gates have been tied shut to prevent access to fly tippers and the second set of gates have been locked to keep the rest of the site secure. There is no vehicle access to the site at the moment – pedestrian access is possible using the kissing gates. We will let you know more when we have had an assessment from a contractor. Thank you for your patience.
At Whetstone Stray the water is turned off over the winter to prevent expensive burst pipes – it will be turned on in the next few weeks, check your emails for the exact date. When watering your plot please remember that hose-pipes should always be handheld and that sprinklers, leaky hoses and any other devices should never be used. Please don’t hog the tap for more than 20 minutes if you know your neighbours are waiting, and if you are dipping your watering can into a tank check for newts (and return any you may accidently scoop out to their watery home). If your plot is on a slope please be aware that you may create problems by flooding plots further down.
New Site Map
Thanks to our Secretary, Crispin, for the excellent, new site map, on display in the Trading Hut. Much larger and clearer, and using the new numbering system – from Plot 1 in Holden Road Field to 143 on Field 3 – it will make it much easier for the Rents Officer to allocate plots, to do the annual site inspection and for the emergency services. If you’ve forgotten your new number, come and check in the Trading Hut and, if you don’t already have one, please make a sign.
All plotholders are very welcome to come and join the discussion and make suggestions. Trading Hut at 12 noon on Sunday 17 March.
Matthew tells us that Finchley Nurseries offers a 10% discount on many plants and seeds to all allotment plot-holders. Just take along your rent receipt as proof, or get a slip stamped with the Whetstone Stray stamp from the Trading Hut next time it is open. firstname.lastname@example.org.
We had two very successful work parties on Sundays in January and February and have ticked off lots of the essential tasks on the To Do list of communal maintenance, including widening the lane and putting down surface material. It was wonderful to see so many new faces, including families with children. Thanks to everyone who came, too numerous to mention by name – your efforts make Whetstone Stray a friendly and supportive community and save us hundreds of pounds every year.
The hut was a hive of activity, with lots of people bringing seeds to share, painting signs with their new plot numbers and sharing seed potatoes. Matthew kindly cleaned, oiled and mended plotholders’ rakes and spades and sharpened shears and secateurs. There are lots of seeds left over which will be available free, in the Trading Hut, whenever the shop is open. Thanks to Rita, Weldon and Dorothy for organising.
Conventional slug pellets are to be banned from 2020 because the main constituent, metaldehyde, is an unacceptable risk to wildlife, streams and rivers. The Trading Hut now stocks a wool-based slug pellets – Les M suggests that as these are more expensive they might only be used around your most precious crops. Other plotholders recommend nematodes. Find out more about biological pest control at the RHS.
Angela recommends this website, ‘For anyone who’s obsessed with slugs. Who knew there were so many! Weirdly fascinating.’ Find out at Slug Watch.
Trading Hut Shop
Thanks to Peter for ordering and overseeing delivery of new stock in the shop, and Lester, Maggie and Crispin for helping with the unloading. Like most things at Whetstone Stray, the shop depends on plotholders volunteering to help with ordering, deliveries and to staffing, so if you use it, please help keep it open. We have plenty of manure and compost at the moment but it goes very quickly at this time of year. If you want a large amount please consider placing an order in advance. The shop will be open on Sunday 17 from 10.30 to 11.30 before the Committee meeting at 12 noon – so please don’t come any later.
Thanks to Allison for finding a great new fridge on freecycle for the Trading Hut – it will be really useful for work-parties and other events.
Welcome to Jasleen and Sukhjit and family, who have taken on a plot on Holden Road Field. They were on the waiting list, came along to a work party, joined in with site maintenance and were offered a plot. This seems like a really good way of finding out who, on our waiting list, is really interested and understands that having a plot also means helping with essential, communal tasks.
Seasonal Growing Tips
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. Make sure that your beds are ready, and mulched with compost and/or manure. Look out for wildlife when digging look out for slow worms and hedgehogs – they are gardeners’ friends and they may be hibernating in compost bins or under weed control matting.
March is the big month for sowing seeds, if you are lucky enough to have some indoor space with good light. The advantage of seed sowing is that you have a far wider ranger of plants available to you and it’s cheaper, of course. If you don’t have anywhere to raise seedlings, don’t despair, you can buy plants when they appear in the shops in May, online or, best of all, at the Whetstone Stray Plant Sale.
Because of the warm weather pruning of apples and pears should be carried right now, but stone fruits (plums, cherries, apricots), should wait until the Spring or Summer, to avoid possible viruses.
Strawberry plants and asparagus crowns can be planted now.
Plant peas and broad beans can be sown in the ground but warm up the soil first under a cloche or a piece of plastic. Starting them off in a pot makes them less attractive to mice.
The new season of Gardeners’ World – Fridays 8.30pm BBC2 and on iplayer – started last week. Presenter Monty Don, is always a great source of seasonal information, inspiration and advice – the first episode covered seed-sowing, apple-pruning and much more. In April 2015 Monty visited Whetstone Stray to help Nighat and Kauser on Field 1 create a forest garden for their bees in his show, Big Dreams, Small Space.
Rhubarb, almond and ginger crumble
Rhubarb is one of the easiest crops to grow if you have full sun and can sort out drainage, and it comes back bigger and better year after year. Herb sweet cicely, is also very easy to grow – as well as adding a lovely aromatic edge to a dish, the aniseedy leaves make tart fruits seem sweeter, which means you can use less sugar. Recipe by by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
For the topping
200g plain flour
A pinch of salt
140g caster sugar
2–4 tsp ground ginger, to taste
250g flaked almonds
200g cold, unsalted butter, cubed
For the base
750g rhubarb, trimmed
3 tbsp sweet cicely leaves, finely chopped, or 3 tbsp caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. For the topping, put the flour, salt, sugar and ginger together into a food processor and blitz briefly to combine. Add the flaked almonds and process just enough to break them up but not turn them to dust. Add the butter and process until well mixed.
The crumble should be in fudgy clods rather than in fine crumbs. Getting this right may take a little tweaking as the almonds can vary considerably. If the mix is too dry, add a little more butter; if it’s in one or two lumps, add a little flour.
For the base, cut the rhubarb into 5cm lengths, spread evenly in a baking dish and sprinkle with the sweet cicely or sugar. Scatter the clods of crumble mix evenly over the fruit, letting them sit where they fall rather than pressing them down. Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes or until the topping is golden with a few darker brown patches. Serve with cream or fresh custard.