Newsletter April 2019

Whetstone Stray Allotments Newsletter April 2019

In this months newsletter:

Work Party, Rubbish Collections and Bonfires, Plot Availability, Water, Seasonal Tips and Recipes

Work Party
Whetstone Stray is a self-managing site which means it does not get any support from Barnet Council and depends on its plotholders to maintain the site. Much of this work, including emergency situations, such as the recent damage to the gates, is dealt with by your committee members. If you haven’t done your bit for the Whetstone community yet this year, your next opportunity is at the work party on Saturday 13 April, at 10.30am, followed by lunch at 1pm. We have several jobs in April, mostly around clearing out the Tin Hut and Lean-to, near the Trading Hut, so we can make better use of them. We particularly need a carpenter or handyman to create a simple storage rack to keep 50 or so spades, forks and rakes clean and tidy in the Lean-to beside the Trading Hut, and shelves for smaller tools, gloves etc. This will require a little pre-planning and the purchase of the necessary materials, so if you think you can help, please contact us in advance, by 10 April at to arrange a time to see what is involved. You will be sent a more comprehensive list of work party jobs in the next few days – including painting the front of the Trading Hut – so please come along and do your bit. It’s great that so many people have turned up for recent work parties but it would be even better if we had an idea how of many people are coming so we know how many tasks we can tackle, and can provide enough food and drink at lunch afterwards.

Rubbish Collection and Bonfires
We have scheduled a collection for 12 noon on Sunday 14 April – the day after the work party so that anything we are throwing out from the Tin Shed and Lean-to can be collected. Please leave out any rubbish that cannot be burned or composted at the tops of the paths from the morning of Saturday 13 April. This is the chance for a really good clear out before the growing season takes off. If you have an old shed which is rotten, and that you would like some help dismantling and disposing of, or any other item which you need help carrying, please let us know at and we can add it to the list of jobs for the work party, and will tackle it if we have enough volunteers.

Wood, paper, cardboard and weeds and other organic material should be burnt or composted. Bonfires are allowed at any time of day in March and April, but are not at all in May and June. Please check for slow worms and hedgehogs before lighting, keep fires small and under control, and never leave them unattended.

As part of the work party on Saturday April 13 there will be a temporary communal bonfire site for plotholders who are throwing out burnable rubbish but don’t have space on their own plot for a bonfire. This is a new idea so please use it sensibly – only wood and cardboard and non-compostable weeds, please – and nothing brought in from home. We need a couple of volunteers to manage the bonfire – if you could do this please let us know at

Do have a good look round on Sunday morning and feel free to help yourself to anything that has been discarded that you can reuse or recycle.
Our rubbish collection is expensive so please do not bring in rubbish from home – you can take it to the Barnet council dump in Summers Lane, N12 0RF, which is open until 4.15pm every day and completely free.

Full plot available
New plotholders at Whetstone Stray are usually allocated a half plot, and have three years to demonstrate their ability to cultivate it before moving up to a whole plot, if they’d like one (or sooner if they’ve shown their commitment). Existing plotholders also have first refusal – ahead of the waiting list – on all empty plots and can request to move from one full plot to another. Requests will only be considered if a plot is well cultivated, and the plotholder’s involvement in communal activities, such as work parties, will be regarded favorably when making a decision. A full plot has become available at the top of Field 2, on the first path nearest the Trading Hut end – if you are interested in moving to this plot please contact Rents Officer Sean at

The water, which is turned off over the winter to avoid burst pipes, will be turned on again on Monday 1 April. When watering your plot please remember that hosepipes 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 accidentally 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.

Seasonal Tips
April is a tricky month – it’s tempting to plant seeds to get them off to an early start, but it is still risky as temperatures may not be high enough for seeds to germinate. Try not to be in too much of a hurry to plant and sow seeds if the conditions are not right – for example heavy rain or frost. Unless you have lots of indoor space or a heated greenhouse its wiser just to sow a few seeds in pots and gradually harden them off to plant out at the end of May or in early June when all risks of frost have passed.

Beetroot, parsnips, carrots, turnips, broad beans, chard, spinach, leeks, parsley, peas, radish and salad onions can all be planted outside.
Indoors, in pots, you can sow tomatoes, courgettes, chillies, pumpkins and squash, cucumbers, and basil.

Don’t be tempted to buy the tomato plants that some unscrupulous retailers have on sale now unless you can keep them safely inside for a couple more months. Plant them outside now and the frosts don’t get them the slugs and snails certainly will.

Seasonal Recipe
Chard is a wonderful vegetable to have on your plot – unlike spinach it doesn’t reduce to very little when cooked, but the stalks are tougher so need to be cooked separately from the leaves, as in this recipe.

Chard and Potato Curry
About 500g Swiss chard
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 onion, halved and finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
3cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cardamom pods, bashed
350g potatoes, chopped into chunks
250g plain yoghurt
1½ tablespoons tomato purée
A small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
A small handful of almonds, cashews or pistachios, toasted and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Separate the chard leaves from the stalks. Cut the stalks into 2–3cm pieces and roughly chop the leaves.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion and fry until just golden. Meanwhile, pound the garlic, chilli and ginger together with a pinch of salt to a paste. Add to the onion and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Tip in the rest of the spices and stir for a minute or two.

Add the potatoes and chopped chard stalks and fry, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, so that they are well coated with the spice mixture. Pour in about 400ml water – enough to just cover the veg. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 10–12 minutes until the potatoes are just tender. Add the chard leaves, stir and cook until just wilted.

In a bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, tomato pure and some of the hot liquid from the curry. Remove the curry from the heat, stir in the yoghurt mixture, return to the heat and warm through very gently (if it gets too hot, the yoghurt will curdle). Stir in most of the coriander.
Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Scatter over the toasted nuts and remaining coriander, then serve with rice and naan or chapattis.
From River Cottage Veg Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Newsletter: Dorothy
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