Whetstone Stray Allotments Newsletter April 2020

Coronavirus advice for plotholders
This advice is based on the Committee’s interpretation of government advice at the time of writing. It is not definitive and may change at any time – all plotholders must take responsibility for keeping up with the latest government briefings at 5pm everyday on social media, TV and radio.
The most important thing everybody can do in the fight against coronavirus is to follow repeated government advice to stay at home.
Whetstone Stray Allotment will remain open during the lockdown – it would  be difficult to close because there are two public footpaths running through it. However, Government advice is that you should not make any non-essential journeys  – so plot inspections will be postponed, expected standards of cultivation relaxed until further notice and plotholders who cannot visit their plot to cultivate it will have no action taken against them.

  • If you have to drive or take public transport to your plot you should not visit it during the lockdown period.
  • If you are self-isolating you should not visit Whetstone Stray.
  • Plotholders can take their daily exercise by visiting their allotment on foot or by bike for no more than one hour a day, as advised by minister Michael Gove.
  • Use hand sanitiser or gloves when opening and closing any gates and handling padlocks,
  • Do not wash your hands in or over water tanks
  • Use hand sanitiser or gloves when turning taps on and off
  • Work alone. No groups are allowed on site and only one family member that lives with the tenant can enter the site if the tenant is also present.
  • Stay two metres (six feet) away from everybody else
  • Do not share tools or enter anyone else’s plot even if you have had prior permission
  • Visit the allotments to work on your plot – not to socialise. Sheds and greenhouses must not be used for social gatherings eg. no barbecues.
  • Wipe your own tools after use
  • Minimise contact with other people.eg no hugs or handshakes
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home from your plot

We have received a number of requests for the water to be switched on. This has been considered in the light of the unprecedented public health emergency and both the letter and spirit of government guidance. The Committee met online on 22 March after the closure of public places and just before the lockdown was imposed. We agreed that it was not necessary to close the site because attending an allotment is permitted under government guidelines. However shared use of taps is clearly an infection risk and Barnet has one of the highest infection rates in London. We therefore agreed to delay turning on the water until after the initial period  of lockdown and then review the position. This takes us to later in April and not before Easter.  
Thank you for your understanding during this difficult period.

Two local tree surgeons have been given keys to the gate and will drop off suitable woodchip – not conifer or leafy – when they have it at four designated sites along the path.

Joining the Committee
Whetstone Stray Committee members put considerable time, energy, thought and discussion into making what are sometimes difficult decisions regarding management of our large site. Plotholders who would like to be involved in this process, particularly those who represent the enormous diversity of Whetstone Stray,  are warmly encouraged to stand to for election at the AGM in November.

As many plotholders will be unable to visit Whetstone Stray during lockdown, those plotholders who are fortunate enough to continue coming on foot or by bike should keep an eye on neighbours’ plots and ensue that the gate is locked at all time to reduce theft and fly-tipping.

Seasonal Planting
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 ad they will just rot or be eaten by mice. 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 it’s 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.
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 if the frosts don’t get them, hungry slugs and snails certainly will. Garden focused is a really useful website that gives dates for different tasks in specific area and useful information such as last predicted frosts – the second week in April in London this year. www.gardenfocused.co.uk/calendar-veg-personalised.php
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, basil, courgettes, pumpkins and squash, cucumbers, herbs, brassicas, corn, beans and basil.
Outside you can sow directly on the plot: beetroot, parsnips, carrots, turnips, broad beans, chard, spinach, coriander, leeks, lettuce, mizuna, parsley, peas, radish and salad onions – and there is still time to sow onion sets, shallots and garlic.
Later in April, you can sow beans, corn, squashes and brassicas directly on the plot.
Now is the time to plant potatoes, but keep an eye on the weather forecast, we can still get frosts, but you can cover the emerging shoots with fleece.
You can sow indoors: courgettes, tomatoes, chillies and peppers, pumpkins and squash, cucumbers, herbs, brassicas, corn, beans, basil.
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. Nature always has a way of catching up.

Seasonal Recipe

Chard and Potato Curry
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.
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.

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