Thank you to everyone who is being so careful about keeping your distance, wearing gloves and using hand sanitiser when touching taps, gates and locks. Please continue to be very careful – we have many vulnerable plotholders at Whetstone Stray – lockdown may be relaxed but we can’t afford to be where the coronavirus is concerned.
Parking outside the main gate
Please don’t ever do this – it makes it very difficult for cars coming in and out of the gate to pass each other, especially when we are all trying to keep our distance and take extra precautions when using the lock. There is a blind bend on the right when emerging from the site, and thoughtless parking only increases the danger to pedestrians and drivers alike. If you need a key to the gate please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and pay £10 deposit.
When you sign a lease for a plot at Whetstone Stray you agree to provide your contact details and keep them up to date, so let us know if you change your address and only unsubscribe from emails if you have given up your plot. Sending out information about the prevention of infection by coronavirus – which had to be done before the water could be turned on -was made slower and more difficult by the number of plotholders who don’t read their emails.
Never leave power tools or other valuable items in sheds and greenhouses – a lock does not offer much protection and often simply results in more damage.
If you experience a theft always report it online at https://www.met.police.uk/ro/report/ocr/af/how-to-report-a-crime/
It is only if there is a critical mass of reports of theft from Whetstone Stray that the local police will investigate – so all plotholders must take responsibility for doing this rather than simply complaining. Online reporting is essential as phone calls and messages to our local police station have rarely resulted in a response.
Theft and Vandalism
In recent months there have been many mysterious openings of shed and greenhouse doors with no apparent theft or damage. More recently one shed on Holden Road field has suffered severe damage and theft, and tools have been stolen from several others. An image of a suspect, recorded by a plotholder on a wildlife camera, has been sent, to the police at the address above. Sadly, there has also been vandalism to greenhouses on Field 3, possibly by local schoolboys as it always happened on weekdays.
Weather and Wildlife
Please remember, not all damage is malicious – Winter storms earlier in the year completely destroyed several sheds across the site, and crops are most often ‘stolen’ by pigeons, rabbits, foxes, squirrels, badgers, muntjac deer – not to mention slugs, snails and caterpillars.
High Fences and CCTV
Whetstone Stray is a beautiful site with two public footpaths running through it. Unfortunately, there will always be thefts of both crops and tools, and we can only do so much to prevent it. Plotholders posting on our Facebook group regularly suggest installing high fences or CCTV cameras but to do so would be expensive and disruptive, and make our beautiful site resemble a prison camp – and there is very little evidence that they would make a difference. There is only one plot on Whetstone Stray with a high fence around it, and a wheelbarrow was stolen from it over the winter. If you have any carefully considered suggestions for improving security please present them, with full costings and evidence of effectiveness, to the AGM in November. Otherwise, getting to know other plotholders, sharing information , politely challenging people we don’t recognise and reporting all thefts and criminal damage to the police is cheaper and likely to be more effective. Individual plotholders can use wildlife cameras to record what is happening on their plots but any footage of humans should be sent to the police at the above address and only shared on their advice. (However, we’d all love to see your wildlife shots- especially hedgehogs.)
With some plotholders self-isolating the mowing of communal paths is being rather neglected. Please help if you can. Paths between plots are for the shared use of neighbouring plotholders, who should also take equal responsibility for mowing and keeping them clear of rubbish and cuttings.
Angela on Field 2 heartily recommends this book as an inspiring story of what can happen when Nature is allowed to restore its ecosystem after years of intensive farming. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jun/28/wilding-isabella-tree-review-farm-return-nature
We have often planted wildflower seeds as part of the Big Dig but we already have wild flowers growing on our plots that have shown they are very happy at Whetstone Stray. Weeds are just the wrong plant in the in the wrong place – and some of them are wild flowers. If you have poppies , purple-flowered dead nettle, herb Robert, pink campion or buttercups on you plot please consider transplanting a few or collecting some seeds and throwing them on the verges of the lane and communal grass areas of Whetstone Stray. http://www.gardenwithoutdoors.org.uk/weed_guide
Seasonal Planting Tips
May is the month when everything starts happening on our plots
Keep an eye on the weather forecast – the severe drop in temperature over the last couple of days will have damaged a lot of tender plants planted out during the unseasonably hot weather. If you have lost plants in the recent cold snap just replant seeds – they will soon catch up.
When the soil is warm you can really start planting seeds directly into the earth: beetroot, kale, beans, peas, rocket, radish, chard, spinach, lettuce and salads, carrot, spring onions and much more.
If you have been growing tender plants inside from seed, such as tomatoes, courgettes, chillis, peppers and aubergine, make sure you harden them off before planting them out. James Wong recommends toughening up tender plants up by stroking them gently – as you would a cat – and spraying them with soluble aspirin https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/may/10/hardening-off-seedlings-the-easy-way!
It’s now too late to plant these seeds which require a long growing season, so if you haven’t got these already growing, buy them online or in garden centres if rumoured lockdown regulations allow them to open.
Young plants are very vulnerable to hungry slugs and snails, so be patient and wait until they are a bit tougher before planting out. Consider using coffee grounds, beer traps, broken egg shells, nematodes, cut off plastic bottles or organic wool pellets to protect plants. Collecting by hand on damp mornings and evenings is the best method – what you do with them then is up to you. Digging a pond to encourage hungry frogs and toads will help too.
Earth up potatoes so they don’t turn green when exposed to the light.
Put up supports for runner beans and peas.
Support broad beans with strong twine strung between canes to support heavily-laden plants, and prepare something similar tomatoes, cucumbers and climbing squash before they get too big.
Net brassicas, peas, strawberries, currant and gooseberry bushes to protect them from hungry birds.
Thin out seedlings to give them enough room and light to grow. Water regularly with a fine rose.
Pinch out the top shoots of broad bean to discourage blackfly.
Thin out crowded raspberry canes to allow sunshine and air to penetrate.
Make your own organic plant food with nettles and comfrey: https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/maintain-the-garden/how-to-make-nettle-and-comfrey-feed/
Weed as often as you can now – if you let weeds run away from you now it’ll be hard to catch up later. Remember Whetstone Stray does not allow weedkillers containing glyphosate – often sold as Round Up.
Take the flowers off dandelions before they turn to seed or you will be very unpopular with your neighbours. Of course you you could try eating them https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ethicallivingblog/2009/apr/07/dandelions-foraging-salads-spring-seasonal-food-recipe
Seasonal Recipe for May
Here’s another way of getting rid of your weeds – don’t forget to wear gloves when picking and handling nettles. Wild garlic, also known as Ransoms, is in bloom now – it has pointed green leaves like lily-of-the-valley, pretty white flowers and smells strongly of garlic. Very pretty and very invasive – so eat as much as you can.
Nettle and Wild Garlic Soup
1 large bunch of young nettles (or the tender tops)
1 large bunch of wild garlic
2 medium sized potatoes, diced
2 medium onions, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped into small pieces
1 pint vegetable stock
A knob of butter
Salt and pepper
Wash the nettles in a sink full of cold water and a large tablespoon of salt. Wearing rubber gloves add your nettles and wash thoroughly, drain and pat dry with a clean towel.Separately wash and thinly slice the wild garlic leaves.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium temperature and add the onions, cook gently until soft then add the potato and celery, cook until tender.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium temperature and add the onions, cook gently until soft then add the potato and celery.
Cook for a further 5 minutes, then pour in the stock.
Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the potato is tender. Add a splash of water if it needs it.
Add the nettles and wild garlic and let this cook for a further 15 minutes
Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
Pour into a blender and blend away.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve garnished with cream and wild garlic flowers with some nice crusty bread.