Newsletter April 2021

Log piles for little kritters

You may have seen a few piles of logs on suitable places around the site. Paul Castignetti, our site manager, used spare logs to build these to encourage insects and other small animals giving them a place to hide and feeding off the wood as it rots down. Next, Paul will mount some bat boxes on the larger trees around the site.

Tell us if you want to go peat-free

Did you know that the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew has not been using peat for the past 30 years. I reckon if Kew can do it, so can we as vegetable gardeners.

In the spirit of supporting the move away from using precious peat – and leaving if where it belongs, in the peat bogs – I am asking all allotment holders to indicate whether they are interested in buying compost in our trading shed that is free of peat. Please email if you are. Even better, give us a confirmed order.

Peat-free is slightly more expensive, it has to be said, but the difference is marginal. A 50 litre bag of compost based on peat costs around £6 while the peat-free version costs around £8 a bag. In my gardening year, with me buying one bag of compost, the difference is a mere £2.

For that extra money spent, I know I have done the right thing by protecting the environment. Definitely worth doing – and having massive impact if we are all doing it. It is unfortunately amateur gardeners who are responsible for 70% of the peat used in horticulture today.

A slow worm on the compost heap

Spotted by Rachael Harvey on her compost heap, a slow worm is not really a worm but a legless lizard. And according to Rachael, not that slow at all when it wants to vanish. Too quick, in fact, to catch this one’s face.

Toilet remains closed

While Covid restrictions are in place, unfortunately the toilet will remain closed. We simply do not have the means to ensure regular cleaning that would be required were it to open.

Meanwhile, some of us may consider buying a portable toilet designed for use on camping trips or when attending festivals. There are some lightweight, durable and very reasonably priced options out there.

In the longer term, once Covid restrictions are lifted we are looking for volunteers to clean the toilet. Please give me a shout at and I will pass on your name to the board.

Store material for burning over the summer

Bonfires by individual plotholders are not allowed, as you all know. The only burning that can be done is on the communal fire site and controlled by our site manager Paul Castignetti.

However, in the interest of our neighbours around the area we would like to keep the number of managed bonfires down during the summer months.

We would ask you to retain as much as possible of the material that needs burning on your own plots over the summer. Please either store things or transport them to Summers Lane to ease the pressure on the general fire site.

Some shiny new websites

North London’s gardeners have been busy over the winter, not just preparing their garden for spring, but also to get ahead in the digital race.

Barnet Allotment Federation (BAF) has launched a new logo and a new website. BAF is a network of 37 allotment societies, comprising 44 allotment sites across the London Borough of Barnet. Through the federation, societies support each other, sharing expertise in good allotment management.

The BAF project was managed by our own membership secretary Derek McMaster who is a member of the BAF committee and is overseeing other new BAF information initiatives due to launch later this year.

And Charity Veggiebox has also invested in its digital future by launching a new website.  In their own words: “To help us grow this year we have a new website where people can find out all about us and our wonderful growing community.”

French beans top the yield list

Not that this is news to us, but researchers at Sheffield University have calculated that an average of 24 minutes work is required to produce each kilogram of fruit or vegetable grown on an allotment.

The vegetable producing the best yield are French beans. They yield 6.5kg of produce per square metre. Courgettes are close seconds with 6kg per square metre, followed by tomatoes with 5.1kg.

And then there is the benefit of growing your own plus all the healthy activity outdoors. As I said, no news to us, but to some readers of the Times no doubt.

Charity Veggiebox collecting from late May

Charity Veggiebox is gearing up to start another season of re-distributing your surplus or ‘grow to give’ crops to community kitchens and schools throughout North London.

Growing conditions allowing, they expect to start collections by the end of May. A little early for French beans, but early potatoes could be ready.


These are the carrot plants of one of our allotment gardeners who wants to remain unnamed. He used a deep plastic container and put in the seeds weeks ago, keeping the seedlings at home in the warmth. A lesson in how to grow early carrots!

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