FAQ

Frequently asked questions

How is the site run?

Self Management

All allotment sites in Barnet have been self-managing since 2013. All plotholders are expected to contribute to the management and development of the site in some way, no matter how small. Here are some of the ways that you can help:

Work Parties
Essential tasks such as keeping paths open by cutting back growth, or repairing boundaries with dead hedging, as well as planting new hedging and restoring neglected plots. Work parties are an excellent way to meet other plotholders and are always followed by a convivial lunch in the Trading Hut. They happen once a month on Saturdays in Winter. Details are sent by email.

Trading Hut
Our Trading Hut is open from 10.30 -11.30am on Sundays in Spring and Summer, selling compost, netting, canes and other allotment essentials at very reasonable prices. This is particularly helpful for members who do not have transport. Volunteers are always needed to take money and keep a record of what is sold. Another good way to meet other plotholders and, don’t worry, you will never be left to do it on your own.

Annual Events
We always need volunteers for our annual events. Could join a planning group, staff the BBQ, make tea and coffee, bring food, put up and take down gazebos and bunting, sell raffle tickets, set out tables and chairs or help tidy up afterwards?

Our Annual Events include:

Seedy Sunday
A free seed swap held in the Trading Hut February. An excellent opportunity to share excess or saved seeds and meet up with other plotholders before the growing season begins.

The Big Dig
Every year Whetstone Stray takes part in this nationwide event to get people outside, digging, sowing seeds and planting, followed by a communal lunch.

Plant Sale
In May we sell plants grown and donated by our members and gardeners on the Community Plot. An excellent opportunity for plotholders and our local neighbours  to stock up on healthy young vegetable, salad and herb plants at bargain prices and for us to raise some money for our Community Plot.

Annual Show and Harvest Festival
At the beginning of September we come together to show off our courgettes and cucumbers in a spirit of friendly competition for coveted cups, and, more importantly, to share food and drink and celebrate our harvest.

Committee
Perhaps you would prefer to join the Committee? Committee members have responsibilities including Secretary, Chair, Treasurer and Rent Officer. These roles are elected at the AGM in November. All plot holders are encouraged to attend meetings and get involved in decision-making. Minutes of the AGM and Committee meetings can be found in the Members’ Area.

Community Plot
We are very proud of our award-winning community plot. There are currently two community groups who use it regularly – Tuesday for a General Maintenance and Garden Skills Group and on Thursday with people from Mencap. You help and support is welcome on either day as well as watering in summer on days when there is no group. There are also one-off projects planned for the future. You may even have ideas for starting a different group on another day.

Paying for your allotment

Rent

Rent is due by the end of October each year.

In the past all payments have been made by cash or cheque in the Trading hut on Sundays throughout October. This is very time-consuming for the Rent Officer so from 2018 we will be considering other ways of collecting rent, including payment by bank transfer. However, this will only be possible for active members of our community who respond promptly to communications. Unfortunately, as on all allotment sites, there are some members who are only seem to appear once a year when their rent is due.

If you know you will have difficulty paying your rent in October please let the Rent Officer know as early as possible.

Rent money is used to pay for essential maintenance such as boundaries, water courses, trees and keeping the Trading Hut, roads and drains in good repair. We keep these costs down as much as possible by using our own skills and energy whenever possible.

Using your allotment

What do I have to do on my plot?

You must cultivate your plot to minimum standards. When the site is inspected, there must be evidence of planting and growing of fruit and vegetables. In the first year one third must be cultivated, in the second year two thirds,  working up to a well managed plot in the third year and thereafter.

If you are lucky you will take over a plot that is in quite good condition. If it needs work you will find most weeds can be managed by regular weeding in Spring and Summer, ideally by hand pulling, forking or hoeing. Try to get rid of them before they flower and drop more seeds. Weed killers containing glyphosphate, such as Round Up, cannot be used anywhere on the site since a vote at the 2018 AGM.

You don’t have to dig the whole plot – you can just create just one manageable bed at a time (possibly raised) until the whole plot is cultivated. Weeds need sunlight to grow, so when you have cleared a patch of ground cover it immediately with cardboard, black plastic or weed matting (which lets through water but not light). Don’t use old carpet which contains nasty chemicals and is hard to remove from the ground when it starts to disintegrate.  If you cover grassy or weedy areas for a season, the vegetation will break down and the ground should be much easier to dig. Weed matting is sold in the Trading Hut. Mulching your plot will also help to suppress weeds. We have deliveries of free eco compost (made from our food waste) twice a year (details by email.). You will need a layer of at least 6mm to suppress weeds.

Some weeds are more difficult to  get rid of. These include bindweed, ground elder, bramble and mare’s tail. Cut them down as much as possible and cover them to exclude light. We do not advise ever rotavating your plot – it can increase weeds by chopping the roots up so that they can multiply.

Improve your soil with manure or compost which you can buy, or make you own compost or collect leaf mould. You can make organic food for your plants with comfrey or nettles. No chemical fertilisers can be used on Field 3, which is designated as completely organic.
Look out for seasonal tips on the website and in our newsletter. Watch what your neighbours do, and ask their advice. Walk around the site and look at all the different styles of allotmenting and decide which ones you like. Most plot holders will be very happy to show you around their plots and answer your questions.

We want you to succeed, so ask if you need support. You can be paired with a mentor when you take over your plot, who will be happy to share their experience with you. Above all, keep coming and working regularly, especially in the Spring.

What can I grow?

Vegetables, herbs, fruit bushes and dwarf stock fruit trees which grow no more than 3 metres high, so they and won’t overshadow your neighbours’ plot and are easier to harvest. Fruit trees and bushes must be planted at least tone metre from your boundary. You can also grow flowers, dig a pond to encourage frogs, toads and newts, and have, but your plot must mainly be a place to grow fruit and vegetables.

Please don’t plant hedges or put up fences. Allotments are not private gardensShrubs grow too big blocking light from neighbours’ plots and can be difficult to dig up, cut down or remove. There are some plots which cannot be used because shrubs and trees have grown so large that the ground is completely shaded. They may look beautiful, but if they are in the wrong place, they will make it very difficult to grow crops. If you want more privacy, in Summer you can grow runner beans up canes to screen your plot.
What happens if I don’t achieve the minimum standards?

If you know you have not done enough then talk to the Rent Officer before the inspection in June. If at the inspection it seems unlikely that you are going to achieve the minimum standard by September you will be sent a letter and will be given guidance on how to achieve the standards. If you haven’t achieved the minimum when the site is inspected again in September your tenancy may not be renewed in October when rents are due.

Can I keep bees or other livestock?

We already have two enthusiastic beekeepers, who are members of the Barnet Federation of Bee Keepers, and the site will not support any more at the moment. No animals or birds – chickens, rabbits, pigs, goats, cows, ponies –  can kept on Whetstone Stray.

Can I bring my dog?

Yes, but it must be on a lead (or in a secure dog run) at all times.

Potential problems

Can I get my neighbours to remove overhanging trees or plants?

Ask if it is possible for them to cut down or prune back overhanging trees and plants. If they can’t do it, offer to do it for the benefit of both of you.

If they are not happy with your plans, talk to the Committee.

What can I do about (my neighbours’) weeds?

If your neighbour is not cultivating their plot, ask the Rent Officer and another member of the Committee to inspect it, and if there are concerns they will contact them.

What can I do about (my neighbours) going over boundaries?

Please report this to the Committee. Breaches of boundaries are taken very seriously.

Please be aware that you risk damaging the plumbing system if you dig or fork over the boundary of your plot; you could make your path more attractive to intruders if it does not have clear sight lines, and also risk damaging your relationship with your neighbours.

It is not allowed to enter any plot without an invitation from the plot holder. You must not take anything from any plot, regardless of whether it appears to be neglected.

What about nuisance from my neighbours?

Ask them to stop. Allotmenting should be a relaxing, peaceful activity. If they don’t stop, please talk to the Committee about the problem.

Can I put up fences?

No. Allotments are not private property.

Improving your plot

Can I build a shed?

Yes. You can build or erect a shed of no larger than 2.5m in height. Greenhouses and poly-tunnels are also allowed (same height restriction). Structures including sheds, poly-tunnels and greenhouses must not cover more than 20% of the area of your plot.

Try to site your shed and green house or poly tunnel in a position that is not too visible from outside, to reduce risk of vandalism and be considerate to your neighbours.

What can I do about rubbish on my plot?

We arrange rubbish removal collections at least twice a year. Please help your neighbours if they are unable to bring rubbish to the collection points on the main drive.

You must not dump rubbish anywhere on site, including the boundaries of fields, parking areas,and road.

Can I bring potentially useful stuff to my plot and store it there until I find a use for it?

Piles of stuff can be hazardous to you, so to avoid accidents, please try not to bring things to your plot which can be a fire hazard, provide shelter for pests such as rats, and will later have to be removed.

Rubbish removal is a considerable expense, especially when new people take on plots and have to remove piles of stuff, so you will be asked to remove it if it is a potential problem.

What can I do about organic waste, such as weeds and prunings?

You can compost most organic material including most weeds – just put them in the compost heap before they set seed and the heat of your pile will destroy any problems. Compost is a free resource that will improve your soil texture and fertility, and a compost heap is a good sign of a well managed plot.

You can burn pernicious weeds such as bind weed roots and bramble. Alternatively you can take them to the local dump, where the heat of a very large heap will destroy them.

You must not dump organic waste anywhere on site, nor put it out to be removed in a rubbish collection.

Security and Safety

Can I have a bonfire whenever I want?

No, at certain times of the year there is a risk that local residents may complain.

Rules:

  • 1st November to 30th April – any time but please consider the direction of the wind
  • 1st May to 30th September – complete ban except for the first Wednesday of July, August and September
  • October only after 4.00pm

Can I have a barbecue?

Yes, but if it is during a time when we are not allowed bonfires, make sure that it does not look like a bonfire to residents in the area, who may complain if they see smoke. We have an Annual Barbecue when all plot holders are invited, and this is in a position where the fire service can see that it is not a bonfire.

Check with your neighbours that they are ok with the time of your barbecue, and if you are having guests, please do not allow them to wander around the site without you, as unknown people may be a worry for plot holders, as thefts sometimes occur.

What should I do if I see someone I don’t know on site?

Don’t be afraid to ask people what they are doing. They may be plot holders you don’t know, who are looking around, or Committee members – you can easily check which plot they come from by asking a few questions. If they are members of the public, let them know where the public footpaths are (the drive and the first path after the gate on the left – on Holden Road Field).

What do I do if I see evidence of theft, vandalism or other crime?

Call 111 (local police). If the perpetrator(s) are present, call 999 from a safe distance.

Wait for the police to arrive so that you can show them what you saw. Give them as much information as you can, especially if you saw anyone.

Inform the Committee after, not before, you inform the police.

What do I do if I notice a leaking tap or pipe?

Call the Allotment phone, or Rents Officer immediately. Please put these numbers in your phone to save time and money if we need a plumber.

Allotment phone: 07546 279631

Les Moore (Rent Officer) : 07957 388033

Do I have to lock the gate?

You can leave the gate open on Sunday 10-12, when the Trading Hut is open, and annual events. You will see a notice on the gate if there is an event.

Please lock the gate every other time you arrive and leave, and also lock the gate if you find it open when you arrive or leave.

You have to lock the gate to reduce fly-tipping, vandalism and theft, and to keep your tenancy.

An open gate ‘invites’ people to wander in.

Tip: keep your gate key in your vehicle (not on your vehicle key ring), this makes it easier and quicker to get out and lock the gate.

What do I do if I have an accident or someone else has an accident?

You should keep a First Aid box in your shed or car. There is also one in the Trading Hut.

Call an ambulance if needed.

You will need to give the allotment address: Holden Road, London N12 7DX

Keep your plot and surrounding paths tidy and level, to reduce the risk of accidents.

Contact the Committee if you have First Aid Certificate or are medically trained, to add your name to the volunteers who can help if needed.

Report it to a Committee member to be put in the Incident Book.

Site facilities

When is the Shop open?

It is open on Sunday mornings, from 10am – 12:00.

Why isn’t it open at other times?

The shop is run by volunteers and weekends are the most convenient for most people.

Please look out for requests for help when deliveries come in, and consider volunteering in the Shop.

What does the Shop stock?

Each year the Shop Sub-group reviews what has sold well and what people have requested.

We aim to provide good value for money and offer an opportunity to come and talk to a member of the committee while also raising a little money for the association so you can give support by making a few purchases.

What if there is something I want which is not on sale?

Put your requests in the Comments and Suggestions book. The Shop Sub-group may also send out a questionnaire. The Treasurer approves an amount of our funds to spend each year on stock. We have to buy in bulk, with limited funds, so we may not be able to meet every request, but the Shop Sub Group work hard to get in what people want.

Does the Shop have strimmers and other equipment available for use?

This year (2016) we are going to trial lending out equipment including strimmers and a mower, which have been donated to our site. Users will have to agree to H&S conditions of use, and the equipment will only be available to use when the Trading Hut is open, so it will need to be checked out at 10am, and returned by 12:00. If this works out we will consider investing more of our funds into purchasing equipment for use, free of charge, by plot holders.

Are there toilets on site?

We have two disabled access, composting toilets at either end of the site. To use these you must have a short induction, as they are not quite the same as usual toilets. All those who use the toilets are responsible for keeping them clean and tidy, and collecting supplies from the Trading Hut as needed.

There is more information on using the toilets on the Member Info page, in the Members’ Area of the website.

What about the communal areas – paths and driveway. Whose job is it to do those?

It’s everybody’s job! You must maintain the path between you and your neighbour, so that it is safe to walk on.

Please do what you can to maintain our site – even small actions are helpful, such as carrying a pair of secateurs so that you can cut back any overhanging vegetation as you walk to your plot. Try to take a few extra minutes to strim or mow some of the communal areas, including the roadway vegetation when you do your plot.

If you have carpentry skills you may want to get involved with a Work Party to make a gate for your field.

Or you may like to join a Work Party do some dry hedging or planting hedgerow to strengthen our boundaries.

Come to the AGM to discuss options for keeping our site tidy and well maintained, or get in touch with the Volunteer Co-ordinator.

Why is the water turned off in the winter?

If we don’t turn the water off in the winter, the pipes will freeze, burst, and cost us a lot of money to repair.

Giving up my plot

If I move out of area do I need to give up my plot?

Residents of Barnet, and nearby boroughs, including Camden and Islington, can have plots in Barnet. If you are moving out of these areas you may be able to keep your plot, if it is well managed, but please consider whether it will be possible for you to keep coming regularly.

I’m giving up my plot. What do I need to do?

Please let the Rents Officer know as soon as possible. Please arrange a time to meet and return your gate key, and to check that your plot is free of rubbish.

You should remove all your belongings within an agreed time, after you have let the Rents Officer know that you plan to leave.

You must return your key to get your £10.00 deposit back.

Can I pass my plot to a friend or relative?

Yes, this is usually a good idea. Please make sure that the Committee/Rent Officer is informed, and has the correct contact details of the person taking the plot over.

Can I sell my shed/tools etc to the new plot holder?

Generally, what you find on the plot becomes your’s and what you leave on the plot is not your’s any more. You cannot make arrangements via the Committee to sell anything to a new plot holder who you have not met. You can make your own arrangements to sell your belongings before you leave, if you wish.

I’ve been asked to give up my plot, can I appeal?

Yes.

Since 2012 AGM, you are on probation for three years when you take on a plot.

You will have gone through a process of discussion about your neglect of your plot, lack of cultivation or possibly infringement of our rules/upsetting your neighbours. If appropriate, you will have been made an offer to move to a more manageable plot, or reduce your plot(s), to give you a chance to succeed. The Committee will also consider all of the positive actions you may have taken, including work to your plot, voluntary work on site, etc, and any health or personal issues. All of this is weighed up before a decision is made at Committee meeting to ask you to give up your plot.

If you feel that the decision was not fair, please write to the Committee Secretary, stating your reasons. You may be asked to attend a Committee meeting to discuss this further.

Finally, a thank you

Many thanks to all the plots holders, old and new, who contributed to this list of FAQ. We try to keep the rules reasonable and to have as few as possible. Please remember that your tenancy is renewed each year, provided you keep to the rules. Any breaches may result in the termination of your tenancy.