A nature walk round Highgate Allotments

A band of allotmenteers gathered by the gate on Sunday 26 April.. We weren't going far! We started by the large ivy covered plane tree by the wood chippings depot. A brief sweep with my sturdy net revealed a vine weevil that had been overwintering there, as a representative of the beetle order. Its habits, polyphagy as a grub in the roots of your pot plants is notorious. Its parthenogenic reproduction (no mating required) led to discussions on female power etc!

Then we moved up the concrete path looking at and identifying the wild plants or weeds, depending on your point of view or their context. Their edibility was tested and we discussed the fact that they more or less look after themselves, needing far less attention than our crops. Garlic mustard was a hit and is also the foodplant of the Orange Tip butterfly. That gem was not yet in evidence, but did appear the next week. The male has the eponymous orange tipped wings, but the female is plain white. Neither will eat your cabbages, but it is related to the large and small white that do. Look out for its orange, narrow barrel- shaped egg soon. 

We proceeded to have a look at the wild plant border to the communal plot lawn. Some of the introduced plants were being swamped by nettles and so some help could be in order. However it is difficult to prescribe the best management, since the nettles could be host plant to the butterflies such as the small tortoiseshell, peacock and red admiral a bit later on. Maybe diversity could be aimed for to end up with a mix. Diversity in principle is best but context can also be important. Various comments were passed on a small nettle weevil, tiny relative to the vine weevil, called Apion urticae, a nationally rare species that turned up in one of my sweeps.

In examining aphids on the sycamore shoots and their ant farmers that milk them for honeydew, we witnessed again the marvels of nature. So much yet to discover and try to work with!

Another discovery was mistletoe that one of our band knew about on an apple tree. This is very rare in Haringey. There were only two known sites and one of these was lost a few years ago, so finding a replacement was quite welcome.

We left it at that and I went chasing up a large grub from Karen's compost heap that turned out to be the Rose Chafer. A beautiful metallic bottle green beetle that is rarely seen in Haringey. 

Dan Hackett


There is a new book on the history of the allotment movement. Attached is an invitation to the book launch at the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green and some info on the book. 
Growing Space can be ordered from any bookshop or internet outlet, or - post free - from Five Leaves bookshop, by phone (0115 8373097) or via  bookshop@fiveleaves.co.uk.

Detail: There are currently over 300,000 allotment plots in the UK, with roughly 100,000 people on waiting lists. Allotments are popular, and under threat. This accessible social history book looks at how changing economic, political and cultural conditions have affected the demand for plots. A thorough study debunks the myth that the provision of allotments was solely a benign activity for the poor, but a highly politicised history which reflects national and local policies on land use with a constant struggle to hold onto these city fields and country gardens. The book is illustrated throughout.

Lesley Acton is a conservation and cultural heritage consultant who normally writes on Conservation. Her previous books include The Repair of Pottery and Porcelain and Practical Ceramic Conservation. She has written on allotments for the Institute of Archaeology, and the Oxford Food Symposium Proceedings (Prospect Books). She is in contact with allotmenteers nationwide. 

Lesley Acton runs the popular website www.allotmentresources.org

Picnic - Pot Luck & Summer Social

Sunday July 6th - setup 12:30pm
(bring rugs, seating etc if available)
Lunch at 1.00pm
Please bring some food & drink to share, Alloment produce if possible!
Friends, family & plot helpers welcome.
Meet your alloment neighbours and socialise on the Communal Orchard Plot Y4 behind The Shed.
Bring plants, cuttings and seeds to share sell or swap.

Meet visiting guest and editor of Your Allotment Magazine

Onion Fly

An alert to the ongoing problems growing onions and maybe leeks and garlic! Onion fly (a fairly new pest to uk) is now rife at Highgate, causing distorted leaves, outer skin and maybe into the roots on onions and leeks. Check for small yellow fly pupae and see photo below.

RHS has no chemical remedy, so don't try spraying, as you will just waste your money and possibly end up with residues. We may have to grow under fleece, similar to carrots.

For more info- contact me. Dan Hackett, plot G5