Each month we are getting to know our allotment neighbours a bit better. For April, we have been chatting to Halina Kessler who has just moved from a plot at The Triangle to plot 37 at Hertford Avenue.

How long have you had an allotment in East Sheen?

I have had an allotment for about 5 years. I have just moved plots from the Triangle to Hertford (I’ve always wanted to be by Beverly Brook).
Taking on someone else’s plot can be a bit of a challenge.  You inherit both their successes and their failures.  This plot has wonderful fruit trees next to the brook but they haven’t been pruned for a good few years and there are some other overgrown areas. They will have to wait until later in the year for them to be sorted out.  I’m looking forward to apricots but not sure if the tree will actually produce any.

What jobs have you been doing on the allotment this month?
I have been sorting out the paths and trying to decide whether or not to keep the old grass paths or to replace them.  Right now I’m sticking with the grass – it smells so wonderful when it is cut and is a great contribution to the bio diversity of the plot.  I need to re line the pond with a proper pond liner.  I want to try and make a good home for frogs and newts as they are my best slug deterrent.  I’m also going to try and plant some new fruit bushes as the existing ones are on their last legs.

What are you planning to grow next season?
At home I’ve been planting seeds. I’m so tempted to plant more at the plot but up till now it has been too cold.  I’ll be planting lots of beans, courgettes and tomatoes. My favourites are yellow wax beans. I usually plant a dwarf french bean (brittle beurre wax) but this year I’m going to try some climbing ones as well.  I want to try butternut squash again too, last year the badgers ate my only small ones.  I’m going to try some aubergine from seed as well this year.  I also grow a lot of herbs, especially dill.

What’s your favourite recipe to make with your harvest?
I think dill is one of the most versatile herbs not only is it wonderful in sauces for fish but it is great in salads.  The best thing of all though is to put fresh dill heads as they are coming into seed in with new potatoes as they cook.  Divine.

In addition to gardening of course, do you have any other hobbies or skills?
I love cooking (I’ve been responsible for the food at the last couple of open days)  I try to use as many local ingredients as possible. Last year we used allotment tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers in our menu.  We would always love to use anything plot holders have grown, so come Show Day in September let me know if you have anything to contribute and we will happily take it.