At plot 37 … with Halina Kessler

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.

At plot… 23/24 with Mary Enache (nee Thorp)

Each month we are getting to know our allotment neighbours a bit better. For March, we have been chatting to Mary Enache (nee Thorp) who has a plot 23/24 at the Hertford allotment site.

How long have you had an allotment in East Sheen?

I’ve had Plot 23 for about 30 years and  Plot 24 for about 25 years

What jobs have you been doing on the allotment this month?

This month I’ll be clearing all the beds of weeds etc., raking in Blood, Fish & Bone and mulching with Country Natural manure. Also pruning apple and pear trees, cutting down autumn raspberries, tying in blackberries, summer raspberries and Tay berries and tidying up strawberry plants before forking in Blood, Fish and Bone and surrounding with manure.

What crop has done well this year?

Tomatoes, onions and garlic.

What are you planning to grow next season?

Already in the ground: Rhubarb, Globe Artichokes, Asparagus, Japanese Onion sets, garlic, and Broad Beans, Swiss Chard, Lovage and other perennial herbs. I’ll be growing this year: More Onions, Leeks, Perpetual Spinach, Tomatoes(cherry, medium and beef), Courgettes, Peppers, Chillis, French Beans (climbing and dwarf), salad crops (Lettuce, Rocket, Radish, Spring Onions), small pumpkins, Peas, Mangetout, Runner-Beans, Aubergine, Potatoes (first, early and main crops) Sweet-Corn, Parsnips, Carrots and Kohlrabi, Florence-Fennel and other annual herbs (Dill, Parsley).

What’s your favourite recipe to make with your harvest?

Constantin my Romanian husband does the cooking.

Romanian Potato Cake (grated potatoes, chopped onions, dill, grated cheese and eggs, sliced tomatoes……. And Vegetable Soup flavoured with lovage, dill, garlic, Bors (a liquid made from fermented maize leaves and rye bread) and Zacusca (a paste made from tomatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, chillis, aubergines, peppers).

In addition to gardening of course, do you have any other hobbies or skills?

Local and garden history and all things Romanian. And I love to cook when Constantin allows ( he really likes roast parsnips with rosemary).

Remembering Joyce Dixon

This month we are sad to tell you that Joyce Dixon died in the early hours of Boxing Day – she was almost 97. Mary Enache remembers Joyce well and wrote this about her for us to share with you all:

“Joyce Dixon was a local lady who had plots on our sites for over 50 years and was an Honorary Committee Member of BHAS. She wrote that during WW2 her family worked a plot on the Bank of England Sports Ground and then on Palewell Common in the “Dig For Victory” campaign. She remembered having to fetch water in a bucket from the Beverley Brook to water the vegetables. Later she had an allotment on Hertford Avenue near to me but on the Beverley Brook side where she cultivated her plot well into her 80s. I remember her as being a lovely lady like her allotment which was always full of beautiful flowers and magnificent vegetables.”

Trading shed – new stock February 2019

This month at the Trading shed we have new in stock ‘Enviromesh’ (ultra fine insect netting).

You can also still get seed potatoes to start chitting, onion sets and shallots at the Trading Shed (please see the blog post from January for varieties).

Free Plot Markers
Is you plot clearly marked?  If not, we have plenty of wooden plot markers to give away.
Just come down to the Trading Shed any weekend between 11.00 – 12.00 to pick one up.
All you have to do is write your plot number on it with permanent marker.

Plot holder survey results

In 2018 we conducted a survey of plot holders to find out what you think of the allotments and what more the BHAS Society can do to support you. Thank you to everyone who took their time to answer the survey.

As we have outlined in previous newsletters, the Committee has already started work towards addressing some of the issues raised below and will continue to do so this year.

East Sheen Allotment holders survey

50 responses from 242 plot holders

Q1 . Which site is your plot on?

Priory – 32%

Hertford Avenue – 31%

Palewell Park – 16%

The Triangle – 10%

Palewell Pavilion – 10%

Not a plot holder – 0%

Q2 . In your own words, what are the things you like most about the allotments?

Growing my own food – 28%

Socialising with other plot holders – 23%

Being out in nature – 19%

Peacefulness – 15%

Getting away from the pressures of modern life – 9%

Supplies e.g. water, bark – 3%

Exercise – 3%

Q3 . In your own words, what do you like least about the allotments?

Nothing – 15%

Other plot holders – 15%

BHAS Committee – 14%

Weeds on own plot – 11%

Overgrown vegetation/trees on site – 9%

Unattended plots – 9%

Wildlife  – 7%

Theft of produce/vandalism – 4%

Lack of community spirit – 3%

Keys/locks to sites – 3%

Size of plot – 3%

Bonfire rules – 3%

Too many bonfires – 1%

Use of chemicals – 1%

Lack of toilets – 1%

Lack of support from the Council – 1%

Plot too far from supplies e.g. mulch, logs – 1%

Q4 . In your own words, what are the things you would most like to improve at the allotments?

Council to deal with plot holders effectively who are not using their plots/reduce number of abandoned plots – 14%

Nothing – 13%

Supplies (more mulch, water pressure, water butts, shredder, soil improvers, drainage) – 13%

Pruning of trees/vegetation/trimming grass on paths– 12%

Trading Shed (opening hours, more products, bulk deliveries) – 10%

Tidying up the site – 9%

Better security and access (locks, gates) – 9%

Community gatherings – 7%

Waste disposal – 3%

Planting fruit trees in common areas – 3%

Polytunnels for germination – 1%

Lack of communication/don’t know what’s happening – 1%

Politics – 1%

Creation of access-friendly raised beds – 1%

Group chicken area selling eggs – 1%

Dog mess – 1%

Toilets – 1%

Q5 . How strong is your sense of community at the allotments? Move the slider from 0 to 10 where 0 is no sense of community and 10 is a high sense of community

Range 4 – 10, average 7.2

Q6 . How often do you participate in activities at the allotments? (other than to tend your plot) Please choose the answer which reflects your participation the best.

Weekly – 2%

Monthly – 28%

Once or twice a year (e.g. Open Day or Annual Show) – 64%

Never – 6%

Q7 . If you do not participate in activities at the allotments, why not?

Busy with family life/work – 28%

Only want to tend my plot – 25%

Away at weekends – 24%

Don’t like socialising with others – 16%

Not aware of what is going on – 4%

Health problems – 4%

Q8 . What types of activity would you participate in if they were available at the allotments?

Specialist talks/expert demonstrations – 35%

Happy with what is already on offer – 18%

Anything social (evenings) – 14%

Communal site/plot clear ups  – 12%

Food related e.g. BBQ – 7%

Trips to interesting places e.g. gardens – 5%

Vegetable/seed exchange – 5%

Plot holder inspections –  2%

Child-friendly activities  – 2%

Q9 . Would you like to volunteer for the Society?

Already do – 33%

No thanks  – 61%

Yes – 6%

Q10 . Are you a member of the Allotments Society?

Yes – 98%

No – 2%

At plot… 2 with Sheena-J Clark

Each month we are getting to know our allotment neighbours a bit better. For January, we have been chatting to Sheena Clark who has a plot 2 at the Pavilion allotment site.

How long have you had an allotment in East Sheen?

I have had an allotment since August 2016, we were originally on Triangle site which was a lovely little plot but moved at the beginning of Autumn to Pavilion to a bigger plot.

What jobs have you been doing on the allotment this month?

This month we have tidied up, raked up the leaves and kept the bird feeders topped up.

What crop has done well this year?

This year we had a great crop of tomatoes but they were very slow to ripen. Beetroot, raspberries and cucumbers also did really well. The flowers were good too especially the Dahlias.

What are you planning to grow next season?

We grow fruit, veg and flowers,  we don’t grow any fruit or veg that won’t be eaten, peppers, cucumbers. raspberries, rhubarb, beetroot, apples, pears, plums, potatoes, carrots just the usual really.

What’s your favourite recipe to make with your harvest?

I make chutney’s, and jams with our harvest. standard recipes that my family have used for years.

In addition to gardening of course, do you have any other hobbies or skills?

I love my allotment, its our outside space as we live in a flat, I can quite often be found just sitting on the bench on a nice day, on the not so nice days I can be found in a different sort of tree as my other hobby is genealogy (family history) which I really enjoy.

Trading shed – new stock January 2019

The Trading Shed (Hertford Ave) will reopen again from Saturday, 12th January 2019.

Opening times: Sat and Sun between 11.00am and 12.00

It now has a good range of high quality gardening gloves available.

There will be onion sets (Red Baron, Stuttgard varieties) and shallots (Golden Gourmet, Red Sun varieties) available.

There will also be seed potatoes of the following varieties: Accord, Lady Christl, Red Duke of York, Charlotte, Wiljm, King Edward, Desiree, Maris Piper and Picasso.

Prices:
Potatoes are £1.20 per Kg
Onions are £1.50 per 500g
Shallots are £1.70 per 500g

At Plot… 62 with Paul Crompton

Each month we are getting to know our allotment neighbours a bit better. For December, we have been chatting to Paul Crompton who is at plot 62 at the Priory allotment site.

How long have you had an allotment in East Sheen?

About 7 years.

What jobs have you been doing on the allotment this month?

This month planting onions, garlic, one or two new shrubs, cutting back big blackberry bush, facing cutting back lots of raspberry canes which did not produce fruit last 12 months because drought and unusual weather.

What crop has done well this year?

Blackberries did well but raspberries a big zero.

What are you planning to grow next season?

Just planning to improve growing conditions at present and not sure about 2019 except hoping for better weather.

In addition to gardening of course, do you have any other hobbies or skills?

I am a famous tai chi teacher – look me up on internet, author and translator in field of martial arts.  Currently teach half a dozen elderly groups around southwest London.

Horseradish

We recently had an enquiry about horseradish from a plot holder and how to remove it from your allotment site permanently. We thought it would be useful to share our tips here in case anyone else is having the same problem with this vigorous and hardy perennial.

Process for removal:

1. Dig all the way around the horseradish plant you want to eliminate. Place the elongated, narrow blade of the transplanting spade (or any sharp garden shovel) at least six inches away from the crown of the plant to avoid cutting through any outlying roots.
2. Lift the entire plant from the ground with a garden fork and move it away from the hole.
3. Examine the inside of the hole for any pieces of white root, no matter how small, and remove them.
4. Check the area around the hole for green horseradish sprouts. Dig up and discard any you find.
5. Clean the tools to avoid spreading any small horseradish root particles to other parts of the garden.
6. Harvest as much of the root as you wish to use and dispose of the rest of the plant. The top can be cut off to go in the compost pile, but dispose of the roots in the trash or give them away so they can’t resprout in the compost.
7. Fill the hole back in with soil. Do not till this area of the garden or replant it immediately.
8. Replant the area with whatever you wish when no more horseradish sprouts appear.

Things You Will Need: 
– Needle-nose or transplanting spade
– Garden fork

Tips:
– Remove horseradish plants in the late fall or early spring if you want to get in one last harvest; otherwise dig at any time.

Curious about horseradish?

Alternatively, if you fancy giving this crop a try we recommend growing it in pots or raised beds to keep it under control as it can quickly become invasive. The RHS gardening website has some great growing tips for Horseradish and Riverford has a lovely recipe for a sweeter Apple and Horseradish sauce.

Image source: RHS