Each month we are getting to know our allotment neighbours a bit better. For October, we have been chatting to Helen Lawrence who is at plot 38 at the Hertford allotment site. Helen recently joined the committee as joint Secretary.
1. How long have you had an allotment in East Sheen?
This winter it will be four years – time flies!
2. What jobs have you been doing on the allotment this month?
Massive autumn cutting back and tidying up, then carting bags of non-compostable stuff to the tip. This is the time of year when a thick pair of gloves is necessary against spikes and thorns – the roses over the archway were absolutely magnificent but pruning them and cutting back the blackberries are two of the prickliest and trouser destroying jobs. I’m also in the process of moving my compost heap and filling in the old leaky pond in readiness for a new one.
3. What crop has done well this year?
Although I realise many plots have suffered badly from blight, I have been very lucky with my tomatoes this year, They were planted a couple of beds back from the main path and by chance protected on three sides by my shed and some tall plants, including corn on the cob. Last year I lost my whole crop to blight, so this year bought some blight resistant plants – not quite as tasty as my favourite Gardeners Delight but they cropped well.
4. What are you planning to grow next season?
Heavens, difficult question – I try to rotate crops in a 3-year cycle but this year have probably grown too many potatoes and tomatoes, so will possibly plant a greater variety of brassicas and spinach, including New Zealand spinach which cropped extremely well for me last year. I had a successful and delicious crop of purple climbing beans, called Blauhilde, so will certainly grow them again next year, along with French beans, and will once again attempt mangetout, though have not had much success so far. Also, the blackcurrants, autumn raspberries and rhubarb continue to flourish! However, having had a disastrous crop of leeks this year, which ended up misshapen due to being attacked by tiny grubs, I shall probably avoid them next year.
5. What’s your favourite recipe to make with your harvest?
Like most of us, I’ve had a bumper crop of courgettes, both green and yellow – when they overnight double in size, they are delicious stuffed, either purely vegetarian or, for meat eaters, with added strips of bacon. Have also frozen blocks of tomatoes cooked into a purée with onions and herbs for pasta sauces over the winter.
6. In addition to gardening of course, do you have any other hobbies or skills?
I enjoy long distance walking and on dark winter evenings am happy sewing tapestries, which eventually become cushions.