Sep 1, 2008

Zu's Allotment

Gardener to Gardener

I met Zu when Great Dixter was helping the local school put together a garden area of raised beds to grow vegetables and flowers with their students. Zu had mentioned that she had an allotment garden and said it would be great to come by and check it out. Since there are allotment gardens everywhere in England I figured it would be the perfect chance to check them out up close.

Name Zuleikha Harrison

How did you get into gardening? Married a man who owned a house with a neglected garden!

What is the size of your allotment garden plot and how long have you had it? Approximately 15 ft x 50 ft.

How does one go about getting an allotment garden plot? Contact your local allotment society or parish council

Why did you decide to pursue having the allotment garden? I have a very small shaded, slug ridden garden at home, where I had difficulty growing any edible crops.

What crops do you typically grow? Have permanent beds for asparagus, artichokes, strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrant and blueberries. This year I am growing onions, garlic, potatoes, broad beans, peas, sugar snaps, runner beans, 3 types of French bean, fennel, carrots, beetroot, cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli, spinach, turnips, leeks, squashes, cucumber, tomatoes, chilli peppers, sweet corn, lots of salad crops and herbs and some flowers for cutting.

Have you had an allotment garden elsewhere you have lived? No

What are some of the pests and diseases you have had to deal with growing your own fruit and vegetables? Moles, slugs/snails, badgers who eat sweet corn, asparagus beetle and blackfly

What crop do you generally find the easiest to grow? Beetroot

What is your favourite crop to grow, and your largest yield of a crop? Favourite crop: peas. Largest yield: French beans

Do you have a favourite recipe that look forward to using with your harvests?
Not really, but my favourite day of the year is when I can eat broad beans , peas, asparagus and strawberries all picked ½ hour before dinner.

What are the benefits of having an allotment garden?
Really fresh food, Exercise, Clean air

What worries you about having an allotment? (You had mentioned the credit crunch going on here in England and concerns with people climbing the fence to take vegetables, can you elaborate on this?)
A lot of media speculation that allotments would be targeted by thieves this year, but no real sign of it so far. My main worry about having the allotment is the time commitment. I find it difficult to get away during the growing season

What is it like having a plot amongst so many other gardeners? What are the pros and cons about this?
I like the social aspect of it and the friendships. I have learnt a huge amount from the other gardeners on the allotments. I don’t like weeds and diseases spreading from poorly maintained plots.

What sustainable practices do you use in your allotment?
Compost heaps. All structures and beds are made from recycled wood etc.

Can you leave us with a horticultural tip of the day?
Don’t grow more than you can eat or store in a week. Vegetables are best eaten fresh so only sow a few feet of each crop every three weeks.

Thanks Zu for this and those delicious strawberries!!!