This ‘Winter Morning’ interview is with the lovely Hayley Stewart; allotmenteer, Chair of the Sandy Carnival and long term committee member and Show Manager for Sandy Horticultural Association.
What motivates you to work / run an allotment?
This actually stemmed from growing up in a family of keen gardeners fresh veg and fruit is a must! So I’ve steered more towards a homesteading lifestyle of that focuses on growing my own vegetables, salading and fruit as well as learning to preserve it. Alas I only have a tiny garden and I quickly over-ran that, so I took on an allotment with my dad to expand my selection.
How do the more challenging aspects inspire you?
I’m not sure weeds can be inspiring really but seeing a cleared, freshly dug patch is deeply satisfying. Germination can also sometimes be challenging but I love to check every morning to see if I have any little green shoots. I suppose it’s teaching patience and perseverance, both aspects I have always needed to cultivate.
Name the greatest benefit, for you, of allotmenteering.
There are so many! Fresh air, exercise, working with the soil and plants is a much more hands on practice of my spirituality and of course you hopefully end up with the taste sensation of home grown produce which is far superior to anything you can buy in the supermarket – as long as the slugs don’t beat you to it.
What are your 3 favourite things to grow?
Tomatoes – one of the simplest plants to grow, also one that really demonstrates how much better home grown food tastes. I also have the memory of my Nan’s greenhouse and that spicy earthy smell of tomato plants.
Raspberries – sun warmed, eaten straight from the cane. I’ve tripled the amount of canes I now keep for this very reason.
Third would be a tie between runner beans and herbs, beans are very easy to grow and to be at their very best you need to pick them young and get them straight to the kitchen (no snacking!). Herbs are just vital to provide flavour, but also to bring your patch alive with their scent and insect friendliness.
Name something unusual or tricky you would love to grow?
Far too many to mention, I try and buy heirloom whenever possible and the Real Seed Company have dozens of historical varieties that I really want to try. I love squash and melon, things like okra, tomatilloes and cucamelons. I’m going to need another allotment to fit them all in.
Describe your ideal Winter morning.
Waking up to find it had snowed overnight, venturing out with the crisp cold air and silence that only comes after a snowfall. Then taking a walk through the local woods before heading home for crumpets and tea. The rest of the morning would be spent sorting through seeds for next year, plotting out the allotment and garden and then sitting down with a good book.
Thanks to Hayley for this interview!