Allotment reflections in August

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Allotment-wise, it's been a fast paced couple of months. As I write, it fills me with a little sadness that for many of the vegetables we were growing, the season is over already. Around a third of our main plot has now been cleared, we've added a sh*tton of.... manure and it's been rotivated in to become wonderful soil for next year's crops. The onions, shallots and garlic have all been lifted and the drying process is hopefully almost complete. The first early and second early potatoes have been lifted, with just two main crops remaining. We sneakily stuffed in a new crop a couple of weeks ago to get a whole new crop before winter though I have no idea if this will be successful. Our strawberries had been in since the start of our allotment journey 5 years ago so they've been ripped up and we will have a whole new strawberry patch elsewhere, much smaller and with a taller fruit cage. Varieties will be selected more carefully this time.

The sugarsnap peas are long finished and of course the asparagus only has a short spring window. The broad beans were marvellous but eventually all the plants succumbed to some kind of spot or rust and all the remaining pods were harvested and frozen. Fruit plot wise, the berries have all been and gone – we only got a few gooseberries before the birds polished off the rest and a generous amount of blackcurrants. All the redcurrants and whitecurrants were lost, as well as cherries. Since ripping up the black weed matting around the rhubarb and adding another generous helping of manure the rhubarb plants have undergone a miraculous regeneration and I'm going to enjoy their second flush in the form of crumble. Lovely job.

Please remind me not to grow courgette ever again, even despite conscientious regular picking I still find myself in possession of large 'fruits' the plants are deliberately hiding in their thick foliage so that I can only find them once at a monstrous size. I maintain that courgettes will one day take over the world. The pumpkin patch has been growing too well, I had hopes for plenty of cute little pumpkins to line up and eat one by one but they must have caught wind of my plan and plotted together to only grow into enormous great things, beach balls. Again, it's both harder to move, cut into and utilise such brutes and I suspect that entire days will be lost to using each one. Or the garden will be filled with frightening faces some Halloween. It's the first year of growing butternut squash and these beauties seem much more compliant in respect of shape and size. I am hoping for at least one convincingly amusing shape one to laugh at. It's the simple things.

Our back-breaking work of sieving our stony ground is paying off with straight carrots and parsnips. The carrots have been lovely but my gripe with them is that they must be used the day of harvest of will wizen and go floppy overnight. The parsnips are ahead of schedule, I thought they were best after the first frost? Or is that a myth. There are beetroot in as well, but yet to be harvested. Our runner bean canes have seen better days and the rigged up trellis for them has suffered total annihilation twice with C valiantly attempting to secure them back up. The weight is colossal and so it's no surprise really that the strong winds have polaxed the laden stalks. I grew borlotti beans for the first time as I want the beans for casseroles and bean mash but I am a little uncertain of exactly when to pick them and how to deal with them after that... Must investigate.

The unexpected success of this summer has been the cauliflower. In contrast to previous years they've done brilliantly. I've made 2 cauliflower cheeses and we still have maybe 8 more on their way, which is almost unheard of. Personally, I think it tastes best raw and enjoy it in a salad or on a vegetable pizza though floating in thick cheese sauce comes a close second. Mary Berry suggested roasting it for a nutty flavour which sound like a good idea. Broccoli has flowered before it's even grown again, though I think we have a winter crop on it's way so fingers crossed for more luck with that. The summer leeks and winter leeks are surviving though the summer crop have inedibly tough outer skin which is less than appealing but maybe we'll just have to eat the hearts.

I haven't really kept track of the brassicas to be honest. Once they are more established I can tell them apart. The cabbages are going well and three lovely big ones have presented themselves. I can see the brussel sprouts are looking like lovely plants now too.

What have I forgotten to mention? The jerusalem artichoke look fine, as do the three celeriac. The French beans looked to be over but I have noticed more flowers appearing so who knows, maybe more are coming. Sweetcorn are always a gamble, but we have a little cluster that could be doing their thing. There's nothing like biting into a cob which isn't right and having to abandon it.

As I say, there's so much empty space now as we've got ahead by clearing it. I suspect that there will be plenty to do again over winter with the new strawberry cage, a more permanent bean prop and more path edging and forming to do.

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