I figured it was high time that I gave an update on the allotment. In fact it seems like an ideal time to give a half term report, as the bulk of the early crops are over (peas, broad beans, Spring cabbage, potatoes) giving way to summery delights such as French and runner beans, courgettes, lettuces. When I was a child there was a common theme to the reports that brought back from school each term. “Good, could do better” was a frequent statement, as was “Janet talks too much”. The former certainly applies to the plot. With plenty of harvests such as the one above, the discovery that I really like beetroot, the sheer joy of picking food and taking it home to eat within the hour, there is plenty of good.
On the “could do better” front there is the sad apology for a potato crop, which though delicious didn’t last nearly as long or yield as many tubers as I could have expected, thanks to not enough water combined with the dreaded blight. But by far the biggest failures have been with the brassicas. The ugly specimen above is one of my Savoys. Out of six healthy plants, planted under enviromesh to protect them from the Cabbage White, two were completely devoured by Cabbage White, two were mostly salvageable, and two were mercifully pristine. I have to assume that some of the seedlings got infected before they got planted out, or that a butterfly or two snuck in when we were weeding. The good thing is that I have discovered that home grown Savoys are utterly delicious, whether stir fried with garlic to accompany chicken or sausages, or eaten raw in a slaw with home grown carrots and beetroot. Out of 6 Spring cabbages three succumbed to the Cabbage White, two were tiny but picked anyway before they too could be devoured, and the one that romped away early and was picked large and luscious demonstrated what we were missing out on.
The chard growing in the brassica bed has been wonderful and trouble free, I am about to plant out the next lot, but the cauliflowers and Romanesco have been a disaster. The only cauli to even start to form a head just bolted before it grew to more than fist size, the rest are all leaf and no heart.
Oh, and the one remaining cabbage has multiple hearts! So, when I can protect my cabbages from the Cabbage White they are delicious, chard turns out to be really tasty and easy to grow, but success at caulis etc. has so far eluded me. The best thing I can say about the netting tunnel is that, because nothing (!) can get in I feel able to use organic slug pellets under it, which means we get lovely lettuces. There’s always next year.
At least the sprouts are growing strongly. And my teachers were wrong about one thing – talking has been one of my strengths! It got me advice on how to recognise parsnip seedlings, a free rhubarb plant, and these:
Half a dozen purple sprouting broccoli seedlings. I saw M the day I was mourning my eaten cabbages. M is ex RAF, always looks smart, even when digging, and has an immaculate plot crammed with healthy produce. His comment on my cabbage plight was that I should spray them. I told him I was growing organically, and he gave me a pitying smile. But he also offered me as many purple sprouting broccoli seedlings as I thought I could use.
I’ve planted them in what was the potato bed, protected in another mesh tunnel, accompanied by more lettuce, and have my fingers crossed that they fare better than the other brassicas. They are about twice the size as they were in the picture above now, reminding me that I need to get some netting to protect them from the pigeons over autumn and winter before they burst out of the mesh cage.
At the other end of the scale, the legumes have been wonderful, and still are. We’ve eaten the last of the peas and both sowings of broad beans. I’ve cut the plants back to ground level, leaving the roots with their nitrogen fixing nodules in situ. I plan on sowing green manure in the cleared area, just as soon as I decide which type to try. The wigwam holds the wonderful Cosse Violette purple climbing French Beans, with a yellow courgette planted in the center.
I would almost grow them for their flowers alone – the beans that is – and the long slender purple beans (which sadly turn green with cooking) are delicious and prolific. We had our first small serving with Sunday’s roast lamb, and I am looking forward to many more pickings to come. The peas (Little Marvel) were prolific and tasty, the Mangetout (Oregon Sugar Pod) were tasty but inclined to be a little stringy. Since the Sugar Snaps (Sugar Ann), which we are still eating, are utterly delicious I will probably go with just the peas and more of them next year.
I’m not growing “proper” runner beans because I already had lots of seed for a dwarf bean called Pickwick, which is a prolific cropper. One day I will have a bean arch, but Pickwick has been doing us proud. Legumes, it appears, I can do – this year at least. Next year, assuming we are here for long enough to make it worthwhile, I plan to devote even more space to peas and beans of various sorts.
Which brings us to the roots. No pictures, so you’ll have to take my word for it that there are carrots – not lots, but not a total failure either, and given that the seed is all 4 years old, I call that a result! The beetroot has also been a success, and tomorrow I will be planting out the next lot, along with some more radishes. I had hoped that at least three of my parsnip seedlings would survive, but no. Nada. Nothing. Ah well!
My favourite bed at the moment is the one near the front that I call my Three and A Half Sisters bed. I’ve blogged about my flirtation with the Three Sisters planting scheme. In my case this has turned in to blocks of sweetcorn (now flowering and with swelling cobs) with courgette plants helping to smother the weeds and dwarf French beans (the aptly named Golden Teepee). It all seems to be flourishing – too much in the case of the courgettes, but fortunately we all like courgette cake… From now on, only one green courgette plant at a time!
Lurking at the back of the plot are three squash plants. They are all fruiting up nicely, though I need to pinch out the growing tips and train them around to prevent them from taking over the plot behind me. Too early to say what kind of harvest I will get from these, or how tasty, but I do love them as plants, so jungly and the fruit are beautiful.
One thing I do on every visit to the allotment is check on the one remaining celeriac plant. I under watered the others and they all failed before they even got planted out, but this sole survivor is watered, observed, obessessed over, and will be eaten with great ceremony in due course.
Apart from the brassicas and parsnips, my other main failures are coriander (either munched or bolted) and Pak Choi (the same). So much for home grown stir fry on a regular basis. I will be trying again on both counts in a week or two, hoping for a good autumn crop, and I have various oriental leaf crops in modules waiting to be planted out. Overall I’m pretty content. TNG has ensured that, unlike a couple of my plot neighbours, I will not be getting a nudge from the association to clear up my plot. We are eating things we have grown most days, and its not just courgettes, and best of all, I have officially got the bug. I love growing edibles, and plan to do so for many years to come. I will miss the camerarderie – and free plants and advice – of the allotment when we leave, but I do look forward to being able to grow fruit and veg in my own back garden, so that I can water, weed, pick in my pyjamas if I want. And I will always want to grow flowers amongst my edibles.