Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Having a think about next year

Looking after an allotment is a constantly evolving task. About this time of year I get itchy about what's going to happen next season - and I always find there's something I've done this year which I want to change, or just have an idea on how I can do it better, next year.

This year it's summer cabbage and winter brassica. Not one of my Golden Acre summer cabbages has yet been eaten - though they're not a bad size and only slightly nibbled! So from this I conclude that a) it's too much of a faff to make coleslaw and we don't like it enough anyway, and b) nobody wants to eat cabbage in summer.

The exception is red cabbage, which I love braised with apples so I think I'll carry on growing those. Last winter though I had to buy in all my seasonal produce for January & February - which means sprouts, kale, winter cabbage, spring greens and PSB, all of which I and the family enjoy in season. So I'm trying to squeeze in as many of these as possible and dropping the white summer cabbage next year, so hopefully my brassica beds should be more successful at keeping us fed!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The best laid plans...

I've had some interesting conclusions from my experiments with successional planting this year. I tried it with peas and beans - early sowing, then normal March-sown mid-season, then a late planting which went in after the early crop came out.

I'm just picking over the late crop now. The peas have been fantastic - better than the earlier two sowings (partly I think because I tied them up a bit better - but also because the weather is drier). The beans were really promising to begin with: one of the things I hadn't quite appreciated was that blackfly aren't around later in the season, so for the first time ever I've grown a crop of broad beans without having to pinch out the tops. They're entirely unblemished, lovely, healthy plants but.... there's a single, solitary, and very sad pod and that's my entire harvest, out of two 11ft rows.

I have absolutely no explanation for this, except that it's possible the insects which pollinate broad beans simply aren't around later in the season. Or maybe it was the variety? It would be such a shame if it's not possible to grow broad beans this late on, since they grew so well and were far easier than the earlier plantings. Ah well... I'll try it again next year and if it doesn't work for a second time, it's back to the drawing board...

Friday, September 14, 2007

The long wet summer

Well what with school hols haven't been around much lately - or rather, I've been around the allotment more than ever, just haven't had time to write about it!

It's been the longest, wettest summer any of us can remember. Everyone else seems to be complaining about it - is it just me who's having a bumper year?! My tomatoes are coming off the vine by the bucketload (literally - stewed up 2kg yesterday and picked another 1.5kg today). The beans have been beautiful, long, straight and full of flavour, I've had hundreds of courgettes and the longest cucumber in history (well, OK, slight exaggeration - but in my gardening history, at any rate!) And I've even grown calabrese successfully for the first time ever.

The only slight negative has been the blight that hit my crop of second early potatoes. But even that I'm putting down to the particular susceptibility of that variety (Kestrel). My first earlies, Red Duke of York, were fantastic, though you wouldn't expect them to get blight in any case. The Kestrel were about 50% ruined - a horrible, smelly, unpleasant job that meant I was eyeing my maincrop, King Edward, with dismay, convinced they too would have succumbed. Not a bit of it: despite the fact that King Edwards have a reputation for small yields and for being disease-prone, not one plant was blighted and I've got two full bucketloads in store in paper sacks in my understairs cupboard. That's from one bed of 4ft x 11ft (I didn't get the second bed dug over in time for two crops, sadly). You can't complain about that too much: I'll be keeping a close eye on them in storage, as I'm still not entirely sure they won't have blight spores clinging here and there, but I was so pleased with them.

Wet summers? Let's have more of them!