Well here we are at the end of June, and the allotment looks very different from how it did at the start of the year. Everything is growing like crazy and its hard to keep up, but in a good way.
This week I harvested all my onions and garlic. A little early maybe, but too many were beginning to bolt, and I don’t have the means (or the desire) to water a lot to prevent this during dry spells like we’ve had this year. Anyway, I’m really pleased with the crop, with some notable successes and some learning points / disappointments.
First the good stuff. The autumn planted onions (from sets) are wonderful – lots of really good sized onions, mainly large to medium. I know from experience that these will dry off and keep well through the autumn and winter. We used the last of the 2014 crop in February 2015 I think, which means we’ve only bought onions for about 3 months of the year. And we use a lot of onions.
The shallots, not the ones I ordered as the Allotment Association had to substitute for rotten ones, have done very well, and we’ll use them all this summer I’m sure.
The spring planted onion sets haven’t done quite as well, though they’re not too bad. I will use these first of all, as many of them won’t be worth keeping for long. Similarly the red onions – these are a bit disappointing this year in that lots have started to bolt and they’re not very big. But on the other hand, there are lots of them. They don’t keep well, so we’ll use them /give them to the sons during the summer, and then towards the end of the summer I’ll make a batch of red onion marmalade, which will enable us to enjoy them for even longer. I made some last year, and it was completely delicious.
The garlic is again disappointingly small, but just about enough for our own use. I think I’ll start with fresh bulbs for planting this autumn, instead of continuing with my own, as there really aren’t enough good fat bulbs to be worthwhile.
The three potato beds look wonderful. We always aim to dig and eat our first of the new potatoes to celebrate Malcolm’s birthday on 3 July, so that treat is less than a week away now. Should be good!
I’ve been very late putting in the summer veg, but finally managed it this week, with the help of some bought plants to fill in for the germination failures. Note to self: sow stuff at the right times next year, and only use the most recent seed instead of trying to be thrifty by using old seed – a false economy, as my late mother-in-law would have said.
The great and wonderful success story of the year so far though must be the strawberries. I have picked masses and masses already, given some away to youngest son and his wife, eaten lots, and am making plans for what to do with those still to come – jam, and starting a rumpot are on the list. They taste divine, much better than anything I remember. I planted these several years ago, and this is the first year they have really delivered. They are a mixture of three varieties, and of course despite my best intentions at the time, I now have no idea which ones are which. What I do remember though is that the selection was chosen for taste and an extended season. Perfect!
The ‘main’ plot, where I now have the hens and all my vegetables, is now pretty much how I want it to be. The new beds will remain covered until the winter, when I will dig them over to remove any remaining perennial weed roots, and then I will plant them up. I’m still not certain what will go there, but I think there will be some fruit trees (espaliered pears particularly appeal), and probably some more perennial vegetables. I had planned to make an asparagus bed there, but I’ve found a better place elsewhere I think.
It’s wonderful to have the luxury of space to play around with. I’m even fantasising about a family work day when I would get them to build me a (small) polytunnel on one of the new beds. There’s enough space for it.
I’ve decided to call the small plot where I used to keep the hens the orchard plot from now on. It’s next to the community orchard (separated by a mixed hedge which earlier this year was expertly laid in the traditional way). At the moment I have 4 apple trees and a plum tree there. They need some really proper pruning to remedy several years neglect. On the other hand, at the moment they have masses of fruit set, and for the first time ever I have been diligent and thinned the fruitlets out, in the hope of getting some decent-sized apples. All four apple trees have been very productive in the past, and the apples are delicious (a Cox-like apple, a James Grieve, a Sunset, and something else).
There is a large and very unruly (but productive) raspberry bed, which will be hard work to weed and get back into shape, but well worth the effort. I picked a colander full of raspberries yesterday.
I’m trying to be a much better allotment neighbour than I have been before by keeping the paths around the orchard plot clear and mown, and making proper edges to my plot. It will take quite a bit more work to get that into shape, but I know from experience that if I keep it under control it will get easier and easier.
I have begun digging over the space where the hens’ run used to be. It’s hard going, especially removing all traces of the massive clump of horseradish I allowed to establish itself there, but I reckon that after a decade of hens scratching and poohing there, the ground should be really fertile. I’ve earmarked it for new currant bushes this winter (black, red and white), and there may be space to add in my gooseberries. My allotment neighbour has a smart new fruit cage, and I’m thinking 60th birthday present – bought, or maybe made for me by Malcolm and youngest son – aces of tools and construction. Good idea, no?
My next challenge is how to beat the bloody badgers and get to eat all our sweetcorn this year. I’m thinking substantial barricade, buried spikes, barbed wire, electric fences, web-cams, gun towers……*
And I also need to get moving with putting things in for next autumn, winter and spring – I have leeks ready for planting, and will buy in any brassicas that I’m too late to sow. I have the three beds where the onions and garlic were free for planting.
And of course, let’s not forget the important things of life. My sister was throwing out a rather tatty garden table and two chairs, which I took, thinking youngest son and his wife would like them for their garden. He rejected them – his loss, my gain. Somewhere nice to sit under the shade of the trees, taking a well-earned break from all that work. With tea (and sometimes cake).
* ok I’m not really. But you get the picture. Any helpful (legal) suggestions gratefully received. Don’t tell me about male urine though – tried that, failed.