Allotment update: June

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.

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Red onions on the right, spring planted onions (sets) on the left

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Autumn planted sets on the right, red shallots on the left, garlic at the bottom (tops only showing)

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.

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My entire garlic crop. Still, there’s always next year….

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!

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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.

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I’ve put in 6 courgette plants. The nasturtiums self seed every year – lovely colours, plus the flowers zing up salads and a few leaves add a distinctive peppery taste

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Grown from seed (by me!). 9 plants. 3 varieties, but I don’t know which plants are which as got mixed up together by accident. Note to self: label each plant, not groups of pots. The other plants with them are borage (self seeds like mad, love the flowers in salads

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!

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This year’s first picking

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.

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Behind the post and wire fence is a raspberry bed, almost completely hidden by the overgrown weeds (grass and dock gone to seed)

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.

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Never plant horseradish somewhere you might one day regret it! The roots go down, and down, and down, and down, and down…… Plus it spreads sideways. I like eating it, but not that much.

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).

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Cake using first of this year’s raspberry crop. There will be more!

 

* 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.

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About deborah @ the magic jug

Now I've passed 60 I'm still doing all sorts of things I haven't done before, as well as carrying on with the things I already love. I live a happy life with my long term love Malcolm. In my blog I explore local and low tech ideas, food, growing, making, reading, thinking, walking, and lots of other words ending in 'ing'.
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8 Responses to Allotment update: June

  1. Allotmental says:

    Fantastic onions!! How do you store them?

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    • Dry them off outside in the sun (or in wet years, in the greenhouse), then I usually keep them in onion nets hanging from nails in the rafters of our garage. For garage, read washroom/tool store/work room/store room. Basically somewhere cool and dry is perfect. You do need to be vigilant about checking every so often to make sure none are sprouting or rotting.
      Some years I manage to dry off the tops well enough to be able to plait them neatly on a strong. I always forget how and have to refer to the old John Seymour Self Sufficiency book to remind myself.
      Good luck with yours!

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  2. Such plenty! And onion marmalade … yum, my favourite relish! Have you ever tried caramelising onions in your slow cooker? Toss the thinly sliced onions in a couple of tablespoons of good olive oil, add half a teaspoon of sea-salt, cook on ‘low’ overnight, and then whip the lid off and give them a few more hours without the lid in the morning to intensify the jamminess.

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment about convalescence on my blog, and for your good wishes, t’was much appreciated :o)

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    • Hi Annie. This recipe sounds great, just the thing. I’d never thought of doing it in the slow cooker but makes so much sense. I’ll let you know how it goes.
      Glad you enjoyed the comment, I know from experience how positive an experience ‘convalescing’ can be (alongside the difficult bits of course!).

      Like

  3. Sam says:

    Wowser! That’s a lot of onions. Such prolific loveliness. Love the look of that cake, too.

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    • It is a lot of onions! I moved them into the greenhouse this morning, as rain has started and more forecast, and I don’t want them to start rotting. Unfortunately quite a few started to bolt before I lifted them, so they’re of limited use. It’ll be interesting to see what they shrink down to once they’re all dried off.
      The cake was as good as it looks – a summer staple around here.

      Like

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