Much of June and July felt like a write-off due to prolonged sleep problems. I did what I needed to do, and some of what I wanted to do. But I didn’t manage to do all that I wanted to do.
Which goes some way towards explaining why the allotment is now as it is.
When I was a little girl, my mum used to recite a rhyme:
There was a little girl* and she had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
And when she was good, she was very very good
And when she was bad, she was horrid
And that’s how I feel the allotment is right now – bits of it are very very good, but bits of it are horrid.
The (very very) good:
- the potato crop is excellent, though some have been exposed to the light – not sure whether to blame the badgers (as they seem to have dug around a little), or my method of planting them direct into the muck on the top of the bed. Next year I’ll bury them deeper, and try harder to earth up at the right time. So far we’ve only eaten the Belle de Fontenay, which are completely delicious and great texture, and some of the Charlottes, also delicious. In the ground are a lot more Charlottes and all the Desiree, both of which I know will keep well into the winter.
- Cucumbers – apparently it is possible to have too many cucumber plants, and I seem to have achieved it. Yesterday the whole of the bottom of the fridge was full of cucumbers. I picked 9 on Sunday, and another 6 on Tuesday. On the plus side, they are completely and utterly delicious – if you’ve only ever eaten a shop bought cucumber you haven’t yet tasted cucumber. On the down side, even I can’t get through that many (and I eat at least one a day at this time of year). I’ve still got a couple jars of pickled cucumbers from last year. Now nobody leaves the house without at least one cucumber. People have begun to sidle away before I can encumber them with another. Thinking about it, that must be where that word comes from. Yesterday’s tally: eaten: 1; given away: 2; picked: 4. See what I mean? Note to self: next year, 4 plants will be quite enough.
- I have lots of borage and nasturtiums, which I enjoy for their beauty but also the flowers that I use in salads. All self-seeded, and I’ve had to be ruthless about removing quite a few that were in the way of other things. Might have a go at pickling the young seeds, as I love capers and have read that pickled nasturtium seeds are similar.
- Raspberries – the canes that I put in earlier this year as transplants from the old bed are doing really well, and already producing a few, succulent and delicious fruits. A definite success story, and next year will be even better. Some of the old canes are also producing, despite my neglect.
- Strawberries – all finished now, but my what a wonderful and delicious crop. I even had enough to make a few jars of strawberry jam, for the first time ever. I’ll look after them even better next year, for another good crop
- Onions – Red, white, shallots – all of them amazingly good. Good size, good taste, good keeping. Just fabulous. Same again next year please.
- Rhubarb – I moved it and thought it wasn’t going to survive the experience, but it’s now coming on a treat. Picked some good big stalks yesterday, poached them with some ginger. Delicious!
- Herbs – all doing wonderfully well, apart from the rosemary which has suffered with some kind of fungal problem. I’ve hacked it about and made more space around it’s feet, and am hoping it might pull through. But everything else – sage, fennel, thyme, mints, marjoram, chives, lemon balm, parsley – all doing just great, and they get used a lot.
- Horseradish – not sure whether to put this in the good or the horrid. It is producing brilliantly, which is great provided you really really like horseradish. Which I kind of do, but even I have my limits. Unlike horseradish, which over-shares madly.
- Sweetcorn – I got it in (a bit late, but never mind) and it’s coming on fine. What will really be key now is to fence it in very soon. Otherwise the badgers will be coming round for their annual feast and we’ll have none of it. I’m hoping this may be a job for this weekend, for our unsuspecting friends who are coming to visit to help with.
- Squash – the two plants are looking very healthy, they have set some fruit and I’m hoping that it will now start to swell.
- Figs – there’s a gate from our back garden to the lane out to the allotments. Some years ago I took a weedy patch of the lane directly behind our fence, cleared all the ground elder, and planted a fig tree. Each summer towards the end of August and through September I get about 1 ripe fig every day. They are super delicious, especially when I can manage to be self-disciplined enough to wait until they turn black before picking them. Yesterday I had my first one this year. Could (should) have been left till a bit riper, but I just couldn’t hold back. And I can see there are plenty coming this year. They’ve had lots of water and lots of sun, the perfect combination. If you have anywhere you can plant one, I would really recommend it (I have another baby one inside the garden, in an old metal water tank, and am thinking about planting yet another in the old water tank out on the allotment).
- Blackcurrants – there weren’t many of them (my bushes are all very old, and they really need to be replaced now), but those there were tasted delicious. Most went into two cakes
- Apples – fruit on the orchard plot is beginning to ripen now, and I’m already eating some delicious apples. I hope for lots more to come, it seems to be a bountiful year for top fruit.
- Eggs – my goodness, the girls are laying eggstraordinarily well. We’re getting four or five eggs a day. Sons and their partners get eggs whenever we see them, so do friends family and neighbours. We eat lots of eggy meals, there are cakes and puddings. And I even pickled a couple of dozen – first time ever – oldest son and daughter-out-law love them, so there are now two jars waiting for collection. I await their verdict. I might even try one myself (though it doesn’t appeal, even with the salted crisps I’m told are de rigeur to have with them). They do look horribly like bottled eyeballs though.
- My neighbours’ allotment – oh yes, I have no shame when it comes to fresh vegetables. They’ve gone away on holiday and need someone to pick stuff so the plants keep producing. So hello beans (three varieties), courgettes, and raspberries. So good that we aren’t all away at the same time. And you do realise that I’m doing a public service.
The horrid (well, maybe that’s too strong but definitely not so good):
- Lettuces – something seems to eat them all up while I’m not looking. Slugs? snails? caterpillars? salad monsters? I don’t know, I’ve never managed to spot the buggers. But when I do……
- French beans – these started off just fine, but seem to lack strength. Normally I’m picking them like crazy and giving away pounds and pounds, but this year I’ve struggled to pick enough for a meal at a time. Don’t know why. Maybe they’ll pick up later in the month?
- Courgettes – surely it isn’t possible to get this wrong? and yet somehow I have. Of the 5 plants I put in, only 2 are producing at the moment, and not a lot at that. I’m hoping they’ll do better over the next few weeks. Usually I have way too many courgettes, and I’m missing them. A lot.
- Garlic – what I’ve got is fine, nothing to write home about though. Small, a bit too fiery. Will try new bulbs and new varieties for next year. Recommendations gratefully received.
- Gooseberries – well, where did all of those go? one day there was a bush full, the next day they were all gone. Badgers? I suspect so.
- Brassicas – time will tell, but most of them have had most of their leaves stripped away – caterpillars
? slugs and snails? again, I don’t know as can’t find anything.– found them! – caterpillars. I picked them all off and fed them to the hens with a side serving of satisfaction. But I’ve had this problem before and surprisingly sometimes the plants have pulled through. So I’ll wait and see.
- Plums – I cut one sick plum tree down in the autumn, and it seems that the remaining one (on the orchard plot) will have to go the same way. The fruit all rots before it ripens. Such a shame, but better to acknowledge it and deal with it, I can use the space for something else. A job for the winter.
- Leeks – well, as they haven’t made it into the ground and it’s far too late, there’s not a lot to be done about this. This year.
Next year, as every gardener will tell you, will be a different and so much better story.
* I think this was meant to be me. I had lots of little curls, still do (though now they’re a different colour). And I was mostly good – too good for my own good really. Rarely horrid – I think I should have worked harder at that one.