Itís always a mixed year with successes and failures and this year is no exception. I havenít tried the early potatoes yet. It is all down to the weather. The Broad beans are tasty and plentiful, and the Peas are coming along but not yet ready to eat. I have been watering them both and it has payed off. The carrots are doing well Ė They are flourishing, again owing to me watering them. The parsnips I planted from seed I collected have not germinated - twice. I donít know if it is the weather or the seed. I watered the second sowing every day. It made no difference. Sawfly has not attacked the gooseberry bushes and I netted against pigeons so we have a plentiful supply. The redcurrant bushes have been netted against the pigeons too - the crop is bountiful. The white onions and shallots are also looking to be a good crop, again I am keeping them alive by watering them.. Strawberries have been plentiful and tasy.
July is usually a wonderful month, and a very busy one if all the produce is to be harvested. Fruit like raspberries should come thick and fast and will have to be picked on a daily basis. Hopefully we will be picking vegetables like French beans and courgettes and cucumbers soon. If these are not picked they will produce seed and give up the will to live, even in a normal year, so failure to spend time picking is a double whammy, you lose the present and future produce. What better than to spend the early evening gathering in the crops and then preparing them for the freshest and tastiest dinner you can imagine.(see Basil and Doyle in the recipe section) No time for planting now, although salad crops will still be a worthwhile digression to maintain the supply through to the first frosts. In case June plantings have not been made, I have included June's table below.
This is the time for picking: peas, broad beans, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries, and digging those succulent early potatoes. Oh my aching back! Kate said she had never realised that strawberries could have so much flavour and Kay was typically on the mark when she said that there is a depth of flavour which is absent from those bought from the shops. This is true of all the allotment fare. The legumes are great steamed for a few minutes, if they actually reach the pan.
People say they donít like Broad Beans, but thatís because they have had commercial ones that were allowed to grow too large. Pick them small, twice or thrice the size of a pea, and they melt in the mouth. A great delicacy.
The legumes are great steamed for a few minutes, peas are succulent for example.
I am still picking and planting radishes, spring onions and lettuce leaves. A typical salad includes a variety of leaves, including endive, nasturtium, wild rocket and soon nasturtium flowers will give a splash of colour.
I am removing strawberry "runners".
My shallots are still growing. Itís a good crop this year - they are a bit small owing to the lack of rain at the crucial time when they should be Ďfattening upí, but hopefully they will recover. At some stage I will clear the soil away from the bulbs. (This needs to be done when the soil is dry, after a few days of hot weather) They are so tasty when roasted. Many sauces use them, like the classic Beurre Blanc which goes so well with fish and they are essential for the lip smacking Coq au Vin. They are a great addition to roasted veg accompanied by linguine or other favoured pasta. They also taste great when pickled, if you have enough to spare. I cheat, and reuse the liquid from the malt vinegar based commercial ones. I keep promising myself that I must develop my own version.
The courgettes and the cucumbers plants are developing. Courgettes always grow too big when youíre not looking so the only way to outsmart them is to pick them rather too small, but this is not a problem yet as there arenít even any flowers forming. They certainly are big on flavour, enhancing a salad if chopped in raw and making a great pasta meal with home made pesto sauce. Iíll ask Basil and Doyle to give us the recipe next month when thereís always a glut. I pick the cucumbers small too. Iíll give the courgettes and cucumbers an occasional feed with diluted nettle juice, together with the french beans. Nettle Juice is made by letting nettles grow where they are doing no harm, pulling them out when large enough and covering with water in a bucket. Two weeks later after a few stirs now and again it is very beneficial unless applied neat, in which case it is lethal.
Owing to the dry weather germination was a bit sporadic but the absence of gastropods has been appreciated.
Iím always late with leeks. I start them off in pots although as they are leeks they would probably go better in a bucket. I transplant them into the space freed up by the digging of the early potatoes. So Iíll be transplanting them this month if they grow big enough. I find this is not too much of a disadvantage because vegetables are seasonal, and I tend to eat the leeks when most other vegetables are finished. My later transplanting means they donít grow too large, I prefer them to be smaller as I think they are tastier. When I transplant the leeks I dib 6Ē (15cm) deep holes 8Ē (20cm) apart using a piece of tree branch I keep for the purpose. Before dropping the plants into the hole I use my thumb nail to trim the roots to 2-3Ē (5-8cm) and, if the longest leaf is very long I trim this back to the length of the next longest. Finally I carefully fill the hole with water, and as with all transplants, keep filling until the water does not clear quickly. One time I thought Iíd give them a boost by using nettle juice, and this was before I realised that it needs to be greatly diluted. Nettle juice absolutely stinks. The following day the newly transplanted leek bed looked like World War III. Soil all over the place, with bits of leek plants sticking out here and there: leaves, roots and even bits I didnít recognise. I stood there aghast
These are doing well. They might bolt in a severe dry spell, so I will try to keep them well watered. I look forward to eating them as they taste so good.
Look at this lovely chard, itís from this year, I took the photo today. The crop should be great.
Damage to Corn
Damage to Corn
Allotments, by definition, are left to the wildlife for extended periods during which they often run amok for no apparent reason. Itís one thing to lose crops like gooseberries and peas to pigeons. And birds have sometimes eaten every last red currant, which is why I try to net them early. But this damage was a bit disheartening as it is not for food. Fortunately this years's corn is doing well.
Destruction on the plot is an occupational hazard. One year this hole was dug for no apparent reason and my transplanted Oregano plant, raised from seed over two years was ď untimely rippedĒ from the soil, again with no particular purpose but, presumably ďplayĒ. Perseverance is the key and I now have numerous self seeding oregano plants.