One thing you learn over the years is that some years the weather is good for some crops and some years for others. This year this has only been true if substantial irrigation is possible which on our allotment, in practical terms, it isnít unless like one or two plotholders you ignore the fact that hosing is ďfrowned uponĒ and water copiously at the dead of night! It also depends on when exactly you do things like planting the seeds, planting out seedlings and so on. The early potatoes have been plentiful but small owing to the lack of rain. Strawberries did not do well owing to the adverse weather conditions. Redcurrants and gooseberries were plentiful, although both gooseberry plants were attacked by sawfly. (see below). I managed to remove them from the one which was attacked last year, saving some of the foliage. Raspberries are beginning to come through and blackberries are already plentiful. Peas died through lack of moisture. Broad Beans also floundered after a promising start in Springís good weather. White onions and red onions survived the dry spell but are all very small. The shallots are small, carrots sparse but some of the parsnips have survived. The Beetroot Chard and Parsley have held on by the skin of their teeth. Radishes never tasted moist enough and then went to seed. Iím contemplating collecting it from the pods. We had a good crop of lettuce for a couple of months until it bolted when I was away. Altogether it is worse than a mixed year Ė it is diabolical!!
Holidays and visitors have really interfered with the allotment experience! There are loads of jobs to catch up on so I am off to do that.
Gooseberry Sawfly attack
Gooseberry Sawfly attack
The decimation of this gooseberry bush last year did not take long. I thought it looked a little odd from a distance but did not closely inspect it. The caterpillars start at the base of the bush and work their way up. In front of their acent beautiful green foliage. Behind them fish bone branches.
Gooseberry Sawfly close up
Gooseberry Sawfly Prevention
I read that a tea made of a bucketful of foxgloves with a litre of boiling water, sprayed on after the water has cooled and with leaves removed is effective provided it is applied before the pest arrives. I must try this next year.
Strawberry Runner in a Pot
During July I have been snapping off the strawberry runners where they have appeared, at least in theory. Now I will be looking to leave one or two per plant. They will form into little strawberry plants on the end, and will extend further if I do not keep snapping off the stolon. Before the little plants on the end of the runners establish themselves by firmly rooting in the soil I will remove enough soil to create a hole for a small flower pot, fill the pot with the soil and pin down the little strawberry plant. Later, once they are firmly rooted I will sever the runner from the parent plant and I will be able to move the new plant to a suitable position.
Stripy Courgette (Zucchino Striato di Napoli)
Courgettes, courgettes and more courgettes, is the usual story and this year it's the same. The plants have survived during the dry spell as I watered them copiously. I had to as I planted them out just as the drought began. I grow either one or two plants of each type: producing yellow ones, French green ones and Italian stripy ones. I donít think you can manage with much less because if something happens to one of them at some stage you could end up with none. Mind you I am not the most popular person when I appear, proudly bearing the great courgette crop. My wife has often told me to stuff them, and I donít think she was thinking of parmesan cheese. One particularly delicious meal is made with fusilli pasta. You griddle the courgettes and mix with a pesto sauce: see Basil and Doyle in the recipe section. They will also show you how to stuff them if you so desire. Less lip smacking but a tasty side dish is created by griddling courgette slices cut lengthways and then covering them with a dressing of yoghurt, lemon juice and garlic. Nevertheless, you can have too much of a good thing.
Growing next to the courgettes the cucumbers have formed. Their flavour is so full and fresh. We will serve them on their own or add even more flavour to a green salad already bursting with it from the various lettuce leaves, wild rocket & parsley. I let the Marketmore grow to about the same size as half a cucumber you buy from the shops, and the concentration of flavour in them is wonderful. Increasingly these smaller outdoor varieties are available in the greengrocer shops. However I am also growing a more conventionally shaped variety.
Nadine Second Early Potatoes
Second Early Potatoes
Most of my potatoes have died back. These are the Nadine, second early potatoes. The Colleen are dug out (and used). I dig them on a nice dry sunny day, if possible, so the soil just falls away from them, or they have to be left on the surface for a couple of hours if the soil is a bit damp.
Early Maincrop Potatoes; Desireť
Early Maincrop Potatoes
These are the early maincrop: Desireť. I will use any damaged or small ones first and store the better specimens in brown paper sacks which I acquired. Iím told hessian sacks let the tubers breathe but so far I havenít had any stored ones rot so I shall carry on using the paper sacks. I do check the sacks occasionally and do not overfill them as this makes checking easier. You can soon smell a decaying potato, find it and dispose of it before it harms the others. I apply the same logic to shallots & red and white onions, although the latter are very small since they expired in the dry weather. The shallots are very dry since I collected them at the height of the drought. I store them by hanging them up in the shed in net bags I acquired from Peter: a friend whose job entailed planting a massive number of bulbs in spring.
As this photo shows I have grown outdoor tomatoes in the past but in recent years more and more people have grown them on the allotment, and my crop has been blighted. I have given up and have planted them in my greenhouse in the garden. Owing to the very hot weather they are doing well in the greenhouse and we have had lots of cherry ones already. Clearly I need to be more aware in future and during drier spells I need to water more extensively on the allotment. If irrigated greenhouse plants do well so could those outside if I gave them a dousing every couple of days when conditions demand it.
The broad beans started off well this year. They are very tasty providing they are not left to reach too mature a stage, as they are usually when bought in the shop since the larger they grow the heavier the weight. While on holiday in Oia, Santorini, as near a place to paradise as I could imagine, we tried fava which, I discovered, is similar to, or even perhaps identical to, the broad bean. They mashed them with olive oil, like humus, and served them with bread, so we have tried the same. Delicious. Not much of a crop this year which is a rarity, thankfully.
The autumn fruiting are now starting to produce good fruit although some of it is spoiled by damage at the top caused by a tiny beetle. I will cut down the canes of the summer fruiting ones which have borne the fruit this year to ground level, leaving the green ones to bear next yearís raspberries.
This year they germinated and marked time during the dry spell, I donít hold out too much hope as they will probably bolt in current conditions, but you never know!
Itís still worth planting radishes as they will quickly mature, but so far they have mostly bolted or tasted a bit woody.
It is time to plant salad onions to overwinter and provide an early crop next spring.