OUR ALLOTMENT - Life on (and off) The Weald,
On that first visit in July things seemed to be progressing well.
|The "cabbage patch" 1 July|
The courgettes were flowering and some beginning to set
|Courgettes 1 July|
|Runner beans 1 July|
|a paella in progress|
|the finished article|
When we returned to Hove, around the middle of the month, I harvested the remaining onions, shallots and garlic. It had been a disappointing year. Some had rotted during the earlier period of torrential rain and others had suffered and not swollen during the later dry spells. Next year I will definitely plant in a different area and prepare the soil in advance.
The peas sown earlier in the year were ready for picking and they were so sweet it was difficult to get them as far as the kitchen, let alone the saucepan or steamer. They have been so good that I have made successional sowings so hope to be picking until the autumn. The late sown broad beans are ready for picking but have been heavily infested with blackfly. Not wishing to use chemical sprays we have hosed them down from time to time which does reduce the problem, and a good proportion survived, but picking was still a messy job! Next year I will resort to the old fashioned remedy of spraying with soapy water and I think I will only sow in October and November (in a a less publicly viewable part of the plot to reduce the risk of theft) and sow more peas in the early months of the year.
We have begun to lift the Second earlies, starting with Charlotte. Some have grown quite large and most are of a good size.
|Charlotte potatoes 13 July|
There are, however, always a few pea sized potatoes which are hardly worth picking as a food supply - although they can be added to soups - but it is essential to remove them all from the ground. If left, it's certain that they will start sprouting in the following year, precisely where you don't want them. They may suddenly appear in the midst of a newly sown row or row of seedlings and their continued presence will harm the new crops by stealing nutrients, and pulling them out may also disturb the new crop. Another reason to make sure you don't leave any in the ground is that there is a risk that they will become infested over the winter with creatures or fungus which could threaten the whole of next year's potato crop. That's another reason why crop rotation is so important.
It is also important to maintain vigilance whilst the potato crop is growing. Any leaves that die back or turn yellow should be removed as a precaution in case it is a fungus that can cause blight in the tubers if the leaves fall to the ground. And whatever you do, don't put diseased plants or leaves in the compost. Burn them or dispose of them off-site.
There are loads of cabbage white butterflies this year and a regular inspection of brassicas is required. Fortunately we have not been seriously affected, although I have removed a number of eggs from the underside of leaves or removed the leaves altogether. The few live caterpillars that have been spotted have been squished or removed - it is advisable to do this with gloves as some species can cause severe skin irritation.
We sowed a few lettuces in May and June and these need to be inspected regularly for slugs and snails. I planted some Little Gem, which are diminutive cos lettuces, plus some oak leaf lettuces and red leaved lollo rosso and they need to be picked before they bolt.
The rhubarb is still prolific. We haven't made any rhubarb gin yet this year nor rhubarb jam but we have had regular helpings of stewed rhubarb and ginger, served with crème fraîche, and we have donated loads to neighbours and friends.
The first Courgettes appeared last month and it is important to pick them when they are young, firstly because this will encourage the growth of more but also because they can double in size in a day! And then you have giant marrows.
|Courgettes 17 July|
There are only so many courgettes you can eat, even if you make courgette cake and soufflé, and courgette soup, and stuff them or bake them or make zucchini ravioli or spiralise them to make "courgetti spaghetti". And what do you do with all those jars of marrow and ginger jam when you still have some left over from last year? Even the neighbours say "no" after a while to the offer of yet another marrow. The best solution is to find a neighbour who likes to make pickles or jam and let them do the work and offer you a jar or two in return for the gift. Fortunately we have, so there is a jar of pickle with our name in it.
We are not short of vegetables this month. We have loads of chard and perpetual spinach, some of which we planted and some which has self seeded and pops up all over the plot. It's just as well we like it.
The cavolo nero and curly kale has done well. They say cavolo nero is best picked after the first frosts around October time. We can't wait that long and we have been steadily picking throughout July. The plants are heavily infested with whitefly and clouds fly about when you shake the plant or pick the leaves. I find it's best to shake the plants and hose them down before picking and then wash again before taking home to avoid them flying about the kitchen. They don't seem to harm the plant in any way.
|Brussels sprouts 13 July|
|Purple curly kale 14 July|
|Cavolo nero 14 July|
|Kalettes 14 July|
Outdoor cucumbers have been a disappointment this year. The English ones were particularly disappointing but we did have some large ones from the pepino plants grown from a cheap packet of seeds bought in Spain last year.
I had also sowed some more French beans directly into a raised bed and by mid July they were making progress and then put on a sudden spurt.
|French beans 13 July|
|French beans 22 July|
We harvested the first of our lettuces and beetroot - and sowed some more beetroot.
|Little Gem 13 July|
|Runner beans 13 July|
|Pumpkin 13 July|
The plants think they own the allotment with the right to spread anywhere, so having pinched out the growing tips we have removed the fast growing sideshoots and lifted the Pumpkins from the earth and put a tile or paving slab underneath which hopefully will reduce the risk of insect or slug damage.
|Pumpkin 22 July|
|Pumpkin 22 July|
|Tromboncinos 22 July|
|Tromboncino 22 July|
|Tromboncino 22 July|
|Tromboncino 27 July|
The patty pan squashes, when young can be sliced and fried or steamed like courgettes.
|Patty pan squash sliced|
|Patty pan squash 27 July|
If they are left to get bigger, the seeds develop and the skin gets tougher, and then it is best to slice off the stalk end, remove the seeds and stuff and bake or steam them.
The beetroots are also very good this year and delicious when boiled or oven roasted with herbs.
|Beetroot ready for the oven|
|Liitle Gem, patty pan and courgettes|
|Patty pan squashes|
|A variety of squashes picked in July|
A few years ago we invested in a spiraliser, which comes in very handy when you have a glut of courgettes. They can be eaten raw in salads or used as a pasta substitute - veggie spaghetti. Or they can be thinly sliced for Lasagne, or to make ravioli parcels.
We also began to harvest the last crop of potatoes, second early Nicola and they are delicious. We have been self-sufficient in potatoes since the end of April and looks like these will see us into August.
|2nd Early Nicola potatoes|
Two further disappearances from the plot - towards the end of the month I was twice in London for the London Marathon Charitable Trust. On the first occasion to open the newly renovated Skateboard park at Southbank..............
|20 July Southbank|
|20 July Southbank|
|20 July Southbank|
and later in the month to open the new children's playground in Greenwich Park. Whilst in Greenwich, I had to go down memory lane and visited the oak tree on Blackheath that I had planted in 1988.
The month was drawing to a close when we abandoned the plot and the garden again for a visit to Belfast to see family there. We did the active bit and explored the Giant's Causeway
|Giant's Causeway, Antrim|
....and the Bushmills distillery to immerse ourselves in the local culture.
At home, in the garden, we have been giving the tomatoes and peppers a fortnightly feed and been pinching out the new shoots on the tomatoes to encourage the growth of more fruits and we have begun to harvest them. I have transplanted a couple of cayenne pepper plants to open ground on the allotment so am hoping for some sunshine and a good crop of chillies!
We are looking forward to a plentiful harvest in August.