Monday 9 September 2019

OUR ALLOTMENT - Life on The Weald, June 2019

OUR ALLOTMENT - Life on The Weald, June 2019

Apart from the allotment there were jobs to be done at home.  We had acquired, for free, two traditional garden benches and a table through our local social media network, Nextdoor.  A number of the slats were rotten and had to be replaced and the bolts were rusted up.  We managed to get some suitable hardwood slats on-line and our local Nut and Bolt Store in Hove had all the necessary bolts, nuts and washers.

At the allotment, I had already planted out some of the brassicas, which had been grown from seed in the conservatory at home and hardened off in the garden.  This month I have planted out some more. This has included more purple curly kale, cavolo nero, Brussels sprouts, kalettes as well as purple sprouting broccoli. I planted some in the area where I had grown beans last year and some where I had lifted the first early red Duke of York potatoes, and some where garlic had been previously grown.

Lifting Duke of York potatoes

I also planted some brassicas where I had lifted the first half-row of the second early Charlotte potatoes. To give them a fighting chance against the wind and predators - pigeons, slugs and snails - I protected them with improvised cloches made from plastic drinks bottles.

Planting out curly kale and cavolo nero in the garlic bed

I had also grown some cayenne and habanero chillies from seed at home, which I hardened off in their pots in the garden, where most remain, but I did risk planting out some on the allotment.

The warmer weather was also time to plant out courgettes. Some squashes and a couple of courgettes had been planted out at the end of May, but now I planted the remaining courgettes, more Patty pan, tromboncino, Crown Prince and pumpkins, all of which had been grown from seed at home.   I had created a frame for the tromboncinos to climb up but they seemed reluctant to do so and required a bit of encouragement and tying to the canes with string.

I was pleased to see that some of the fruits had set and tiny tromboncinos were beginning to develop
Tromboncinos - first fruits
I also planted out some Dwarf French beans and runner beans which I had sown in pots and interspersed them with some directly sown seeds. It was also time to repair and renew the climbing frame for the runner beans. I was also given a few haricot bean plants and planted these at the end of the runner bean rows.

climbing beans

Tomatoes on the allotment have never been a great success, but last year my brother had given me a packet of seeds for golden cherry tomatoes and I had sown these in seed trays at home and potted on into large pots and decided to train them up strings against the garden fence at home and they seem to be faring well. Time will tell.

June was definitely the time to wage war on weeds. We have loads of annuals such as chickweed, ragwort, goosegrass etc which are fairly easy to pull up (although the goose grass, which appears easy to remove, leaves behind a newtwork of fine roots which seem to send up new plants).  If lifted before they go to seed, the annuals are added to the compost bin, or stored in plastic sacks for later addition to the compost bin.  But we are plagued by more resistant invaders such as Dandelion, bindweed, bramble, stinging nettles, creeping buttercup, groundsel and plantain which we do not add to the compost heap.  You can never elimiate bindweed or couch grass, as the tiniest piece of root left behind will turn into a prolific growth.  The same is true for any piece of the deep taproot from dandelions that may be left in the soil.  It's a constant battle.

Mulching and hoeing keep down the weeds and adding a good mulch around established plants helps retain moisture and adds nutrients. I usually use grass mowings from home, and bark and bush and tree prunings which are readily available on site.

In May and June we also continued to earth up the remaining potatoes, which are now well established, to encourage the development of new tubers and retain moisture.

Where our early peas had finished in one of the raised beds, we cleared and raked the area to sow some more beetroot,

sowing beetroot where peas had grown earlier
side by side with a late crop of broad beans

By mid-June the brassicas had grown into sturdy plants (but in need of weeding and protecting from pigeons!) 

15 June Cavolo nero

15 June Kalettes

17 June the brassica patch

17 June the brassica patch

17 June the brassica patch

Towards the end of the month we planted out our leeks as there was no room for them earlier!  They had been grown from seed in trays at home then transplanted to a seed bed on the allotment.  We planted some where we had lifted the first early potatoes and some where we had grown the garlic.  We planted them in the traditional way, making a hole in the ground about 6 to 8 inches deep with a dibber and dropping in a leek seedling then watering by filling the hole with water, allowing the soil to gradually fill the hole and the leek to expand over a period of time.

Leeks planted in holes made with dibber
 There is a lot of self-seeded perpetual spinach and chard where the early potatoes were. I have removed some but left quite a few plants on either side of a double row of leeks.  I realise that I may have to remove them later if they restrict the leeks, but in the meantime they will produce some young tender leaves.

These leeks are having to compete with self seeded spinach
leeks in the former garlic patch

We have also had a bumper crop of raspberries, best eaten fresh but can be frozen if picked firm or used for sauces or jam if past their best.  
Raspberries picked 17 June

Our black currants have not been so good this year but this may be due to them having been moved and replanted last year and not pruned back.  The red currants on the other hand did well and the investment in a fruit cage paid off as we ate them this year rather than the birds.  
Red currants

Our makeshift netting on the blueberries also paid off with us sharing only half the crop with the birds this year.

The end of the month saw our first courgette from the earlier planted ones.

1st courgette - size 9 (43) for scale!

And the later ones are ready to produce next month



The Patty pans are coming along nicely

Our first patty pan squash
The runner beans are in flower

Runner beans

The little gem lettuces are almost ready

Little Gem lettuces
On the last day of the month the plot looked green and productive, although a little untidy, and it looks like there will be loads to harvest next month.

30 June

John Austin

Hove, June 2019

Sunday 8 September 2019

OUR ALLOTMENT - Life on The Weald, May 2019

OUR ALLOTMENT - Life on (and off) The Weald, 

May 2019

The allotment suffered a degree of neglect in May. Firstly there was the early May Bank Holiday weekend when we had children and grandchildren staying for the long weekend.
I did get a chance to inspect the broad beans and do a bit of weeding, before disaster struck later that month!  But more of that later.  

The first of the autumn sown broad beans

No sooner had we seen off our visitors and we were off to Spain, where the Nispero season was in full swing
Nisperos in Santa Pola market
It seems that Nispero blossom is popular with the bees, so we brought home some honey.  Whlist we are still members of the EU, we can do that but for how much longer? Who knows!

Honey from Nispero blossom

Oranges were still in plentiful supply, so several kilos were also bound for the UK for marmalade making.

Oranges in Santa Pola market

Back home in the UK, apart from making marmalade, and campaigning out on the doorstep firstly for the local council elections and then the European elections, there was harvesting to be done.  Chard was in plentiful supply and came to the table almost daily in various guises.

Rainbow chard stems with garlic
We also harvested some of our broad beans

The brassicas which we had planted out were doing well - purple kale, cavolo nero,
kalettes and sprouts.  We had also planted out some beet (perpetual) spinach.

purple curly kale

cavolo nero

spinach beet

The brassica patch
We were able to nourish the plants with worm tea, liquid waste produced from our wormery. It is very concentrated, but diluted it provides a nitrogen rich feed.

A new plant appeared on our plot, which a neighbour identified as salsify.   It has a very pretty flower and the roots can be eaten - I am told the taste is a bit like asparagus and oysters. We haven't tried it yet.


Some weeding was needed around the pond but we had sown some wild flowers on one side, so are just waiting to see what comes up!  The aquatic yellow irises and the land purple ones were both in flower and looking very attractive.  We are just waiting to see if we have any frogs this year.

We continued to harvest the first early Duke of York potatoes and have been self sufficient since last month.

Duke of York potatoes
They are delicious roasted in their skins.

On the Thursday before the late spring bank holiday, I was wondering whether to harvest the broad beans sown last autumn.  We estimated there were about 5 kilos which would yield up to 3 kgs of beans.  We decided to leave them until Bank Holiday Monday as we were going away for the weekend - what a mistake!

The weekend saw the London 10k and the Westminster Mile and my family had put in a family entry as an early celebration of my 75th birthday.  In all there were 23 in my team,
Go Johnny, go go.  We all finished,  with our youngest and oldest grandsons, 8 year old Jerome and 22 year old Felix crossing the finishing line first, together.  I just managed to pip my daughter, Zoe, at the post but later discovered she crossed the starting line behind me and so finished with a faster time!

Crossing the finish line with my daughter, Zoe 
There were great celebrations that weekend - not only for the Westminster Mile but Charlton Athletic, despite an early own goal, won the League One play-offs to secure promotion back to the Championship League.

Our celebrations were short-lived, however. I returned to the allotment on Monday evening to pick the broad beans and found they had all gone!  The whole crop had been picked.  We haven't had many thefts and this one did not appear to be some random "scrumping", but a professional job.   It was not only the loss of the crop that angered us but the fact that our 8 year old Jerome had helped to plant them last October.

Whilst the Duke of York potatoes will keep us going for a few more weeks, the second early Charlotte and Nicola are doing well and we have earthed them up a little to encourage more tuber growth.  We have planted a few squashes between the rows and once the potatoes are lifted there will be room for them to grow.

Patty pan and Crown Prince squashes between the Nicola potatoes.

Unfortunately not only are the crops doing well, but so are the weeds and there will be much work to do in June to keep them at bay.

John Austin

Hove, May 2019