We have finally had a decent drop of rain, accompanied by quite strong winds. I don’t know what I will find when I next go up to my plot, likely a mix of reinvigorated growth and devastation.
Once past midsummer a sense of running downhill slowly settles in, with more crops being removed than sown or planted. There is much discussion about late crops but it is not something I have had good results with and from now on bare areas will appear as crops are cleared. I will sow some with Italian ryegrass as a green manure, mulch others with compost or just raw shreddings of harvested crops.
It’s the time of year when thoughts start to seriously shift to next season and what I need to do differently. Here are my notes to myself, they may contain something of use to you; they may not.
I need to replace my strawberries, which means a new piece of ground, tricky in the fruit cage where there is no space. I was given a mixture of varieties by another plot holder and now I don’t know which is which, so I’ll buy some.
Blackcurrants. I need to prune the bushes and to do so even harder than last year, quality not quantity being the aim. I have three varieties, Ben Connan yields well and has good flavour; Big Ben has big fruits which are very tart, yields very well; Titania is a big grower and has lower yields of much sweeter fruit. I will propagate Titania to get another couple of bushes, I currently only have one. Hardwood cuttings in October.
Gooseberries. Invicta gets overwhelmed by sawfly every year, it has to go. Careless gets attacked next, but might be better without Invicta beside it. Hinomaki Red seems much less attractive and is largely left alone, I will propagate it to replace Invicta. Its fruit is small but yields not bad. Feeding and mulching them would probably help.
Raspberries are in a mess and need replacing, again difficult within the fruit cage. I don’t want them at the other side of the cage because the runners will go out into the veg area.
Blueberries are getting better every year. Darrow has the largest fruit and heavy crops, Bluecrop yields well, but the fruits are much smaller, which slows picking. The flavour is not much different. I have taken cuttings of both.
Redcurrant may as well go, though it crops well the fruit is very sour and of limited use to me.
Rhubarb (not technically a fruit) I have Victoria and Champagne, both are excellent, Victoria comes very early, Champagne is later with better flavour. I planted three crowns of Fulton’s Strawberry Surprise last winter, of which only one has grown. I may get a stick or two next year.
Beetroot. I need to crack successional sowing better, I made 3 sowings of Boldor and 2 of Boltardy, all in cells. Boldor is a golden variety, good grower, good but not outstanding taste, cooks much quicker than Boltardy. I don’t think planting as small clumps is working well, I will thin to singles and plant quite close.
Broad Bean Masterpiece Green. Poor yield seemingly because pods didn’t set due to lack of pollinators or dryness or something else.
Broccoli Rudolph. Purple sprouting. I grew these on in 9cm pots and planted them early July following peas. They have grown well since, considering how dry it has been but have caterpillars of small cabbage white and diamond back moth, as well as flea beetle and a tiny weevil. This in spite of being covered with mesh. Perhaps the eggs were on them when planted. The weevil looks like it might be Ceutorhynchus pallidactylus, known as cabbage shoot weevil. Seems its larvae burrow into the stems, it’s not the adults I have to worry about. Tricksy they are, drop to the ground and hide when you go near them.
Carrots have been poorer this year than last, I think due to the lack of rain. I sow them in 1litre deep pots and plant the whole pot full as a clump as soon as I can turn them out of the pot without the rootball breaking up. It’s a reliable method except I have sown too thickly, 15 per pot is probably enough. I didn’t mesh this year and have root fly. Will mesh next year. I shall go back to Flyaway, which has some fly resistance and tastes good.
Celeriac Asterix is looking good. I have been watering and feeding it regularly, it seems slow.
Kale Midnight Sun has the same pests as Broccoli Rudolph, only worse. I won’t grow it again. Russian Red seems similar and is easier to grow, or has been in the past.
Leek Blue Solaise looks good. Sown at end of March and pricked off about 1 inch apart in a 10 litre pot; planted out early June. Free of rust which affected Musselburgh last year.
Lettuce. I have grown Lollo Rosso, Salad Bowl and Oakleaf Navarra, all of which have done very well. My intention was to pick leaves but I took whole plants once they were big enough. I grew far too much and left them to almost flower, a green manure crop in effect.
Onions. I ordered Rumba sets in February, got them in days. They were in much better condition than when I’ve had them in autumn and kept them until spring before planting. They were planted in cell trays mid Feb and planted out early April. They are looking very good and will be lifted in the next few weeks.
Armstrong and Red Baron were raised from seed and have not done quite as well. Red Baron are quite small, Armstrong of reasonable size but smaller than Rumba. They were sown early March, pricked off into cell trays and planted out early May. Another plot holder has done well with autumn planted sets of Electric, a red variety. One to try.
Parsnips Tender and True sown 8/5 in the ground, germination slow and erratic. Looking OK, should get something.
Peas. Hurst Green Shaft sown direct 13/4. Good germination and growth, very good yield picked over three days which is much shorter than usual. In the freezer. Twinkle I shan’t bother with again, it is short and self supporting, but didn’t crop well and germination was patchy.
Potatoes. Not sure why I bother. Only grew Charlotte, the first pickings were good, later ones so dry they broke up when cooking. Self mashing potatoes. Blight has wiped them more times than not.
Runner Bean Firestorm. Excellent, but like courgettes, produce big yields when we’re mainly eating salads, and not easily storable. I should grow a lot less.
Annual Spinach Matador. Goes over too quickly, not worth the bother.
Sweet Corn. Earliking sown 11/4, Goldcrest sown 6/5. Could have sown the second lot a bit later as it caught up the earlier one somewhat. Looking very good but has taken a lot of feeding and watering to keep going. Some plants given to another plotholder are barely half the size, mainly for lack of feed I think. May well pick the first today.
Cabbage. Delight Ball has kept us in summer cabbage for salads. I could do with getting some earlier and probably also later, though Kalibos may fill that niche. Huzaro is looking great at the moment. A fantastic colour, fewer pests than the others and a longish stem getting it off the ground and away from slugs.
Sorrel. I grew this perennial vegetable from Real Seeds last year. Nice in leafy salads though something nibbles the leaves and finding good ones can be a challenge.
Garlic. Disastrous. I bought Solent Wight, planted it in October. It became infested with rust and was pulled up and dumped. Next to it was Provence, given to me by my allotment neighbour. It picked up the rust from Solent Wight. I salvaged the bulbs, I think they will be edible. Elephant garlic remained rust free and grew extremely well. If it tastes good it’s all I will bother with, it’s not like we eat huge amounts of garlic.
Flower Sprouts are looking Ok and should provide winter greens. I meant to grow Redbor Kale, but it slipped through the net somehow.
Perpetual Spinach, or spinach beet, is a useful winter vegetable and is very easy to grow.
Butternut Squash Hunter is on my other plot. I dug holes in rough undisturbed ground and they have struggled to get going. I should have done much better ground prep. They’re getting there and I will get a crop, but for a good crop they need a good speedy start.
Dahlias. I sowed seed I collected from Orange Cushion and Veritable, both growing in my garden. I have two rows of Orange Cushion seedlings, one from a sowing on 11 March 2018, the other from two years earlier. Most are bright red with some dark reds, yellows and oranges, even a mauve. Veritable has produced less interesting progeny, in pinks and mauves. I’m impressed by how good plants raised this year are and may buy some seed if I find something tempting.
A flower garden for pleasure, an allotment for satisfaction. I have both, lucky me.