97 Abbey Hey Allotments
97 Abbey Hey Allotments
97 Abbey Hey Allotments
97 Abbey Hey Allotments
It is now officially Autumn given we have entered October but the weather is unseasonably warm. We have picked one or two large bright red strawberries on each visit over the last week or two, along with lots of blueberries and while the squash are almost ready to be picked, the dahlias continue to bloom next to them. It is lovely to see but we can’t help but wonder what the impact on the next growing season will be!
Speaking of strawberries, we covered the asparagus bed with well rotted manure and the strawberry runners we potted on and cut off can rest there until there are ready to be planted out.
We cleared out the greenhouse beds on plot 118 and in order to make good use of all that space we buried some dahlia tubers from plants that had not lasted quite as long as some of the larger ones that were still flowering well.
Neil was on a mission, a manure mission, and put about eight barrows on the plot to be dug in at a later date. It really does feel like Autumn when the expanse of dark manure takes over from the green.
The basket of goodies has also taken an Autumnal turn, with gluts of tomatoes replaced by beetroot, apples and grapes making regular appearances. Although it is sad to think that the tomatoes, peppers, chillies and aubergines are gone for another year it is made better by the anticipation of parsnips, squash and kale and is totally forgotten in dreams of crumble and other treats to come!
We hadn’t spent much time at the plot in the last fortnight so we had an awful lot of things to pick, almost too many flowers for appropriate vases, in fact I think some might have ended up in jam jars!
We had some good peppers but I don’t think that there were going to turn red left on the plant and we usually like a mix of colours. But once we picked them and took them home it was only a couple of days before most of turned fully red.
We cleared some flowers and plants that were past their best and also dig in the phacelia green manure we had planted when we dug up the garlic earlier in the season.
We had been growing our wallflowers and sweet Williams in the greenhouse and kept them there initially after we had pricked them out to individual pots. But now we had some space we planted them outside. The wallflowers seem to have fared much better but we hope the sweet Williams will catch them up!
Wowee another successful show! It was one of those years that when we looked at the plots with a view to putting in show entries we weren’t sure we had much that was up to scratch. But as usual once you get your eye in, with your schedule in hand, you can actually muster up a pretty good bunch of entries!
We took a scattered approach in terms of the categories entered and it seemed to pay off. No best in show for us this year, but we didn’t expect to replicate that success so no disappointment here. It is enough that we now have a five year run of winning first prize for our garlic. We are really pleased with our colourful certificates that are a sign of time and energy well spent in our view!
It’s that time of year when things start slowing down towards the end of the season. We still have the summer show to go but it has felt cooler and as if it was later in the year than that. But we also have some things which are coming into their own now the height of summer has passed, such as the flourishing squashes and the grape vine that is threatening to burst out of the greenhouse.
We have still been taking full baskets of goodies home, the selection is gradually changing to the later crops. It starts to feel like planning for the next season is the focus of our time and attentions, which can be just as exciting as picking lots of treats. Neil certainly likes this time of year and it can be hard not to get itchy fingers and tear stuff down too early!
We have restrained ourselves to pulling up the broad beans, storing bags upon bags of the tasty beans in the freezer and putting the first barrows of manure out. We also cut off all the strawberry runners that we potted up a few weeks ago. When you are potting them up it always feels like you might not have enough but once they are cut free from the main plants and the pots are lined up it suddenly feels like an awful lot of strawberries! It’s a good job we love them!
This visit this weekend was relatively short, firstly due to their not being that much that needed doing (ssssh before we find jobs to do!) and secondly due to being busy with other things.
As such the main jobs were picking things to take home. We had quite a treasure trove which included that last of the potatoes which Neil dug up, broad beans, French beans, courgettes, tomatoes, cavolo nero, cucumbers, herbs and flowers. We also had a bonus of a good bunch of salad leaves, all in miniature as they were actually those leaves that we had thinned out from the beds and were too good to go to waste!
There are plenty of things that are being closely watched, with growing impatience for when they will be ready to pick. Almost immediately on arriving at the plot each time I go to check on the progress!
We got another haul of goodies to bring home and some beautiful flowers including the first of the dahlias. But we left this one for the bee!
The time of year quickly comes round again when harvesting becomes a top priority on visits to the plot. It’s always exciting to literally see the fruits of your labour, but it is bittersweet as it signals to approach of the end of the season.
First up were the onions. Certainly not as impressive in size as last year, not really sure of the reason for that. We weren’t sure whether it was down to the soil needing some more nutrients, not feeding them enough, or the weather conditions this year compared to last. But there were a good number and if we hadn’t had the whoppers from 2013 we wouldn’t be so critical!
Next was the garlic and a similar story applies in that they are not as good as last years Best in Show crop! There are some good bulbs but some don’t seem to have fully developed their papery skin which hasn’t happened before. Those ones will still be good for the cooking pot but won’t stand up to the scrutiny of the show bench!
You can’t dwell on the crops coming to an end too much as you are always looking forward to the next few months. In place of the onions we planted the wallflowers out. They may need to be brought in if the winter is harsh but for now they can get the opportunity of some good growing outside.
We set up loads of pots of compost around the strawberry beds and stuck a generous selection of the runners into them. They will sufficiently regenerate those that are tiring next year.
The curly kale, cavolo nero and the purple and green sprouting broccoli was planted out into the tunnels that were prepared a week or two ago.
And there is always some colour to make you feel like summer is still winning out!
I am always amazed at this time of year when the crops start coming in weighty armfuls just how colourful the allotment is. So vibrant and there is a lovely mix of hues. It almost looks photoshopped, especially the bright blue cornflowers. Perfect for picking and putting in vases to brighten up the living room.
I went to the allotment this evening to do some mid week watering, essential in this heatwave we are having and it was nice to spend a warm evening pottering. As well as watering there were some pickings that couldn’t wait till the weekend. I took a punnet full of blackberries with a few strawberries which will probably be the last for this year. It was a visit of ‘firsts’ too. I picked our first courgettes, 2 yellow, one green and one round, from plot 97 which are always ready before those on plot 118 as they have the advantage of being in beds. The raspberries on plot 118 seem to be ripening an bit earlier with the heat we’ve had so I picked a princely amount of three that were ready! Most of the plums were also ripe, not a huge number but we weren’t expecting there to be after the bumper crop last year. The blueberries are not far behind and judging from the flowers, I better start looking up plenty of blueberry recipes!
We have had notice that the judge will be visiting the plots on 22nd July and we had a few things we wanted to do beforehand to try and get as many extra points as possible compared to last year’s results.
The weather has been lovely lately and really quite dry so a water butt was the last thing on our mind but it is one of the things you can get extra points for and we have always had butts on plot 97, we just hadn’t got round to it on 118. When Neil was doing a run to B&Q (reasons for that below!) he came back with a slimline water butt perfect for the space we had by the greenhouse. With some guttering and some crafty joins it looks a treat!
Neil’s big project that required plenty of wood was a double compost bay. Again it was something we hadn’t got points for in the 2013 judging for plot 118 as we compost all our things on plot 97 and just bring manure over by the barrow without storing it on the plot first. The space at the back of the plot wasn’t used to its best and so it was the perfect spot for a compost bay and what a beauty! Although when you then start filling it up you realise just how big they are!
The sunny weather has meant we have had our first ripe tomatoes, just a few rather than enough for a meal just yet, our first climbing beans and a lot of the flowers are really coming into bloom.
We finally got round to planting some lettuces, a combination of loose leaves and headed varieties. I’m hoping that the heat is not too much to prevent them germinating or thriving. I’ve planted lollo rosso and lollo biondi, radicchio (palla rossa) rocket, little gem, endive (pancalieri) and Paris White. Fingers crossed! I also planted some viola (symphonia) and antirrhinum (snap happy mixed) which a bit like the wallflowers get started now for flowering next year.
Our cherry tree had a paltry year last year and looked like it was dying off so we weren’t expecting any cherries this time around. Now it only produced in single figures so it’s nothing to get giddy about but they were pretty perfect looking and the tree in general looks really healthy which should mean better years to come.
There will still be more weeding and tidying before the judge’s visit but we made real progress today and the plots look great.
Glorious sunshine greeted us as we arrived at the plots today ready for a mammoth session to make up for our absence due to Glastonbury. I had managed a quick visit mid week after we got back home to give everything a water as it had been hot while we were away but hadn’t had enough time to do much more than pick some strawberries that were ripe. We knew therefore that there would be plenty to keep us busy and so planned a long stay (although slight hiccup in plan when we realised our pack lunch was still sat at home and Neil had to drive back to get it!).
Weeding and watering was the first plan of action as even a week off at this time of year can make a big difference to the number of weeds taking over. We blasted both plots, including the front and back borders and things already looked better. The bees were enjoying the sunshine, the lavender was so full of what looked like honey bees that they were humming as you passed them! That will make for some nicely scented honey.
We then had to sort out some failures, or if not failures then at least less successful things. The cauliflower and some cabbages that went into the tunnels a couple of weeks ago had been decimated by something. Given they are covered it isn’t wood pigeons to blame which leaves slugs or caterpillars. They had pellets down for slugs so we suspect caterpillars! Neil gave everything in the two tunnels a good spray with diluted washing up liquid and I think he even plucked off a couple of the wriggly green blighters that he spotted so hopefully that will sort it. But the ones that had been lost were non existent or beyond saving, so cutting our losses we filled the gaps with some more cabbages (tundra and minicole) and the remaining spaces will be filled with some savoy (vertus) which we potted on today so will be ready to plant in a week or two. The third tunnel on that side was planted with borecole (scarlet) and calabrese (green sprouting) and we’ll keep our eyes peeled for pests!
Another disappointment were the shallots. Over the last few weeks they have been gradually looking as if they have been dying off. Not like they do when they are ready to pick, just wilting away to almost nothing. We’d given them some liquid feed to perk them up but even this hadn’t worked and today all of them looked dead! Neil dug them up and put some green manure in their place. He also sowed some green manure over the area where the poppies hadn’t germinated. The shallots themselves didn’t look too bad once out of the ground, they are usable, but they are the worst we’ve grown in a few years and it was the same variety that were good sized and problem free last year. The only difference this time was they were in the open ground on plot 118 rather than a bed on plot 97, so maybe in future they need to stay in a bed to perform best.
We needed to catch up with the plants that were outside ready to be planted out and those that needed potting on. We put out all the remaining squash (bon bon, metro pmr, autumn crown, little gem rolet, crown prince, buttercup) and once you factor in the space they will expand into it didn’t leave much left before plot 118 would be full. We planted out the celeriac (prinz), some of which seemed to have partially succumbed to slugs so hopefully they will pick up and I’m excited to try what is a new crop for us.
The leeks (almera) were planted out and considering they were a bit of a rescue job after a hot greenhouse incident they looked really good. We made good use of our leeks last year so I’m pleased we will have enough to do the same again.
We put the sweet Williams and wallflowers into the coldframe and took out some things to pot on. We put the purple sprouting and summer purple sprouting into larger bags and I think it will only be a week or two before they can be planted out. We also bagged on the cavolo nero and dwarf curly kale. Given we had filled so much space with squash and other bits and pieces there wasn’t a great deal of space left but in readiness for the plants we potted on, Neil constructed two long tunnels, as long as the full width of one side. We made them much narrower and taller than usual as the crops going in them get really tall and the netting can sometime squash them down a bit too much.
We had some lovely strawberries, blackberries and cucumbers (minus one which Neil cut up for his sandwiches!) to take home and a small handful of currants, both red and black and it’s nice after a long and hot day to have some treats at the end of it!
The last week has been the perfect storm of hot humid weather and downpours of rain so when we arrived at the plots this weekend it seemed the weeds were what had been doing the most growing! Despite the weather being a bit overcast and drizzly we had a good long visit on Sunday and by the end of the day both plots looked pretty tidy.
Neil was a digging demon, I think he set his mind to finishing the digging on plot 118 and just kept motoring on, even though he was dripping with sweat and had already done a tough round of circuits that morning!
Meanwhile I did a lot of planting out from the items in the coldframe that were bursting to get out. The courgettes were planted out on both plots. The regular green zucchini variety hasn’t germinated is two sowings of several pots each time which is odd so we just have the one green variety in the dundoo organic. Neil is pioneering the crushed eggshell method of trying to stop the slugs, we’ll see if that has any success!
The brassicas that had been in the coldframe for a couple of weeks were ready to go out. You can really see the difference between those that have spent longer in the greenhouse or coldframe compared to the ones that have had more time outside. The red cabbage (drumhead) look better than we have ever grown, at least at this early stage. The cauliflowers (snowball) were a bit small and flimsy looking but I’m hoping that being outside will mean they pick up and get a bit sturdier in a week or two. They were joined by the pointed red kalibos and candissa cabbage varieties as well as the Brussels (Evesham special and Hastings).
We planted some more peas along the rustic pea frame Neil made with the sticks pruned from the raspberries and plums last year. The squash and the leeks from the greenhouse were put into the coldframe, the leeks particularly will be ready pretty soon if their current size is anything to go by. The rest of the brassicas that were in the coldframe but too small to plant out were transferred outside to hopefully firm up a bit before being planted out in the next week or two.
The zinnia and aster were planted on plot 118. They are apparently half hardy annuals, so a bit like the dahlias if we protect them over the winter they should survive for future flowerings next year. The poor acroclinium still didn’t get planted out, that’s two weeks where they have been passed over! Next week definitely!
There were just a few sowings to make for June, the kale (dwarf green curled) and cavolo nero (cavolo di toscana) and wallflowers (fairlady mixed) and sweet Williams (auricula-eyed mixed). Incidentally, one plant from last years cavolo nero is still standing and still growing, the rest bolted in the early hot weather but somehow this one has lasted. I think it officially wins the prize for longest growing crop on the plots.
At least after all the weeding we did across both plots we had the reward of a full punnet of strawberries! Pretty good considering there was only one or two reddening last week and we thought they would all be munched before this weekend. Very tasty indeed! With that and the first signs of fruit on some of the tomato plants this is the start of the excitement!