Friday 24th June 2011 - weather: bright and breezy
A whole day, yes, one whole day all to myself at the allotment, between school runs of course. So that is roughly five and a half hours. I kid myself that in such an acre of time I can get on top of all jobs and have time to chat to any lottie friends that arrive. Of course I didn't.
Thanks to the wonderful rainfall the weeds are all growing fast and out competing my desired veggies. Plan of attack, begin on plot number 2 at the brassica end and work my way up, then across to the top end of plot one and work my way down to the shed.
The brassicas are mostly planted through weed supressing membrane, an exercise I would recommend to anyone who has a plot and doesn't have enough hours in the day to visit as often as they should. The brassicas love the cool, damp earth and the complete lack of competition from weeds. However, I didn't have enough membrane at the plot in the spring to cover the entire area, so there were sections that needed some TLC. I oiked out the failed Japanese onions, loosened the soil and planted all of the spare, unlabelled brassicas that I had knocking around, roughly another 15 plants. I sowed a quick crop of radish between these brassicas. I weeded through the sweetcorn and was rather disappointed to see flowers forming, and the plants are only about 3 foot tall. Does this mean no sweetcorn for us again this year? Finally the beans, a mix of borlotti, climbing french and runners. I am not a neat allotment holder, I don't really do straight military lines and strict veggie varieties in rows, so my runner bean canes will by a mix of colours, shapes and sizes and will look a picture as it all comes into bloom.
I had already sorted the toms on an earlier flying visit so straight to the squash area, another area with 75% weed supressing membrane in place. At long last the squash seem to have greened up and taken off. They have really struggled with the dry this year, but thanks to the rain, they are now away and going mad. The Speckled swan gourd is clambering through the blackcurrant bush, the courgettes are covered in baby fruitlets and the Atlantic Giant pumpkins already have set baby pumpies. The mini corns are growing well, surrounded by sunflowers which are shooting up for the heavens. I have left the last few broadbean plants in the ground for these pods to really get huge so I can freeze them for winter soups and stews. More beans here, just runners, but these are mixed with the cucumber plants, all sharing the canes and netting. The rocket sown a couple of weeks ago has germinated and is duly being eaten by flea beetles but the lambs lettuce is up and doing fine and the corriander is up, although patchy, but I don't need masses. In the gap where the failed rocket failed I sowed a row of carrots. I had sown another patch of mini corn seed direct, but the mice really enjoyed them leaving a bare square, so I filled it with lettuce plantlets that I had sown in modules at home.
The kids patches are doing great but number one sons patch was looking a little nude as we had consumed all of the lettuce so I weeded and sowed a row of carrots and a row of radish. Plot number 2 is now filled to the rafters with young plants and seeds.
Over to plot number one. A few weeks ago I sowed a row of wallflowers along the daffodil line, and there is a row of seedlings, but I am unsure if they are weeds or the wallflowers. I shall have to keep an eye on them. The netting came off the strawbs as they have almost finished now and I weeded through them. This took an age as the mares tail was thick, as were the dandelions. The basil seed I sowed directly, just because they were excess seeds and it has been so hot I thought why the hell not, are now growing like crazy so I think I will make a huge batch of pesto in the autumn and freeze it like Ina Garten from the Barefoot Contessa does. The perennial salad plants, also sown direct, are growing really well and are lovely and peppery. They should overwinter to give us light pickings.
As the day was marching on I went and picked the raspberries, goosegogs and currants. I say this every year, but Glen Ample are the best rasps and grow so well in the dappled shade of my apple trees. I also cut the grass on the patchs, which was appreciated by my lottie neighbour Caroline.
That was it, time was up. Looking over the plots I realize I will have to dig up and chuck out the globe artichoke plants as they haven't produced any flowers for the last 2 years, and as I am the only one who likes them, I think I will just buy, or acquire, one plant to replace the half a row of tired plants. The cardoon hasn't grown as tall this year as previous years, but blame the drought. The insects won't care though as there are plenty of flowers and those thistles are packed full of nectar and pollen and the bumble bees get quite drunk dancing from flower to flower. I have a few empty areas on plot number one to fill and I have plenty of seedlings and young plants in modules at home which can start going in as they get large enough and I have ordered my Japanese onions, garlic and shallots from Unwins which should arrive late summer early autumn, so I will have to remember not to fill every square inch so I can squeeze them in.