Allotment month 45: salad harvest, colourful potatoes and rainbow tomatoes

Yesterday I was busted sighing while hoeing weeds on my plot. I’d just mown everything and thought I was alone but one of the lovely new plot holders who joined this year was there, which was really nice and she jolted me out of it. I find summer a wonderful but tricky time for gardening, suddenly there is so much to do in the garden and allotment as crops need looking after and harvesting. At the same time everyone wants to do everything while the sun is shining and my social life adds to the pressure too. It’s only in moments like this that I wish my allotment were closer, to pop out every day to do a little bit and marvel at the wonders, but I soon get over it.

Potato harvest and storing

This year I am growing eight potato cultivars, two of my favourites, ‘Anya’ and ‘Pink Fir Apple’ which are great for potato salads, plus six colourful varieties in a trial. I’ll write up my overall impressions once I’ve dug them all up and tasted them. In the trial are red-pink ‘American Rose’ and ‘Red Emmalie’, purple-blue ‘Blaue Anneliese’ and ‘Violetta’, and marble skinned ‘Mayan Twilight’ and ‘Pink Gypsy’. To store, I leave them in baskets like this in our cupboard under the stairs. It’s not quite cool enough in there but it’s the only place we have and they store OK for a couple of months. Ideally I’d use metal baskets however this plastic one came with my plot so I’m reusing it.

Supporting and feeding outdoor tomatoes

This year I decided to only grow cherry and small plum tomatoes because my assumption was fewer problems with splitting and ripening etc. I was right, it’s turning into a bumper year, if I can just keep them upright! I used canes this year instead of large tree stakes but one had snapped under the weight, the vine flopped on the floor. Luckily it was recoverable and I set about adding supporting stakes, tying the tops of all the canes together in a tighter line. I am feeding them weekly at the moment with a liquid seaweed fertiliser. My reward, eating the first ripe tomatoes there and then, and they were glorious (especially the yellow one from ‘Rainbow Blend’!)

Keeping up with the salads

One of the things I’m most upset about at the moment is that my salad crops are growing really, really well! And this is where the drawback to having such a distant plot is, I can’t pick them enough. In an ideal world I’d be here every day picking some lettuce for dinner and lunch. I’m planning on taking a little tupperware box with me next time in the hope I can store some for use through the week. Though this week I have eaten two of my ‘Little Gem’ lettuces which were nigh on perfect. Not a nibble in sight, beat that Sainsburys.

Very late sown French beans

Here’s an interesting experiment, above is French bean ‘Cobra’ sown direct a few weeks ago in July. This was a last ditch attempt because my first two crops, sown at home in modules back in late May died after germinating (a problem with my compost). It’s much later than I would normally sow and so our crop is behind but they’re strong plants already and starting to climb. Given the good weather we have down here in London, I don’t feel we’ll have any fewer beans, they’ll simply be later than normal. Luckily my dwarf French beans ‘Purple Queen’ tided us over while we wait.

Behind the beans is a late sowing of peas as well. One thing I’ve noticed this year is that bean crops are best sown from fresh seed. Older seed simply doesn’t germinate or grow as well.

Edamame

Look at those! I am very happy with the way my edamame crop is turning out. I have about eight plants and they’re all laden with young pods. Not long now until they’ll be ready for harvest, they usually all ripen at the same time and so I will freeze them.

Outdoor chillies looking hot

This was one experiment I wasn’t expecting much from, planting all of my chillies outside on the exposed allotment. I had planned to grow them in my potting shed for maximum heat but it gets so hot, they would die from lack of water. For the last few months they grew without fruit but now, with the heat of mid-summer they are all growing large quantities that are ripening. In fact, next week we’ll have enough for a harvest of ‘Padron’ peppers. Hooray! Our plot is free draining and London is a bit of a microclimate, even out where my allotment is, which helps.

Modern day herbal

OK it doesn’t look like much in the above photo but my herb beds are reaching an important stage where all of the plants I’ve introduced are established. Everything is filling out and soon there will barely be any soil, slowing down weeds. My herb beds flank my shed, here the sunny side, on the other shady. Weeding the herb beds is one of my favourite jobs because of all the glorious scents. I shouldn’t wish away time but I am looking forward to seeing this next year when it’s fully grown and at its most productive.

Most embarrassing sweetcorn ever

Look at that. Three plants. Three measly plants! And they’re well behind everyone else’s. I don’t expect them to pollinate each other let alone crop in time but we’ll see. Sweetcorn were some of the plants I lost early on in a bad batch of compost, growing at home in plugs. Still, they look healthy and strong and may well surprise us.

Literally came to mow a meadow

One of my jobs for the week was strimming and then mowing my mini-meadow. All of the clippings were removed to try and weaken the grass. I’m letting the meadow develop naturally from local wildflowers, though I couldn’t help myself sprinkling some seeds from a nearby wild carrot and the seeds from the knapweed growing in the meadow’s corner. I did sow yellow rattle last autumn but I’m not sure any grew, I never saw any flowers.

Physalis and raspberries

I’m growing a fair amount of fruit on the plot from apples and pears to gooseberries and autumn raspberries (I don’t bother with summer raspberries). Physalis is an interesting fruit and I’m growing a dwarf variety, though next year I’ll grow the full size plant, because this really is dwarf…

And the first two ‘Joan J’ raspberries were ripe, with lots more to come.

Keeping on top of weeds

Don’t be down hearted about weeds, there are weeks when they get the better of me too. It’s the toughest ongoing task on an allotment as they never stop, you can only keep removing them. I hoe a lot in summer which on hot days is like removing them with a rubber because they wilt and die quickly. I hoe every time I visit the allotment. Weed suppressant matting in winter can help but doesn’t stop bind weed because that dies back in winter. Around sensitive crops I simply rip out by hand. Mulching can suppress weed seeds germinating but only for a time and I find it needs more compost than I ever have for this to really be effective. Unfortunately there is no magic way of stopping weeds, you just have to build in the hoeing and ripping out into your routine and eventually you’ll get the knack and it does start to make a dent in how many come back making it slightly easier.

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

2 thoughts on “Allotment month 45: salad harvest, colourful potatoes and rainbow tomatoes

  1. Looks great Jack – you’ve had a similar sounding year to me (only more varied and more successful!) – I’ve just had my first allotment year.
    One question – edamame. Mine are a little behind yours I think. Do you freeze them directly or blanch first?

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