At some point I really am planning to sow my salad crops for winter, I’ve been meaning to do it for weeks but what with our open garden at home and having lots of crops to harvest, it simply hasn’t happened. I’m at the point in the year on the plot when I think to hell with weeding because I can catch up with that in winter, right now it’s about feeding, picking and storing. What are you doing on your plot?
A time of harvest
At this time of year I have ambitions to ‘do things’ on the allotment but that soon gets swept aside when one crop or two have burst into action gifting me with plenty of food. This year it’s the turn of the tomatoes, lettuce, raspberries and chillies. They’re all bursting at the seams with more food than I can collect. Bags, boxes and buckets are stuffed with them and occasionally tupperware when I remember to take it with me. Tupperware is the best because you can pick things like lettuce leaves, pop them in and then slot straight in the fridge until needed. Which means Chris is more open to the thought of eating them than when I – all too often – present him with a muddy carrier bag of veg.
A typical late summer harvest of various potatoes, padron peppers, courgettes and early apples (too early and not very nice).
It is a really good year for tomatoes for me. I made a number of changes this year, first I only grew cherry or baby plum tomatoes. This is because I grow them outdoors and can’t get to them every day to water, which I’ve found on my allotment leads to blossom end rot. The smaller fruits appear less prone and certainly, I’ve not had any blossom end rot this year, just bags and bags of delicious tomatoes. I’ve grown three different packets from Thompson Morgan and ‘Rainbow Blend’ I’ve found to be great, especially the yellow ones. ‘Sungold’ too is incredibly sweet. I’ll be repeating this next year, perhaps increasing the number of plants to 15 (this year was 12).
A real success has been edamame, they need to be started really early in the year to have a long growing season. ‘Green Shell’ is the one I reported is said to be good outdoors in the UK climate and the above photo proves this is true. Fantastic, I’ll certainly grow more next time. They all crop in one go so you need to plan for that, harvest and store accordingly (or have an edamame feast). They freeze easily.
Apples almost ready
I’m sure everyone is familiar with my love of space saving stepover apples by now and I have to say I still wholeheartedly recommend them. ‘Pinova’ in the middle bed is having a bumper year (above) and will soon be ready. I’ve noticed people struggle with knowing when apples are ripe – many people tell me I should be picking mine – but they’re not ready. An apple is ready when it comes away easily when lifted gently. These still need to blush further and will be ready in late Sept, early October when I like to leave them on the plant and eat as a treat when I’m down on the plot.
Eighteen months ago I publicly made a gamble in my Telegraph Gardening column by removing all of my summer fruiting raspberries to replace them solely with autumn fruiting: ‘Joan J’ and ‘Polka’. The reasons I couldn’t be bothered with the faff of summer fruiting are the supports required, the easy but fiddly winter pruning and the fact they crop all in one go. Autumn fruiting requires none of this. Well, I am glad I did take the gamble as I feel the autumn fruiting plants are so much easier and cropping for stretches at a time. I’ve noticed I’ve lost two ‘Joan J’, I suspect because of the 2018 drought in their first summer, so I’ll need to train some runners when they appear to take their place. Yes I get raspberries a couple of months later than everyone else, but they’re delicious, long cropping and easy. If I lived nearer I would have some summer plants too.
I am very, very pleased with progress of my herb bed. Everything has really settled in now and is putting on growth that you know signals establishment. It’s already very productive and next year I’ll have more herbs than Chris and I can possibly consume. Self sufficient? Not yet but in herbs, most definitely. And look, not in a very big space either, despite huge variety. A rewarding success.
I don’t think I’ve grown sunflowers since I was a boy and it’s with child-like excitement that I found my first sunflower in thirty years flowering wonderfully on the plot. Surviving heavy winds recently. The seeds were given to me by allotmenteer Kirsty Ward (who also kindly sent me lots of other things too). I absolutely love the fact that it is tall with largeish flowers but also lots of them. Magnificent. They make great cut flowers too.
Preparing for winter
In most years my brassicas perform well but in last year’s drought they largely became a non-starter. This year I put the most effort into growing these crops to make sure they were successful and so far, so good. They’re growing healthily and I’ve been eating the kohlrabi with kale, cabbage and romanesco not far behind, I’ll soon be picking them. Two of my favourites are Brussels sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli and I have four of each of these plants. These sorts of winter crops take up a lot of space in the summer and I’m thankful for this! It’s great to know that some areas of the plot need very little attention through the year and with their huge ground covering leaves that stop weeds, they really are relatively easy. Though I have just staked them to keep them upright. A few had fallen over slightly which is not good as it encourages side shoots too early, at the moment you want strong upright growth.
I’m growing full size winter leeks this year, usually I grow the baby leeks. I love the taste of hearty leek in the winter so I’m excited about these. This is ‘Northern Lights’ that turns a good purple colour when the weather gets colder.
At this time of year my dahlia trial is hitting its stride, though the plants have struggled this year. I think because I didn’t add enough organic matter as a mulch. This autumn I’m going to add a good 10cm mulch across the lot to feed the thin, sandy soil. I have been feeding them a lot with liquid seaweed fertiliser to make up for it, switching to tomato liquid feed when buds form (organic seaweed based) which is helping.
The Flower Patch
Last winter I started a new project I dubbed the Future Meadow which has been going well though I’m thinking of renaming it something else after the Twitterverse started disliking ornamental meadows. Not wanting to upset anyone, although this does contain lots of local native species, I’ll think of something botanically-neutral, like the Razzamazzamatron or something. I’m not joking, it will be something like that. In fact, that might just stick. That’s actually quite good. Thoughts in a comment. Anyway, here it is, I’m loving it in its first year. Now everything is settled, everything will be twice as nice in 2020.
And with that I shall leave you for now my fellow grow your own, organic, no dig loving nutters. Oh I’ve just harvested my first small batch of cob nuts. More on that next time.
p.s. here are some more photos from my plot this week