The very best land, much in demand by commercial growers of vegetables, fruit and salads, is sometimes called ‘double cropping’ land because it is supposed to grow two crops a year. Allotments are very seldom to be found on double-cropping land; they are almost always on land no one else wants.
However, by spending money on manure, fertiliser and lime, allotment holders transform their plots into double-cropping land.
Over-wintered broad beans are an essential part of my double-cropping. These are now over and have been pulled up through the holes in the black plastic mulch that has kept them weed-free since the autumn and consigned to the compost pit. A tottering 2m pile of rotting vegetation stands over the 1m deep pit – all will rot down to fill the pit with rich compost by September.
Through the black plastic, plants of winter squash are set out using a bulb-planter to plant each transplant raised in a 5cm degradable pots. The soil is firmed round the pot and it is puddled in with several soaking of liquid fertiliser solution. It is a little on the late side to be setting out squash plants but the plants are strong, there is little damage to the roots by this method of transplanting and liquid fertiliser will get them off to a good start. Some nitrogen will remain from the beans and some of the preceding potatoes’ heavy manuring and feeding will also remain. I have high hopes.
The over-wintered ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ peas are long-gone now and their place taken by a row of ‘Crown Prince’ squashes, and the subsequent March-sown ‘Misty’ has given three pickings and is now consigned to the compost. ‘Misty’ might not be the heaviest cropping pea but by sowing two packets I have had a good crop of very tasty peas and it has proved impressively tolerant of wet soil and rain. In its place has been sown a row of runner beans ‘Polestar’ for the simple reason that deer ate the first sowing of ‘Enorma’ and ‘Polestar’ was one of the few packets left in Wisley plant centre.
More opportunities for double-cropping are imminent; garlic and shallots are drying off and will soon be ready to lift, a succession of broad beans and peas are scheduled to be harvested before August and the early potatoes will all be gone by mid July.
Waiting in the standing area are celltrays of leeks, basil, coriander, parsley and other herbs. More biodegradable pots have been sown with courgettes and cucumbers, while celltrays have been sown with Florence fennel, calabrese, cauliflowers, Chinese cabbage, kohl rabi and lettuces. Packets of beetroot, French beans, dwarf runner beans, radish, rocket, turnips and finger carrots have been held back for the double cropping areas. All these should go in before mid-July to get a double crop for the autumn.