At last allotment work is easing off and the plot is mostly up to date. I have to say I am relieved – it has been a bit hectic harvesting and replanting at the same time.
With only six weeks or so of growing weather left, plants must not run short of nutrients. However everything looks mighty lush and only some weak, newly planted or pigeon damaged plants need feeding. Brassicas checked by pigeons, have had a second dose of calcium nitrate to boost growth and keep the soil alkaline. Where grow is not quite as it should be sulphate of ammonia has been applied, dissolved in water and placed at the base of affected plants with a watering can, to crops destined for autumn harvest; beans, beetroot, celery, courgettes and various salads and also in moderation to celeriac and leeks for winter harvest. Ground cleared of summer crops and due to be resown or replanted has received a boost of dried poultry manure pellets.
A mighty splurge of sowing French and runner beans, turnips, kohl rabi and a little endive, herbs, lettuce and fennel has brought sowing to an end, bar the odd spinach and salad, until autumn sowing of peas and beans. A large sowing of over-wintered salad onions has been made – you can hardly have too many salad onions in April for your stir-fries. Because allotments are full of badly grown and neglected onions spewing out downy mildew spores the onions, a winter hardy strain of ‘White Lisbon’ was sown in celltrays, several seeds to a cell, at home and will go out when the nights are too cold for mildew spores to germinate in the second half of September. Plenty of spring greens, ‘First Early Market 218’, have also been sown in modules as I have no clubroot free soil in which to raise transplants. Spring cabbage never seems to heart up for me until July, but tasty greens can be cut from March – also good for those stir fries.
My cut-off for replanting is about now and the last of the plants in pots and seedbeds, basils, beans, beetroot, calabrese, courgettes, Florence fennel, kohl rabi and salads, must go out this week and even then may need fleece protection to crop well this autumn even though they have been lavishly fed and watered and are big, strong lush plants. And if they fail, well, they make good green manure!
Then on to the harvesting. Where to begin? The last peas were taken at the same time as the first sweetcorn. French beans are enormously productive and the dregs of broad beans remain to gather. Courgettes are as usual cropping faster than I can pick them. Under a low tunnel of fleece cucumbers and peppers have done very well. Sclerotinia disease has taken its toll in the damp tunnel and also affected the carrots beneath fleece. Both have been uncovered and cleaned up. Purple carrots have been grown as an intercrop between the celeriac for use in summer and these must now come out – with judicious microwaving these retain their colour after cooking. Another over enthusiastic intercrop is plain parsley between the leeks – this has been rigorously trimmed to ground level and the foliage used to make a sort of pesto with walnuts which is very tasty with second-early potatoes. Although ‘Charlotte’ is nearly gone, ‘Franceline’ a red skinned second-early salad cultivar has taken over abundantly. As the second earlies die back their foliage has been removed along with weeds, and earth drawn up on the ridges to prevent greening and allow the tubers to set their skins. As soon as the skins are firm they will be hauled home and stored. I seem to have lost my taste for beetroot and salads now but there are a few short rows maturing every couple of weeks. Although the cherry tomatoes are cropping well in the back garden, the beeksteaks on the allotment are obstinately green and with this wet weather need repeated fungicide protection – any unsprayed tomatoes on the allotment site have now succumbed and potatoes are showing the first signs of blight. Mildewed courgettes, pumpkins and squashes also need protection, but the wet weather has suppressed red spider mites and aphids.
Between the late winter savoys and sprouting broccoli and over-wintering cauliflowers the brassica intercrop of quick growing kohl rabi, cabbages and calabrese is maturing. Much of the calabrese and some of the kohl rabi has succumbed to clubroot, but enough has survived to add to the variety of produce available and when ready to cut are immediately removed – roots to be burnt and foliage to be composted so as not to compromise the winter crops. Staggering around a muddy allotment under rain and in coat and wellies gathering cabbages seemed familiar…ah yes I was doing the same in February.
At least watering is not too demanding – without recent heavy rain celery and celeriac, as well as anything newly planted, would have needed a soak every three days, leeks and runner beans every five days and every thing else moderately watered every 10-14 days.