Now we’ve finally had some heat the allotment is burgeoning. My allotment is very rural, situated well away from any roads or housing so it takes ages to warm up and frosts in June and again in September are not uncommon. Fourteen years ago I discovered these allotments in the next village on a cycle ride with my children. We fantasised about which one we would like as clearly there were many untended plots and together we chose Plot 11 with its central grass path and rickety gate. It lies about two miles by road from home but in the summer I usually cycle off-road through the woods.
Overnight all the poppies have flowered. I sowed a wildflower patch in the spring using free seed from the TV programme Countryfile, a few saved poppy seed heads from home and some cornflower and mixed cosmos seed. I’ve weeded a few times but this patch has had no added water.
The French beans (Cobra) and Borlotti beans are finally starting to climb. The seed was sown on May 17 and the beans planted out during the first week of June. Peering closely I can see flowers forming. Behind the beans are four courgette plants, two yellow (both now fruiting) and two green, and four Butternut and four Blue Kuri squash. The latter keeps well in my cool well-ventilated garage until the following spring. I also have sweetcorn growing and you can see at the end of the plot the asparagus bed, comprising about 25 crowns planted in 2003 and 2004. I stopped cropping the asparagus mid-June having started nine weeks earlier. Now all the fern is through and after a thorough weeding yesterday and a useful amount of rain overnight I mulched this morning with a pile of very well-rotted horse manure.
The cutting patch is a success so far. I sowed a row of Cornflower, a packet of mixed flower seed for cutting from Sarah Raven, planted corms of Anemone coronaria ‘ Sylphide’ and a row of white Acidanthera. Elsewhere I have masses of self-seeded Nigella and ‘Cupani” sweet peas and one new hot-pink dahlia, whose name escapes me. I do know D. Karma Choc failed to make the grade. Cambridge Favourite strawberries are finished and once it cools down I will start propagating by pinning a runner into individual 9cm pots of compost. I will probably take about 24 runners from my three different varieties of strawberry and plant them out into prepared ground in September. You may just be able to see the basil plants and rows of cut and come again salad leaves.
Tomatoes (“Gardener’s Delight’) are looking promising this year. I have had only one really good tomato year in all my years at the allotment and that was in 2006. Over the years I have made an awful lot of green tomato chutney and experimented with many different varieties. More salad (I keep sowing a pinch at a time every few weeks), beetroot and rocket. My first sowing of rocket is now self-seeding under one of the apple trees. Rocket flowers are deliciously peppery if you’ve not tried them. I am getting ready to sow some more spinach by wetting the ground well. Also visible a late sowing of cornflower and direct sown white cosmos ‘Purity’.
Newly transplanted leeks. I have about 100 planted here and another 100 waiting to go in from a March direct sowing. I don’t bother growing onions anymore as they are so cheap to buy and difficult to store, but I reckon if you’ve got leeks on the plot there is always food on the table. I net them in their infancy against bird damage. You can also see my allotment neighbour’s brilliant up-cycling of an old frame tent as a fruit cage.
The summer raspberries, growing under the draped netting, have been fantastic this year. Like strawberries, roses and elderflowers I think they have benefited from the cool spring. I’m picking, and we’re eating, a punnet a day. In the foreground Hemerocallis ‘Hyperion’ growing under Victoria plum, and you can just see a red gooseberry and ever-bearing strawberries which were weeded and doused with comfrey tea today. I have three apple trees, a pear tree and a plum tree so my allotment could be called an orchard. We are still drinking the garden co-operative cider made from the 2013 apple harvest.
Garlic Tuscany Wight from the Isle of Wight garlic farm, drying in the sun under netting. I grow about 50 heads of garlic, planted out at the end of September. I start harvesting ‘wet’ garlic in May but the main crop is dug up around the longest day. The space vacated by the garlic is awaiting the purple sprouting broccoli but first I need to prepare the ground by lightly forking over and spreading a thin layer of manure.
Newly dug Nicola potatoes, they are melt-in-the-mouth delicious.
Finally for this month, Red Epicure broad beans. Broad bean risotto with basil for dinner tonight followed by raspberries and cream. More salad, sweet peas and the direct sown leeks waiting for transplanting.
And I couldn’t resist sharing this. My lovely local greengrocer gave me a box of apricots so no need to guess what I was doing on the hottest evening of the year so far. Delicious jam though.