Season of mellow fruitfulness

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A glorious session at the allotment today harvesting, weeding and clearing spent crops. These cosmos in my wildflower patch are at eye height and were buzzing with all kinds of bees today.

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Beautiful Dahlia Onesta waiting to be picked.

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We had the first leeks this week. Sliced thinly and gently softened in butter and stirred into pasta with hot salmon flakes, a squeeze of lemon and plenty of black pepper and we have another of my simple, tasty and very quick pasta dishes.

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Sweetcorn has been slow to ripen this year. I usually know when it’s ready when the local wildlife becomes interested. The borlotti beans too are only just starting to change colour. The new runner beans were sown direct to replace virus affected French beans. I think the variety is White Painted Lady and I noticed plenty of flowers today so I’m hoping for an autumn picking.

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This photo is for Chloris and Cathy and shows my famous Anemone coronaria Sylphide in its fourth consecutive month of flowering!

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Autumn Bliss raspberries. There’s been a lively discussion on Caro’s blog, An Urban Veg Patch, about autumn fruiting raspberries and the jury is definitely out on Autumn Bliss. I think so much depends on your soil, the weather and aspect and how you cultivate the crop. My allotment soil is free-draining and my plot is very open and sunny. I cut down the canes in January, keep the ground well-weeded and mulch with a thick layer of leaf mould in April. I usually start harvesting at the end of July, much later this year because of the drought, and continue picking until the first air frost. I never feed or water my raspberries but every five years or so I re-plant a dozen canes into fresh soil so the crop is renewed and I limit their spread. Autumn raspberries and asparagus are the two crops I would not be without. I call them my bankers as neither has ever failed and they are both so delicious and impossible I think to replicate commercially.

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We’re already eating Lord Lambourne. It is very good but comes second in taste and keeping to my favourite Fiesta.

Fiesta, a 1970s cross between Cox's Orange Pippin and Ida Red. It produces bountiful healthy crops every year. We're eating them now and they store well in my garage until January.
Fiesta is a 1970s cross between Cox’s Orange Pippin and Ida Red. I was introduced to Fiesta by Charles who has had an allotment on my site since the very beginning in the mid-1970s. In my first year Charles gave me a bag of apples from his tree and they were so delicious I ordered a maiden bare-rooted Fiesta from Wisley for planting that winter. Fiesta is also healthy, reliable and stores well until January.

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You know it’s a good year for fruit when even the pear tree, Fondante d’automne, is cropping well. However, the squashes in the background are not doing so well. My four butternut squash plants have only one mature fruit and about a dozen pear-sized fruits between them and the four Blue Kuri have managed to produce one squash each. I suspect the drought is to blame as I’ve not watered this bed after the initial planting out. I’m not too disappointed to have a squash-light year. One year I think I used about 36 squashes in various incarnations. Oh my poor children. They have been so well brought up they have never refused to eat anything I have cooked!

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Rosa Fragrant Cloud is blooming again. A happy rose thanks to plenty of watering with comfrey tea.

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Ever bearing strawberries. I’ve taken masses of runners from this bed and must take more as everyone wants to plant these for next year. My shady bed of 24 plants has been producing a good bowlful every other day since the end of July. I did keep them well-watered during the drought and have fed them two or three times with comfrey tea, but even so I am very impressed.

On the whole it has been a middling year at the allotment. The tomatoes although not affected by blight are tasteless, the basil never really got going and my one chilli plant has yet to set a fruit. All the root crops have been good although the carrots are very small. The broad beans were disappointing. I lost an early crop to black fly and the second Red Epicure sowing was sparse. I had a couple of dozen plums and the pigeons had all my red gooseberries. Strawberries and garlic have been good and I’ve been picking (and watering) salad leaves every time I visit. Courgettes and cucumbers have been fine with no gluts thank goodness.

Next year I hope to produce more flowers. I have Sweet William, a blood red wallflower and Sweet Rocket all growing very happily. I also have seed for a new white Nigella and corms for a new wine-coloured anemone ready to go in. I will try again with a dark dahlia such as Karma Choc and not give up with Orlaya, which germinated this year but flaked out in the heat. I also want to experiment more with sweet peas and try and extend their season, mice permitting.

How was your year? I have found it good to look back while the successes and failures are still fresh in my mind and hopefully it will mean next year will be even better. Or that’s what I keep telling myself.

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13 thoughts on “Season of mellow fruitfulness

    1. …all looks amazing (bloomin’ iPad!!)
      It’s been a bad year here for pretty much everything. Cold, wet and nowhere near enough sun. I’m almost at the point of giving up veggie growing completely, although I do say that every year! Even my Cosmos ‘Purity’ came out pink!

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      1. Me too! But today was one of those golden days when everything seems worth the effort and disappointment. ‘Next year’ is a magic phrase in a gardener’s vocabulary.

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  1. It all looks wonderfully productive still. My French Beans were a disaster, outdoor tomatoes are a little bland and the basil never came to anything. It’s been a good year for plums but hardly any greengages. So a mixed bag. I totally agree about autumn fruiting rasps and asparagus – if I grew nothing else I’d make room for them. A very dry year for us until August.

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  2. You like the same colour flowers as me I think, red sweet William and dark Karma Choc dahlias, wonderful. I love white as well, I’m planning lots of white cosmos next year. It’s been a mixed year on my plot as well, and I probably didn’t put in as much time as I should. My runner beans are late too, but I’m still hoping for a harvest. Leeks are looking alright, some almost big enough to eat, and I like the sound of your recipe. Hardly any squashes to speak of, as you say, I don’t think they liked the dry weather. And barely a raspberry at all. Carrots have been okay though, it’s the first time I’ve ever had a carrot harvest, I’m thrilled! Wishing you a good weekend. CJ xx

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  3. I enjoyed this post, seeing what you have been enjoying this season. I love borlotti beans but have always been disappointed by small crops. I envy you the runners, I didn’ t get round to growing any this year, I am really missing them. I am impressed by your Anemone. Thanks for the mention!

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  4. Next year is always going to be the best year ever! It’s what keeps us going. A mixed bag, as always, for us too. Also having a squash-light year, but maybe not such a bad thing, we had too many last year too.

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  5. It all looks really great Sarah. You obviously put lots of hard work in, so it’s lovely to see you rewarded with plenty of produce (even if there are some disappointments). I totally agree about raspberries and asparagus. This is the first year we’ve planted both – the former are fruiting well and I’m looking forward to the latter in a couple of years. It’s just started tipping it down with rain here, curtailing my afternoon gardening plans. Drat. Hope you’re having a good weekend. Sam x

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  6. Oh that does sound like the most perfect day Sarah! My idea of bliss 🙂 It’s not been a good year at the plot for me with time constraints and a cold, windy and wet summer in the north west. Soft fruits performed out of their skin but other than that it has mainly been disappointing, especially with two of my favourite crops ie courgettes and French beans. Maybe I’m just comparing them against their bumper performance in 2014 but I don’t think so. What variety of ever bearing strawberries do you grow? I’m keen to add some to the plot.

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  7. Your plot looks really lush and full of good things. I don’t have a chance to grow much in this dry climate but we’ve had a few tomatoes and grapes. I normally have apples but they were sparse this year, as were the plums. Here’s hoping for better crops worldwide next year. 🙂

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  8. I don’t have an allotment, and don’t grow anything apart from the odd basil plant on the windowsill, but I greatly enjoy reading about all your growing endeavours, it is phenomenal what you grow and harvest, and your depth of knowledge is quite amazing. Always enjoy coming here to read about your allotment achievements! X

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