Another beautiful day and I’m slowly but surely getting the allotment back into shape, after a rather neglectful year. The above photo was taken at around 5 o’clock yesterday evening after a four hour session wearing shorts and t-shirt.
As usual it has been a mixed growing year. Beans, courgettes (I’m still picking courgettes in October), squashes, all the leafy stuff including spinach, chard and salads have been excellent. Strawberries were very good, thanks to the June rain, and I made many pots of jam during their 10-day cropping period. All the old strawberries are now out and I have planted new runners in fresh soil. Summer raspberries were delicious. They are nowhere near as copious as Autumn raspberries but are much tastier and tend to keep within bounds. The old canes have been cut down to the ground and the new canes mulched. I ate a last handful of sun-warmed ever-bearing strawberries yesterday (they take off when the summer raspberries stop) and chopped off the leaves before spreading a mulch of manure as I think it is time these plants have a rest.
Last weekend I dug up all the Autumn raspberries which had become an impenetrable thicket surrounding the pear tree and almost impossible to pick. I’m looking forward to planting new bare-rooted canes (possibly Polka as a change from Autumn Bliss) in fresh soil this winter. Charlotte potatoes were as good as ever, except we’ve just finished eating the two rows I planted so I will try and squeeze in an extra row next year. In the old days I would religiously plant earlies, second earlies and main crop potatoes and keep my family of four in potatoes for at least six months but nowadays I plant a few rows of Charlotte or Nicola and we enjoy them fresh from the ground from midsummer onwards.
Shallots and garlic were excellent, although I didn’t plant enough garlic as we’ve already eaten this year’s crop of about 4o bulbs. I know I’ve made a lot of pesto as the basil has been the best ever this year and I’ve continued to make it into October. (Pasta pesto with French beans – easy, quick and delicious.)
What hasn’t been so good this year? Florence fennel was a first for me but the bulbs failed to swell in this summer’s bone dry soil. The flowers have been pretty though, they smell of aniseed and stand well in a jug. The leeks are dreadful and hardly worth harvesting due to leek moth. If I grow these again, and they have always been a stalwart winter veg for me, I’m going to have to cover them entirely with a fine mesh fleece.
Top fruit has been a mixed bag. Malus Fiesta is resting this year after 12 years without a break, but M. Lord Lambourne is more than making up this shortfall and M. Chivers Delight which I squeezed in a few years ago is bowed down with rosy red apples. Victoria Plum also rested this year and Pear Fondante D’Automne (chosen for her name alone) has produced a couple of dozen delicious fruits. I’m hoping that without the raspberries growing around her feet she will be more productive in years to come.
So there we have it, another growing year bites the dust and we can start planning for next year. Already looking good is purple sprouting broccoli, the rhubarb is mulched and the asparagus fern is taller than me. The old Autumn raspberry bed has had 12 barrows of manure spread around ready for potato planting next year and I planted a first row of French Violet Garlic yesterday.
I must mention my flowers and I was so pleased to see marigolds, cornflowers, corn cockle, Nigella and poppies self-seeding around to colonise any bare patches and ensuring that despite my neglect the plot has been full of butterflies and bees all summer long. I’ve cut down my mini wildflower meadow which was beautiful for months. The dahlia (I only have one – Onesta – and she looks like a pink water lily) and the Zinnias have revelled in the summer heat. I’ve really enjoyed growing lots of flowers this year and although my flower growing year did not start off well with tulip fire spreading through my established tulip bed it has got better and better and I’m excited about continuing to experiment with flowers for cutting next year.
I hope your year in the garden has been as much fun.
I think my holiday in Florence with my daughter the week before last and all the delicious food we ate and especially our visit to and lunch in the covered market is partly responsible for my renewed allotment enthusiasm. The museums and galleries and architecture were superb and who could forget evening mass in the Duomo or live opera in the church, but my best bits were climbing to the top of Fort Belvedere and looking down on views like this and having a giggle over a glass or two of Chianti with my gorgeous girl in red. Grazie mille Bella.