Our allotment is keeping us very busy right now, especially since we are trying to manage two of them. We seem to have skipped spring and gone straight from winter with a waterlogged plot to summer with everything being very dry. Everything feels like its been rushed too, and allotment time has had to be squeezed in between work, football training and birthday parties etc. Last weekend was the first time this year that an allotment visit has been relaxing and enjoyable rather than a chore, and was a pleasant reminder about why we got it.
On the back plot, the raspberries are flowering well and fruits are beginning to develop. The strawberries are also fruiting well, and each allotment visit sees us coming home with a pot of delicious red berries. The rhubarb is looking a little lacklustre, probably due to the dry weather. The fruit trees seem to be doing well, in fact one of the apple trees is positively laden with mini fruits. Much of the rest of that plot is covered in weeds. I’m keeping on top of them by mowing regularly and also burning off seed heads on dandelions etc using a hand held weed gun. (It’s surprisingly satisfying seeing the little fluffy seeds going up in flames, although I’m not sure whether I should admit to that!)
The front plot is planted up in two separate areas. Near the sheds, closer to the original plot, we have planted onions, various brassicas and potatoes. These we keep watered using the large water butt which collects the rainwater from the sheds. They are all thriving, though I need to prop the nets up higher on the brassicas as pigeons are nipping at the leaves through the current low netting. I also need to weed the brassica beds. (I am very grateful for the current dry weather as it means I am watering the things I want to grow but the weeds are not growing as well.)
We have left the middle of the front plot empty, preferring to plant at the front of it near to the roadway and the water troughs. (See where I’m going with this? The number of crops we are growing means I’m trying to minimise watering time, so I just fill up two watering cans at a time at the water troughs rather than carrying it all the way from the water butt on our back plot.) In this area we have the majority of our different vegetables. All except the leeks seem to be growing very well, and I’ll be honest and say that we were given the leeks by a fellow allotment holder and I just planted them without researching how to grow them. They’ll either grow or they won’t! The courgettes, pumpkins and butternut squashes are all much larger and I’m almost certain the courgettes are about the flower. The beans are also flowering (7 weeks from planting to flowering-Mother Nature sure knows how to catch up with herself!) The sweetcorn is growing taller gradually, and the shallots are growing now I’ve netted them-pesky rabbits had been helping themselves to the tops every time they tried to grow! The children and I recycled the metal tubing from an old plastic greenhouse to make our own netting tunnels and so far they seem to be protecting everything really well.
The raised beds are not faring quite so well, which is disappointing as I was also really late sowing the carrots, beetroot and parsnips. Germination seemed to take ages, and the beetroot seeds especially seem to have had a low success rate. I’m hoping those which have grown will be nice and big as I’m desperate to make more beetroot chutney this year. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed, and keep watering them.
So far maintaining it seems to be ‘ok’, using a hoe on the weeds is keeping them fairly under control, with a spot of hand weeding between rows and mowing larger areas. The central part of the new plot is starting to get weedy so we are either going to cover it in weedproof membrane or plant some green manure to add nutrients back into the soil so it can be used next year.
As for my little helpers, well, what can I say. They are quite good at picking and eating strawberries, can pull up specific weeds if I show them one first, and often help with watering. On Saturday, I left them to water the raspberries and rhubarb on the back plot whilst I dealt with the weeds on the front. In hindsight, this was a terrible plan. My daughter, egged on by her brother, made some mud in front of the water butt. She likes a bit of mud, and she was wearing wellies. However, I hadn’t banked on her actually LAYING IN IT! Oh yes, what a mess she was. Whilst debating how on earth to get her home in this state, I took a photo. (I have chopped her head off in this photo, however, picture a little proud, smiling face entirely cover in mud, including a thick layer of it in her hair!)
Her back was just as bad-her clothes were that filthy they didn’t come clean in the wash! She had to go straight in the shower when we got in, which she was not pleased about.
Anyway, lesson learned, watering should be supervised carefully!
The allotment as a whole appears to be coming on really well now, and at the last count we were growing 25 different crops, which is a huge step forward from our first year and even last year. It’s getting near to midsummer now, and it is such a pleasant time of year to be at the allotment. The children and I sometimes go after tea, and even though our visits are rushed, it is still quite relaxing. I’m hoping for some proper rain soon, not a deluge like we had the other week, but a prolonged gentle shower. Despite my efforts with the watering can, I can’t help but feel they are crying out for a steady stream of water which their roots can soak up gradually.
How is your growing coming on? Have you tried any new crops this year? And if you have any tips for growing leeks then I’d love to hear them please!