Finally, all my allotment plants are out of the polytunnel, and into their final growing positions. The polytunnel has been cleared, re-organised and is now filling up with tomatoes, chillies, peppers, aubergines, and even melon plants. Welcome to summer, Agents of Field!
When I first took up the spade and fork three years ago, I never realised just how much time I’d spend moving and re-organising my growing space. These upheavals can take time, and planning.
The late frost back in April put a spanner in the works, forcing me to hold back half of the allotment plants growing in the polytunnel as they were too tender to withstand the cold spell. Meanwhile, the other half of the polytunnel was fitted out for summer with my young tomato plants. When Soph asked what I’d done on the plot, or if she visited the allotment, it didn’t look like much had changed.
Non-gardeners don’t realise the organising and the shifting you have to do; they’re tasks you rarely hear about. Such chores don’t hold the glamour of harvesting a sassy courgette, or the panache of plucking a ripe parsnip. Those are the fun parts of gardening, stacking empty seed trays in your shed until next spring, well, that just isn’t garden sexy.
Nevertheless, now these essential jobs are done, things have found their place, and the allotment is finally ready for summer.
Already we’ve been enjoying carrots, spring onions, spinach, radishes and lettuce. Even Daisy’s had a go at picking the strawberries, and feeling very proud of her efforts.
This year is a first for us growing broad beans. Up until now, Soph thought she wasn’t too keen on them, but we decided it was time to give them a go again, and we’ve enjoyed the first of the harvest in a very tasty risotto.
It’s important to harvest these crops while they’re still tender. Leaving them out for an extended period could result in them bolting, tasting woody or being invaded by unwanted pests. You’ve spent long enough tending to these plants, the least you can do is enjoy the rewards while they’re at their best!
Summer may be warming itself up, rubbing in the tan lotion and putting its towel on the sun-lounger, but that doesn’t mean it’s tools-down on the plot. Weeds! You only have to look away for two minutes, and they’ll have your onion bed by the short and curlies. If vegetables could grow as rampant as sticky weed, I would have opened my own fruit and veg store years ago. Nevertheless, little and often is key. Get yourself a decent hoe. Only recently I was lucky enough to receive a long-handle three-edge hoe made by Kent & Stowe. A weapon of choice I would highly recommend for any gardener, it’s easy to use and saves a lot of bending over.
Another essential job is tying in and tying back. With plants, shrubs and trees all reaching for the skies, twine and a sharp knife quickly become essential tools. Just spending a bit of time doing this job will not only prevent plant breakage, it’ll train the plant to go in the direction/shape you need. No one wants to see your wonky sunflower, so make it firm, make it strong and tie it in. It will also stop slug and snails hitchhiking on the back of intertwining plants and decimating them.
I know these aren’t the most ‘rock n roll’ of gardening jobs, and may seem a little boring. In your head, you have wistful visions of Monty Don with a moistened brow and shirt unbuttoned, holding a potted dahlia in his masterful hands, and whispering delicately in your ear, ‘I want you to harvest a jolly big patty pan for me’.
However, even Monty wouldn’t be where he is today without a lot of twine, and a little forward planning.