While the hot spell is here, you won’t hear me complaining. I’m loving the sunshine, and for the most part, so is my allotment.
The weeding has been minimal, there’s been no need for strimming, even the slugs and snails appear to have packed their shells and disappeared for a summer break. Of course, it means more watering, and some crops are ready to harvest sooner than in previous years, but talk to most of the ‘old boys’ on the allotment and they’ll all agree on one thing: no two seasons are ever the same.
As always, the courgettes are coming thick and fast. You only have to turn your back for five minutes, to discover another half a dozen are ready for picking.
Like previous years, the allotment has a healthy scattering of squashes, all swelling nicely. Earlier in the season, I was starting to get concerned as the flowers weren’t setting, but in the last few weeks they’ve picked up the pace and are now out in front with large ripening fruit. We have the usual suspects: Crown Prince, Uchiki Kuri, and the rather peculiar-shaped tromboncino. This year, I’ve grown the latter around the shed, they dangle in front of the door where they’re the butt of all sorts of rude jokes and innuendoes. It’s like ‘ Carry on Up the Allotment’ up there.
I think this has been my best ever year for brassicas. From cauliflower to broccoli to cabbage, I’ve not lost one, and they all look competition-worthy, if I do say so myself. However, the heat has meant that my broccoli were very quick to mature, and although Soph tried to blanch and freeze as many as possible, our broccoli intake for the the last few weeks has been off the scale!
On the legume front, I’m only growing three varieties of french beans, one being the dwarf variety, ‘Purple Teepee’. While the initial crop was strong, I’ve noticed the plant now seems reluctant to reproduce. As it’s the first time I’ve grown this variety, I can’t tell you whether it’s the hot weather, or just the nature of the plant.
When I interviewed Adam Frost a few weeks ago at the Woburn Abbey Garden Show, we joked that ‘you should never ask a gardener what he’s got in his polytunnel’. But I trust you guys, so I’m happy to share. (Just don’t tell anyone.)
Our tomatoes generally mature a few weeks later than most, because our polytunnel is positioned at the back of the plot, and spends half the day in the shadow of some trees. Nevertheless, this year the fruit are the largest I’ve ever seen them. As I type, they’re just beginning to colour. From Alicante to Moneymaker, from the cheeky Gardener’s Delight to the beefy Marmande, they’re all coming along nicely.
Elsewhere in the polytunnel, the peppers and chillies are thriving; we’re already harvesting the longhorn chillies. Even the aubergine plants are starting to produce their fruit, while I continue to dry batches of onions for storage.
But there’s always one failure, and this year it seems to be the melons. Positioning them at the back of the polytunnel may have been a bad idea. Last year, they were at the front, so were easily accessible to pollinators, and by now, I had several fruit growing. This year, I have only one, and it has suffered from spider mite, even though I’ve been continually dampening down the floor of the polytunnel to raise the humidity levels, and removing any damaged foliage. But like so many gardeners who have allotments, getting to the plot every single day can be a challenge. At this time of year, things change so quickly. A day away from the plot can spell disaster where pests are concerned.
With a bumper harvest, Soph has once again been producing works of culinary art in the kitchen. This week, in the dead of night she turned to me, held me tight, looked deep into my eyes and said those tender words.. ‘Blackberry jam’.
Jamming season is here, and Soph has been feeding my addiction with an assortment of flavours: rhubarb, gooseberry and strawberry. And now that our blackberries are ripening, Soph is making sweet promises of blackberry jam.. Ahhh, now that’s true love.