Every year there are wins and there are loses for the gardener. For several years, I always had great success with onions, they were the one crop I knew I could rely on, or so I thought. Continue reading “The Elusive Carrot”
I wanted an early start this morning; there’s so much to do and not enough hours in the day. So with a rucksack brimming with gardening toys, my radio and a flask of coffee, it was off to the allotment. I also managed to sneak several biscuits from the house without Agent Soph getting suspicious. (Shhh… win!)
I had checked the weather yesterday, was assured it would be a sun-filled day, and I wasn’t disappointed; with the golden rays warming my soil, this would be an opportunity to get a few things into the ground.
When I arrive at the allotment, I always make for the polytunnel first. It’s such a thrill when you unzip it to see what’s new, and I wasn’t disappointed today. As well as the usual vegetable suspects, this year’ I’m growing a lot more flowers from seed for the garden. I’ve got Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Cosmos, Delphiniums, various varieties of sunflowers and Bishop’s Weed. It’s fair to say my polytunnel is packed, I don’t think I could grow anything else in there if I wanted too.
First off, my peas. This year I have gone with a variety called Ambassador from Suttons Seeds. Not only is it vigorous, but it has a high resistance against disease. Although last year’s peas were a great success, they did succumb to Powdery Mildew in the end.
I started my peas off in the polytunnel in deep modules earlier this year, and now with nearly a several inches of growth and a well established root system, they were more than ready to go into their final space. However, my MacGyver skills were called upon to fashion something for these plants to clamber up. Last year, I used hazel twigs, but these were now dry and brittle. Furthermore, I wasn’t entirely happy with the twig supports as they broke easily and sent the peas shooting in all directions, so come harvest time, it was a real hunt to try and unpick the sticks from the swelling pods! This year, I decided to go for something a little more straightforward; bamboo sticks and pea netting.
It might not make the cover of Gardens Illustrated, but it does the job, it’s sturdy and for me it’s all about the final harvest results.
With the peas in, I knew I couldn’t put off the inevitable, the day had come: today I would send my onions out into the cold world. I’m not going to continue bring up the onion disaster of 2015, but I am a little nervous. As far as vegetables go, I’d always regarded the onion as a loyal, no fuss, tough as old boots kind of fella. Whether wind, rain or shine, my onions would thrive. So when I turned up to the allotment last year to water my crop, you can imagine my distress upon seeing a bed of slaughtered onions, ripped apart by that lava-laying sadist, Onion Fly.
This year would be different. I grew them in the polytunnel, trained them up, made them strong. It was like something from a Rocky montage, the polytunnel had become Mickey’s Gym; I had given a new meaning to sweating onions. This year my alliums would come out fighting. They were stronger, again with a root system and plant growth I had given them a good start. So I took my time, cultivated the bed, firmed it down planted my onions on alternated rows, Red Onion (Red Fen) then White Onion (Fen Early). If the Onion Fly was hoping for his horror sequel, I had one more trick up my sleeve, Enviromesh. I use this as a barrier against the Carrot Fly and it works wonders. This year, I’m not taking any chances!
Agent Soph will be the first to tell you, patience and I don’t sit well together, we’re not the greatest of allies. If there’s something to be done, why wait? Yet patience is a tool all gardeners need in their kit bags. You can’t plant your Maris Pipers in the morning and expect to have a sackful to take home for Sunday’s roast. You can’t tell a sprout to get a move on, it just won’t work.
Yet right now, all across the land, gardeners are asking that crucial question: when shall I plant out?
This year, I’m stretching myself a little by playing the waiting game. Sat in my map room (polytunnel), I’m plotting and planning. I won’t be rushed! On Instagram, there are daily updates of people sowing seeds on their allotments. On garden blogs, gardeners talk of wheeling out their Banana Trees from the greenhouse, unwrapping them and planting them out. But I won’t succumb to this media pressure. Have these people taken leave of their senses?!?
Yes, we’re enjoying moments of spring sunshine, but don’t be fooled. She’s a fickle one that Mother Nature, no sooner have you donned your flip flops, shorts and sunnies, she’s cranked up the wind machine and sent Jack Frost to do the rounds one more time.
With the polytunnel in full swing, I can afford to grow my plants on a bit, get them larger and stronger. There’s no rush. For those who don’t have the luxury of a polytunnel or greenhouse, I feel your frustration. I remember the days of balancing pots on windowsills, or supporting them on on towels in airing cupboards. I remember being in a constant state of tension, worrying that my precious seedlings would become leggy. That’s no way for a gardener to live.
Do allotments partake in polytunnel sharing, I wonder? If not we should. We could set up polytunnels across unused plots and these gardeners could groupshare. Costs would be cheaper, there would always be someone around to keep an eye on plants. Maybe have a rota system for watering. Getting to know your neighbour and bringing a community closer together. That’s what we want, isn’t it?
But the truth is, I’m a little nervous. Last year my onion crop succumbed to the dreaded onion fly. They’d only been in the ground for a few weeks and the whole crop was ruined. Alliums do suffer on our site. My garlic always suffers from rust, no matter how far apart I plant them for maximum ventilation. We’re only into April and my garlic leaves already have small patches of the dreaded rust.
I know, I’m acting like an over-protective father, but I brought these vegetables into the world! Is it wrong I only want the best for them?
I remember when I could still cradle them in my hands.. they grow up so fast!