Vigorous Veg

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. 8

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. 1 Collage

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. 5

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. 11

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!

It’s amazing how quickly time goes, it was already 6pm and I hadn’t got to planting out my brassicas.. Looks like I’ll just have to come back tomorrow and do it then… what a shame, eh?AdeSignature

And Then The Rains Came

Today was not a day to be wearing canvas shoes.

I came home from work with sopping wet feet and my jeans soaked through – and yes, I was carrying an umbrella. Today the rains have been biblical.

So while I cosy up on the sofa with a warming mug of blackberry syrup to ward off the chills, a slice of Ade’s splendid Plum & Raspberry Cake to fight off any fevers and the latest episode of The Great British Bake Off to warm the cockles, I’ll leave you with some photos from the garden, taken by Ade over the last few days, when the sun was still kind enough to make an appearance.

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Planning Ahead

Lounging in the sunshine, sipping homemade elderflower cordial and lazily watching the bees tirelessly going about their daily chores, it’s hard to believe autumn is just around the corner. The telltale signs are there; wasps have upped the ante with their continuous ‘kamikaze’ attacks on all things sweet, the allotment is producing more vegetables than we know what to do with, but the biggest giveaway is that the garden has shifted its colour palette from the coolness of the whites and pastels, into the heat of the oranges and yellows as varieties of Rudbeckia, Sunflowers and Gladioli take up the baton. 1 Collage

My email inbox is under constant bombardment from garden and nursery companies  telling me I should buy their autumn bulbs and plug plants for immediate planting. But what if I don’t? Will I be barred from all things horticultural? Will they send the heavies round late one night to ensure I shift a kilo of their top quality Cyclamen Coum? (At this point I have an image of Alan Titchmarsh and Monty Don arriving on my doorstep, in black shades and matching suits, looking menacingly at me.) Or will I be placed in stocks up on the allotment for all to see as a reminder that now’s the time to plant your winter leeks?

But they can email spam me all they want, I’m not afraid. As my horticulture knowledge grows from season to season so does my awareness of the seasonal clock. I’ve always wondered how those ‘old timers’ seem to know when to carry out certain tasks on the allotment, and finally, I’ve been allowed into the ‘circle of trust’. It’s no big secret, it simply comes down to experience.

I shan’t be bullied into panic-buying anything; I know what needs doing. In fact, I’d already got a headstart when I sowed my parsnip seeds and planted out  my leeks, swede and sprouts earlier in the spring. Being slow burners, we won’t start enjoying these until the leaves on the trees begin their rich autumnal displays, and a frost or two will help to improve their taste. 2 Collage

But there’s still hard work to be done and this weekend I’ve dug over my hardened, summer beds (my back is now paying for it), freeing them from weeds and replenishing them with organic matter. Finishing with a little consolidation and levelling, I then planted my stash of brassicas and watered them in thoroughly. Rudolph Broccoli, Clemen Cauliflower and Savoy and Marabel Cabbage. Already Agent Soph has broken into a cold sweat with this amount of veg to cook and store, but I assure her with the winter weather the crops will grow more slowly and can be kept in the ground and lifted when needed. Hmm, she’s still not convinced. Looks like people will be getting veg in their stockings this Christmas then.

At this time of year, I’m all too aware of the potential pests and diseases thriving in the summer heat. With the devastation of my onion loss earlier this year (even now it brings a tear to my eye), I have learnt netting and brassica collars are vital on this allotment. Recent banter on Instagram about growing Butternut Squash proves that no two allotment sites are the same. Where runner beans might thrive on a plot in Somerset, the same variety may come to nothing in a Yorkshire garden. So again, experience and understanding the soil, site and weather conditions are the right tools. 3 Collage

But for now, the blog is typed, the wasps have suspended their invasion and I’m left to daydream and doze the afternoon away. Best thing for an aching back wouldn’t you say? AdeSignature