The great allotment tidy up has begun. Time to take down the runner bean canes, sweep up what feels like hundreds of fallen leaves and continue my never-ending battle with creeping thistle.
The Atlantic Giant pumpkin came to nothing and has now been pulled up. I’ve seen a few allotmenteers complain of poor pumpkin harvests this year so I think the inconsistent summer weather has a lot to answer for. We’ve had to buy a pumpkin to carve for Halloween but I have hopes for next year.
Something large and badger shaped has been prowling around the allotment site at night and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Two of our cabbages were nibbled to bits and they’ve been digging huge holes in amongst the kale beds. I’ve put up some netting as a temporary measure and will be replacing it with chain link fencing this weekend.
As for harvests we’ve exhausted our sweetcorn plants and runner beans, some of which grew to nearly 2 feet in length, and picked our huge yellow onions. Boy oh boy do they pack a punch! We have to chop them as a tag team – when one of us can’t see for tears another person takes over. I added potash to the bed before they were sown and this is supposed to take some of the sting out of their juices but it clearly didn’t work. I planted 117 white onion sets a few weeks ago in hopes that these will be milder than the yellow varieties. We shall have to wait and see.
We’ve also begun harvesting our sprouts. We have six plants and I am determined that we’ll have one left for Christmas dinner, so the Brassica bed will be getting the chain link treatment too. This year we’ve grown red sprouts which even Hubs has declared to be delicious (high praise indeed!). They have a nuttier flavour than green sprouts and are delicious roasted with garlic and shredded curly kale.
I spotted (pardon the pun) this Harlequin Ladybird feasting on the blackfly that had taken up residence on our runner beans. Harlequins aren’t native to Britain and are responsible for the decline in our native species of ladybird (they eat them!) so they aren’t exactly a welcome sight. I didn’t have the heart to squish it though.
Not all of the visitors to Plot 15 have been unwelcome. This red dragonfly (a Common Darter) sat happily on the edge of a raised bed and watched while I did battle with the thistles. Bubs misheard when I told her it was a dragonfly and spent the rest of the afternoon telling anyone who would listen that she’d seen a dragon.
Our raspberries are still cropping heavily and seem oblivious to the change in seasons. I’ve been snacking on handfuls of berries during breaks in weeding but there are still lots left to take home if only I could remember to bring a tub to put them in!
Despite the raspberries’ belief otherwise winter is definitely on its way. We’ve had the first frost and the nights are drawing in. I’m snatching mere moments of time to spend at the allotment as there is so much to do but not enough daylight hours to do it in.
You might think that the march towards winter would signal an end to the growing season but there is still so much that can be sown and overwintered. Here is where a cold frame or greenhouse really begins to earn its keep. There are varieties of broad bean, pea and carrot that can all be grown ‘under glass’ and will bide their time until they can be planted out as seedlings come spring. If you don’t have a greenhouse a sunny windowsill will work just as well.
Yesterday Bubs and I sowed trays of mange tout peas (Oregon Sugar Pod), carrots (Amsterdam Forcing), and Cauliflower (All The Year Round) in the greenhouse. Tomorrow we’ll start off a tray of broad beans (Superaguadulce) and then nip up to the allotment to sow a few rows there too.
If broad beans don’t float your culinary boat there are many more crops that can be sown direct into the ground right about now, believe it or not. Peas (Meteor), winter lettuce (Arctic King), lamb’s lettuce, rocket, onion sets (Snowball for white or Radar for yellow) and garlic (early Provence Wight) will all survive the winter so long as you give them some protection from frosts and pests.
The onset of winter means that this is the penultimate Allotment Tales for this year. The next installment will be all about our plans for 2016. I just need to break out the graph paper and seed catalogues and figure out what is going where. It’s all so exciting!