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Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Living off the land

This year has been rather a wash out when it comes to my allotment. I blame it on the weather: there's been too much of it. Or more precisely too much of the wrong type. This has given me a God given excuse not to go down and delve like Adam of old.

The results were pitiful to behold ( no photos I'm  too ashamed). However, over the last few weeks I've taken myself in hand and worked my little butt off trying to restore some semblance of good management on my allotted plot.

Produce wise: the inventory was not sparkling. Some broad beans - you have to be a genius for them not to do well whatever's thrown at them. Potatoes: they looked OK but forgetting to discriminate between Earliers, Late Earlies, Early Mains, Main Mains and Late Mains has led to inevitable confusion. My asparagus - in past years the vegetable that kept on giving to such an extent that my neighbours were inundated with the stuff - this year was a complete failure. So much so that I'm planning to dig them up and plant weeds there instead.

I sowed carrots, squashes, peas, lettuce, French beans. Nothing....a plain of pain was my reward. I was comforted when St Monty Don complained that his carrots had failed - it wasn't just me. Oh my onions were a success; contrasting nicely with the total failure my garlic.

Even where plants did grow they took the piss. Artichokes are meant to grow about 2 or 3 feet tall with nice big heads. Mine are 9 feet tall. They look spectacular as a garden feature. The slugs, birds and foxes finished off my strawberries. The magpies got to my gooseberries and black currents before me.

The one great success are my nuts. My cob and hazelnut trees are laden with fruit. Ominously the local squirrels are perched in neighbouring trees with field glasses. No doubt they be onto them like a ton of bricks the moment the little darlings start to ripen. As usual I have masses of medlars. And as usual I have no idea what to do with them.

By mid June  I thought I'd have to write off this year. Except a load of seeds I planted and raised in the allotment shed took off. They were leggy through neglect but in desperation I planted them out along with a couple of woe begone spaghetti squash seedlings.

I first dug in some manure and watered well, planting out about 20 purple sprouting broccoli seedling. I covered them with netting and they and the squash have gone from strength to strength. Encouraged I dug in some more fertiliser and again sowed beans, carrots, and lettuce along with fennel. I figured that my earlier failure was due in part to the poor condition of the soil but also the soil had been too wet and cold for the earlier seeding.

Things are happening. Encouraged I've been digging in farmyard manure, digging over and  planning my autumn planting.   

Maybe the squirrels will be caught napping and I'll have a crop of nuts to savour. Maybe I'll be able to sell my medlars as an exotic throw back to Victorian culinary taste. And maybe next year I'll try not to find excuses not to go down to the allotment because it's less than perfect weather.

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