Tuesday, 17 September 2013

This year's allotment season

As I'm busily harvesting produce from the allotment, I've been reflecting on how this year's allotment season has been. It's has been a funny old year for growing. The season began well enough in March with shallot planting and the garlic, which had been in all winter, beginning to grow well...

But then the snow came... in April! Somehow the shallots survived the bitter cold and went on to grow well with a reasonable harvest. The garlic however was mediocre with generally small bulbs. That may have been down to the variety, as I'm constantly changing which I grow!

The cold spring meant that I was late sowing my seeds in the greenhouse. Tomatoes and cucumbers were sown very late but they started off well and I was optimistic they would catch up.

The boys (apart from 'the teen', who rarely comes to the allotment any more!) enjoy seed sowing time and love trying to grow some crops of their own, particuarly son #2 who likes to grow extra long runner beans, round courgettes and red carrots - anything a bit different! A frequent past time in the allotment is to make soup and various other concoctions from leaves, flowers and mud...

Over the years I have refined the amount of different things I grow and now concentrate on tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse; courgettes, parsnip, garlic, and runner beans, with a few other little things if there's time and space, such as peas, leeks, carrots and lettuce.
I grow more and more beans each year and this year, as well as runner beans, I have grown borlotti and purple climbing French beans. They have been a fantastic success this year and have the most beautiful purple flowers.

After the tomatoes and cucumbers germinated they promptly stopped growing, it was most bizarre. They ended up on the compost heap as no matter how much I fed and watered them they just refused to grow. So the green house this year has been a complete fail.
However, the courgettes have been producing really well, enough to make courgette chutney and to be in almost every meal for the past two months!


The fruit trees are heavy with fruit, which is a stark contrast to last year, when we only had 2 apples! The small plum tree has been incredible with branches snapping under the weight of all of it's fruit. It's such a delight to feast on plums freshly picked from the tree and the cupboards have been well stocked with plum jam.

There are a lot of 'wild' areas in the allotment (i.e. where I just don't have the time to do anything about!) and these are great for birds, butterflies and bees. I really enjoy spotting these as I'm working. This summer has been fantastic for butterflies and the allotment has attracted Holly Blue, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, the three Whites and much to my delight a Small Copper.

Looking back it has been a season of extremes... bitterly cold, baking hot... plants not growing at all, others producing a bountiful harvest. 
It is hard to make time for the allotment, but it is worth it when I do. Having at least something home grown each day, even if it's just a clove of garlic, or a spoonful of chutney is rather satisfying!
Once I plant next years garlic, in a few weeks time and have a bit of a tidy up, my allotment season will be over. The Allotment gets no direct sunlight during the winter months, so I don't grow any winter crops. But the break is very welcome, with just the occasional trip to the compost heap!