The Allotment in August
Somewhere in between a holiday to Venice, a friend visiting from Switzerland, and rainy and cool weather my allotment has been left by the wayside. While further south in England the weather has been bright and sunny, the Isle of Man has probably had the worst summer since 2012. That summer was heralded as the wettest one on record and here’s how bad my allotment was then.
I had grand plans of spending an hour or two every morning on my plots but after early July that plan has been scrapped. Now late in August, my top plot is weedy in the areas I’ve been working on but fortunately black plastic covers the rest. The very last image in this post shows its sorry state! My bottom plot is a jungle and I’m not going to shock you with pictures of that until I have a chance to clear it. Still, we planted it earlier in the year with about fifty seed potatoes and I’ve started digging some of them up. So far it’s been some of the Salad Blues, Maris Pipers, and Desiree. I think that Josh and I are going to be eating potato dishes until this time next year.
Growing containers of strawberries, herbs, greens, and other veggies at home has been much more of a success. It’s handy to nip out for a handful of this or that and to do a bit of weeding, even if the weather isn’t great. Earlier in the year I built a wheeled pallet planter that has also transformed a decent sized piece of concrete patio into growing space and has given me a couple crops of lettuce, coriander (cilantro), spinach, and now carrots. Here’s how I built it.
I’m also trying to grow Cucamelons this year and have the vines planted in a shallow container that I have filled with compost and rotted manure. The plants themselves are growing well but the fruits are still tiny. I hope we’ll get more sun to plump them up but as I look out the window behind me all I see is grey skies. Predicting that we’ll have more of this autumnal weather on the cards I’ve gone ahead and sown the wheeled pallet planter with Lambs Lettuce and a variety of heirloom lettuce called Reine des Glaces, which doesn’t mind a bit of chilliness.
At the allotment I do have small amounts of some produce giving a bit of a harvest. Three courgette (zucchini) plants including a yellow ball type are producing steadily and of course I have the mountains of spuds under the ground. Another root veggie I’m growing this year is Oca, which is colourful tuber that reminds me of a pine cone in shape. In flavour it’s supposed to taste like a lemony potato and I’m pretty excited to try these out when they’re ready. Right now the plants look like a type of lush green wood sorrel and if you taste the leaves they have the same sharp oxalic acid taste as well. The plants must be related.
I’ve had one gherkin from my two cucumber plants but judging from the size of the vines I can’t see that I’ll get too much more out of them. On the other hand, the perennial fruit and greens I have planted are putting out big shows of berries, artichokes, and oniony leaves. I still swear by having Welsh onions around instead of spring onions and this year they’ve once again kept me in what can only be described as massive Chives. Perennials are the way to go!
My newer plot came with a row of Autumn fruiting raspberries both light coloured and red and they’re just now beginning to fruit. I’m fascinated with the light yellow berries because, like my white strawberries, they taste the same as the red ones but the birds don’t seem to want much to do with them. The berries that have ripened haven’t gone much further than my mouth though I’m hoping to make some raspberry jam if I do get a decent harvest.
They say that a gardener has to be an optimistic soul – each year brings with it unpredictable challenges and in my case it’s the weather. Even with the miserable state of my allotment I still feel I’m getting some value from it, especially since I do love working in it when the sun is shining. Even so, I’ll be honest and say that this summer has more than ever turned my mind towards having a little greenhouse for next year.