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It always seems that my allotment goes wild around this time of the year. Most of the spaces have been filled in with various plants and flowers and my schedule fills ups with events and visitors. I’m ashamed to say it but other than the weekly visit up to root around for vegetables, I haven’t spent much time caring for my plot. The result is an allotment that’s as full of weeds as it is of crops! I don’t know which I feel more guilty over, squeezing in a few hours to potter around, or let my plot go to wrack and ruin. There’s so much to do at home but in the end, an afternoon in the allotment does a lot to put me back into the right frame of mind to get on with work and to beat stress. So that’s exactly what I did yesterday.
It’s getting late in the season and many veggies are past their expiration date. I pulled out the peas, along with their remaining dried and shriveled pods, and lifted a couple of chard plants that I haven’t used much this year. Having one or two in the back garden is more than enough. I’ve also overzealously planted lettuce, rocket, and pak choi and so had more than a handful of those starting to bolt. All that lot went onto my compost pile along with any annual weeds I pulled up.
My onions and shallots grown from seed still had plenty of green leaves but I dug them up anyway. Leaving them in after now is trusting too much to mother nature’s weather plans and I don’t want them sitting in soggy soil should the rains start up. They’ve been drying on the stone pathway on my allotment overnight and I’ll bring them home later today to finish their drying in the garage. Though I’ve grown onions from seed before, this is the first time I’ve ever grown shallots in that way. Each plant has produced one juicy bulb about the size of a small onion, this is opposed to the numerous small bulbs that sprout off a set-grown shallots. I’m pleasantly surprised with how they’ve done and plan on growing them from seed from now on.
Speaking of rain, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we have a dry September since my Quinoa needs it in order to mature. I have four plants that have been growing beautifully all summer and all of which are close to five feet tall now. They look like giant versions of Lambs Quarters (a wild plant) but their seed heads are absolutely laden with developing grain. Quinoa prefers a cool to temperate climate to grow in but the seeds will start sprouting on the plant if it gets too wet close to the time you need to harvest it. This is one plant that I really wish I could grow undercover. A thought just occurred to me that it might help to keep the grain dry if I put plastic bags over the seed heads. I think I’ll put some on today!
While walking past my blueberry bushes I was delighted to spot several ripe berries. I took a few photos then they disappeared into my mouth. That’s the trouble with growing soft fruit – very little of it ever makes its way home with me! I planted five bushes this year and all of them have put on decent growth though only small clusters of fruit. The handful of berries I enjoyed yesterday promises of more bountiful harvests in the years to come.
Surprisingly, my brassicas are doing great without having to be netted against cabbage white butterfly. Their caterpillars ate through a Kale plant I have growing at home so I’d expected to see more than the odd hole in the ones I have growing at the allotment. Imagine my delight in finding none! My theory is that the rhubarb growing nearby confused the butterflies or maybe just gave the purple sprouting broccoli and cabbages some cover. I’ve already harvested two heads of cabbage out of this bed and look forward to the first crop of PSB which will be ready at the end of winter.
The beans are coming in thick and fast and I took home a large bag of them yesterday afternoon. This year I’ve grown three different types: a green climbing French bean, a purple climbing French bean, and a stringless runner bean called ‘White Lady’. I prepare both types of french beans together and when served you can’t really tell the difference between them since the purple ones turn green when cooked. They look lovely dangling down from the canes though so I think I’ll keep them around.
It looks like I’ll soon be making another batch of Dill Pickles since I found a whole new crop of gherkins ready to be picked. There are some smallish sized ones on the vines still but I left them in place to pick in a week or two – with growing only a few plants I like to maximise their size. The variety I’m growing is literally called ‘Gherkin’ and though they’re a little prickly when they mature they can still peeled and used in salads as well as being great for preserving.
We’re pretty much globe artichoked out now and not likely to pick any more. The ones I’ve left on the plants are enjoying the warm summer and have come out in full bloom. Their brown and dried ‘leaves’ are such a contrast to the neon violet of the flower. Not many people who aren’t gardeners know that globe artichokes are giant thistles and that the part that we eat is the base of the flower bud. Thistle flowers are apparently tasty for bumblebees too since I spotted one digging around in the purple petals. I was afraid it was stuck at one point so I held the flower petals open so it could escape. What did it do afterwards? Dive right back inside! The flower must be pretty tasty for it to work so hard for its supper.
There were an incredible amount of bees foraging on my plot yesterday and it made me notice just how many volunteer (self-sown) borage plants I have dotted around my beds. After a plant gets to a certain size I have trouble pulling it out, especially if it has some benefit for wildlife. Though I absolutely had to pull out the bolted pak choi, I left all the borage in situ. Not only were scores of bumblers flitting from flower to flower but I also spotted plenty of honeybees like the one in the above photo. I suspect that they came from my hives and since taking honey off them I want to help in any way that I can so they can rebuild their stores naturally. There’s still plenty of pollen and nectar rich flowers available and I hope that with my conservative honey harvest and a warm September that I won’t have to feed the bees with sugar this year.
I tend to grow a lot of unusual looking veg and this year is no different. Though many people may be familiar with Kohlrabi, a relative of cabbages and broccoli, many haven’t yet heard of Achocha. This south American pod grows on long and slightly invasive vines and from just three plants I have a six foot high tower that is laden in flowers and small fruit. It’s just now starting to produce but from looking at the plants yesterday I predict that we’ll be inundated with pods before long. To prepare, you first de-seed them and then cook them in the same manner that you would sweet peppers. Though the spikes on the outside of the pod look wicked, they’re actually velvety soft. If you live in a cool or temperate climate and have trouble growing sweet peppers outdoors, Achocha might be a solution for you too.
I couldn’t resist sharing a photo of the French marigolds I have planted throughout my plot. I don’t use these flowers for any culinary purpose but instead keep them around to deter some types of pests. Though there’s some debate about how effective they are at pest control in general, they are shown to be very effective at killing nematodes that burrow into the roots of your tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers. I have mine placed here and there around my plot but if you have a nematode issue you might want to consider planting a whole load of these flowers in that affected soil and letting them do their work before going on to grow any other plants in their space.
Sweet corn, oh how I’ve missed you! Though I’ve only grown a handful of sweet corn plants this year you can bet that those ears are going to be enjoyed. They’re ready to pick now but I’ve decided to leave them on the plant for a few days until we can get through the veg we’ve got stacked up at home. I also have two other types of corn growing on my plot and they include Strawberry Popcorn and a purple feed corn that Sunnybrook sent me from the USA. So far the plants have grown well but I haven’t spotted a single ear of corn on the feed corn. Very sad since I’d hoped to give them to the chickens as a treat.
With a courgette plant and two marrows you can bet that I have some whopping sized specimens. You turn your back on these guys and the next moment you have an elephant trunk hanging off the plant. We have quite a few of them at home already, stacked up in the kitchen like firewood. I was unsure how we’re going to get through them all but have found that they’re a good filler for anything from risotto to curries. They seem to keep a long time too.
There’s a change in the air that’s signalling that Autumn is on its way. I don’t want to jinx having an Indian Summer but I somehow feel as if the season is winding down and cooler and darker days are just around the corner. The clock is ticking both on the summer and the day so I’m off to sort out my to-do list before sneaking back up to the allotment for a few more hours of quiet and peaceful work. Have a lovely day and enjoy these last few few days of August!