It’s National Allotment Week, so what better time to update on progress on our little plot? The last few months have rushed by it seems, and already I’m writing another seasonal allotment update! Having said that, I’ve just had a read through the update I shared back in May to remind myself where we were back then, and my goodness three months makes a big difference in the world of growing your own! I wrote about painting the shed, and building the compost bays and polytunnel which now almost feel like a distant memory. Our potato plants were just peeking above the ground, and the broad beans were in flower. Most of the plants we have now were seedlings in the polytunnel or even just a twinkle in the plantiverse’s eyes. To think of how much we’ve grown, tended, and harvested since then is really humbling and makes me feel so grateful that we’re able to have the space to grow our own food.
In terms of big building jobs, once we got the polytunnel built back in Spring, we needed a bit of time to work through the next strip of plot to get rid of all of the rusty nails, sections of various flooring materials including the expected carpet, and bindweed roots that were hiding under the surface (same old story!), and then to continue to raise the ground level before putting in more raised beds. The good news is that the next three raised beds are now all in and full of plants – it certainly doesn’t take as long to fill them as it does to get the ground ready and build them. It’s such a good feeling knowing that the main area of growing space is now done and we only have less than a quarter of the plot left to clear.
On the growing front, generally there have been far more successes than failures. There was a moment earlier in the year that I honestly wondered whether anything would grow because I was planting so many things that I’ve never tried growing before. Now I’m relieved to be able to look back and see that most things have done well and I’ve learned a lot from the exceptions. We’ve had a great harvest of strawberries, broad beans, peas, radishes, beetroot and our herb garden is really flourishing. We’ll be harvesting some onions soon too.
I tend to pick a star of the show each time I write an update, but there are a few this summer. First of all, I’ve been so excited to be able to harvest actual, real, edible and actually quite delicious potatoes. I think the veggies that grow under the ground are some of the most disconcerting – there’s something about being able to see progress that you just don’t get with root vegetables. It’s certainly a lesson in trust and patience, both of which 2020 has taught me that I’m not as good at as I might have previously thought… Anyway, we grew a few different varieties of potato this year to give us a range of earlies, second earlies and maincrop tatties, and also a mixture of waxy and floury types. I’ve gone into a bit more detail about the varieties we’ve been growing in this post where I’ve also shared my potato rösti recipe. My favourites have probably been King Edwards for their blushing pinky-purple hue.
I wanted to try growing flowers specifically for cutting this year, and rather than going in at the deep end and ordering all manner of flower bulbs and seeds, I just ordered a few dahlia bulbs. (Guilty – I was totally sucked in by this gorgeous exclusives collection by Sarah Raven!) Starting them off in pots in April, I wasn’t sure what would come of them, but in the last month I’ve been harvesting beautiful dahlias for the house most days. Even with just a few dahlia plants, I’m amazed by the number of flowers they produce, and I can’t wait to build our cut flower bed and grow even more flowers next season.
This year seems to have been a bumper year for fruits, and while most of our fruits bushes are still too small to produce much, our raspberries have done incredibly well. We had a good number from our one cane in the garden that seemed to fruit quite early, but kept us going until the canes on our plot started. We have about six canes each with a single fruiting stem (which will be three per cane next year) and I have lost count of the number of punnets we’ve harvested! Some we’ve eaten fresh, a few have gone into recipes including this raspberry galette, and most have gone into the freezer for us to enjoy through the rest of the year.
It would be remiss of me not to mention probably the most prolific vegetable we’ve grown to date. The courgette glut is a well known phenomenon, but I don’t think it’s possible to realise the gravity of those two words until the glut is upon you! We’ve had so many courgettes that I’ve had to get really quite creative with recipes. I’m not complaining – that’s really the reason I started this blog isn’t it? We’ve had courgette salad, roasted courgette, stuffed courgette, courgette pickle, courgette jam (yes, jam), this delicious courgette and ginger cake which has gone down a storm with the family, and a big batch cook of ratatouille. And still they come!
There have been plenty of lessons learned too and a few things just didn’t take this year. We didn’t get a great germination rate from our carrots or parsnips which is a real shame as I’d hoped to have homegrown parsnips at Christmas alongside homegrown sprouts and potatoes, but there’s always next year. Our aubergines went in too late to give them enough time to grow fruit that could ripen, but a plot neighour seems to think they could still pull through so we haven’t given up on them yet. We’ve not had great luck with tomatoes which is surprising as they are one of the few things that I’ve grown for the past few years and had quite a bit of success with. A few of the seedlings were munched by critters, a couple of the plants just suddenly keeled over early in the year, which left us relying on a few very late sowings. We’re seeing fruit though, so again we’re keeping our fingers crossed. Lastly, our kohlrabi and lettuce have mostly ended up being slug fodder which is a shame, but there’s not much we could do with some of the weather conditions we’ve had and I’m not inclined to used pellets.
There’s plenty still to look forward to with the brassicas, runner beans and fennel coming on really well and the pumpkins trying to take over the whole plot! We’ve harvested the first of our sweetcorn and crunchy, juicy cucumbers – there’s nothing that compares to the sheer flavour and crunch of a homegrown cucumber.
It’s truly such a joy to see our plot come alive and become the luscious green jungle that we have now. Yes it takes work, but it’s work that really rewards you with a sense of achievement and the feeling that you’re helping to entrench seasonality in your mind and body.