Our allotment: Spring 2021 update

Greetings from plot 66A! When I posted this update in February we were almost knee-deep in water, ice and snow in some parts of our plot and getting very little done. Fast forward a couple of months and although things have been much drier and we have no signs of flooding (almost too dry if I dare say it) it has been really cold this April. Who would have thought that there were a couple of days in March where we were able to enjoy a coat-free cuppa on the plot enjoying our wonderful spring crocuses, narcissi and primroses that have given us glorious blooms again this year.

I have to admit I didn’t expect much to last over winter, and I can’t say I was very intentional about making sure there would be anything to harvest during the cold months. It gives me great pleasure that we’ve been able to pick spinach, chard, spring onions, and some cabbage all through the winter, as well as the kale before it ultimately bolted. I’m going to be sowing plenty more of the winter hardy veg when we get to the end of summer. The highlight of the past month or so has been the purple sprouting broccoli which has finally bloomed after growing for the best part of the last year. I honestly had almost given up hope again, but I’m so glad we held out and waited to see what would happen. Now the shoots keep on coming and I’ve been able to share some with family and friends too which is always a sign of a good crop! Not only has it been abundant, but it is healthy and delicious too. I will definitely make sure to have space for plenty of purple sprouting broccoli for this coming season.

As for sowing new seeds, I was determined not to get left behind again this year, but the recent cold snap obliterated our chillies and aubergines when the polytunnel recorded almost -4°C despite our efforts to heat it with a candle pot heater, and so I’ve had to re-sow them nail-bitingly close to the recommended cut-off. Chillies and aubergines both need a long season to give them time to ultimately fruit and ripen and we learned that the hard way last year. We had gorgeous aubergine flowers but they had no chance of producing fruit. Thankfully we only lost a few tomatoes in the cold and the rest have been sown indoors, which is good because last year we lost our tomato seedlings in a storm when the polytunnel shelving was knocked over. One of these days I’m hoping we’ll have learned enough to avoid these kinds of traumatic seedling disasters!

I’m looking forward to warmer weather when I’ll finally let myself sow some more seeds and harden off the seedlings we’ve got indoors. This year I’m experimenting with some flower seeds for the first time (echinacea, strawflower, hollyhock and snapdragons are the few that survived the cold) and the broad beans, first potatoes, radishes and onions have been sown under fleece. I’ll sow peas, maybe some carrots and parsnips, and rest of the potatoes and onions this weekend.

The only other drama to report is that we had a little furry fried move into the space behind our compost bays. It turned out that the small bit of space between the compost and the polytunnel was perfect for the critter to build themselves a little cosy, warm, protected home. We might not have even noticed if it weren’t for the fact that our compost heap seemed to be “rotting” down remarkable quickly. In the end we’ve actually decided that we wanted to move things around a bit and that perhaps we didn’t quite need all that space for compost, so the black gold has all been used in our raised beds, the visitor has left to find a new home, and we’ll be starting again this season.

Now that the plot isn’t flooded we’ve been able to get on with clearing the last patch of land to raise and build beds on. The moisture level of the soil has meant that Mark has been able to make great progress as it hasn’t been so wet that it’s claggy and heavy, but not so dry that it feels almost like rock. We’ve got wood ready to build that last of the beds and I can’t wait to celebrate when the last of the plot is done! Maybe I’ll be posing with a glass of bubbles in the next update, but for now I’ll leave you with the emerging blossom from our tiny pear tree.

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