Our Allotment: Summer 2021 Update

I last posted about our allotment in this update back in April and that feels like such a long time ago! At was at the start of April that we had our offer accepted on our new house that we finally moved into two weeks ago. Since my last update we’ve had a very cold, wet May, and a fairly warm, but still wet June! Our plants took a really long time to get going this season, but as soon as we hit June and the weather warmed up a little bit they’ve really kicked into another gear. It’s hard to grumble about the rain when it means we don’t have to water the plot I suppose!

One thing I will unapologetically grumble about, though, is pests. Mark and I are committed organic gardeners, but I’m going to take a minute to say that it really isn’t easy. Once you’ve protected plants from the weather, it can be really upsetting to find them munched by critters. The last thing we want to do is to start using pellets or chemicals that we know can be damaging to the environment and have a knock-on effect on other beneficial wildlife, but the list of adversaries gets longer every season. Birds, slugs, ants, aphids, allium miner, squash borer, field mice, carrot fly, cabbage whites, and I could go on. Without chemical options, we spend a lot of time netting, checking, picking off, and often failing until it’s too late, but we’ll keep learning and trying to do things the right way. Our strawberry bed is a great example of how ridiculous it’s starting to get: we have netting over the whole bed once the fruits start to form to keep the birds out, we individually net the fruits closest to ripening so that the slugs and ants don’t beat us to the harvest, we’ve been watering in nematodes for both slugs and ants as well, and now we’ve noticed piles of snapped-off fruits that a field mouse has been collecting and seems completely uninterested in eating. They’ve been enjoying our carrots too leaving us with a grand total of zero carrots. We’re going to try spreading some lavender around, or maybe even using a friend’s cat litter to try and put them off.

Ok now that rant is out of the way, on to much more positive news!

Our polytunnel has been in wonderful disarray as we’ve started seedlings, potted on, planted out, and started again. What started as a great plan and an intention to be more organised has in reality turned out to be much more – ahem – free spirited? There’s definitely an element of not having a lot of time for doing everything in an organised way alongside our house move (in fact our plot has been home to a number of our garden plants while we’ve been moving in!), and we’ve settled into more of a do-whatever-you-can-when-you-have-a-free-half-hour kind of approach… One of these years we’ll get it sussed! This year we’re just doing what we can without getting stressed and worried about it.

Despite starting them quite late this year from our overwintered tubers, our first dahlias have appeared already! I dug them up after the first frost last before winter and dried them out a little before wrapping them in cling wrap and storing them in our old loft. I honestly had no idea whether they would make it, so it’s a real joy to see them sprouting let alone flowering again! I’ve also added a couple of Dahlia “Cafe au Lait” to the collection after falling a little bit in love with them when I saw them all over Instagram last year.

We managed to enjoy a decent strawberry harvest before our field mouse friend arrived, so that has topped last year and somewhat made up for the fact that our raspberries have pretty much all died this year. I think it might have been the late frosts that we had just as their tender shoots were starting to emerge in early spring.

Beans are an allotment staple now as far as I’m concerned ever since our two runner bean plants stole the show last season. This year we have even more broad beans which seem to be doing well, if a little late, and our runner and French beans have just started to leap into action. I can’t wait to fill baskets upon baskets with beans to take home!

Onions, chard, kale, potatoes, beetroots and tomatoes are all holding on pretty well given the wet and warm conditions we find ourselves in, so at least we’ll be getting plenty of veggies to restore our spirits after all of the weather and pest related drama so far this year. We were worried our onions might have allium leaf miner at one point, but their stems have straightened so we’re hopeful that they’ll be ok – otherwise there will be a lot of onion recipes coming! We’ve got sweetcorn and squashes in now as well which did really well last year, so I’m hoping for even better harvests this time around. I have tried to be much more discerning in which pumpkin and squash varieties we planted, so that we can enjoy eating them as well as looking at them. We’ve got a couple of varieties of spaghetti squash growing too which I’m really excited for. I love spaghetti squash with a tomato sauce or a veggie chilli – the trick is not to over-cook it otherwise it turns to mush.

Thank you for your patience in the last few weeks while we’ve been in house-moving mode. I’ll leave you with this cute, sleepy fox hiding behind our neighbour’s shed.

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