Bountiful. A review of the season (so far…)

Forgive me, I’ve hardly blogged about the plot this summer. Recent weather aside (it’s a wet and windy Saturday afternoon as I write this), it’s a been a glorious summer and to be honest with you, we’ve just been so busy enjoying it down 18a. After a unseasonable cool start to the season full of worry whether we would ever get any kind of crop going, we approach the end of the growing season with a bumper crop of unexpected allotment loveliness. After a rather crappy first 6 months of 2013 for myself personally, the allotment and the abundance of nature there have helped me overcome my blues and banish my little rain clouds. So what’s been going on down 18a? Well let’s see…

The rhubarb ruled the back beds. For the first year we forced some beautiful pale pink stems as an early spring treat to top our porridge…

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Later on our crown of ‘Victoria’ rhubarb reigned with the most amazing dead straight, thick stems, some an inch thick. The rhubarb days of spring were full of crumbles, cakes and amazing pink jams.

IMG_0463Our first glut was of Radishes, and for some time it felt like it might be all we’d be eating as the growing season slowly crept to a start. It became radishes with everything! Particularly enjoying them stir fried.

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Every year I pick a vegetable to grow that I’ve always had trouble to grow, my vegetable achilles heel! This year it was the pea. I’ve never been able to get peas to grow right, they’ve always flopped, rotted or got mildew too quick, this year they were to be my ‘Rookie Vegetable Growing Challenge’. Having manured and compost trenched the legume bed the previous autumn they had good conditions to get them to a flying start. Getting them to climb and not be nibbled by the pesky pigeons was a challenge but soon enough our ‘Alderman’ peas grew majestically to over 6ft tall with long full pods of juicy peas. Some we picked and ate raw as a sweet snack down the plot, but in the end we had over 2kg to harvest! Just don’t talk to me about pea Moth larvae *shudder*.

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Other successful legumes were the beautiful and tasty ‘Shiraz’ Mange Tout which we are still picking now. They keep their colour when stir fried and have made colourful and tasty additions to stir fries and raw in salads.

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The companion plantings of Calendula, my favourites, have been flowering their hearts out for weeks, still going with regular dead heading. As a companion planting they have worked like a treat to reduce the blackfly on the Broad beans and the whitefly on the Brassicas. Although this only seems to work when planted very close and from what we’ve found, it is essential to keep the calendula flowering for it to have an effect.

IMG_1166 IMG_1165 IMG_1271A bumper crop of garlic was had, although many we were unable to dry to store due to damage caused by according to the RHS a relatively new pest, the Allium leaf miners. We suffer with this dreadfully on all our Allium crops causing in the garlics the skin around the cloves becoming exposed in the ground, leading to white rot and other nasties. But on the plus side we had some amazing wet garlic from those we could not dry! One variety seems to suffer with this pest the most is the ‘Early Purple Wight’ so think we will try not growing this Variety in future.

IMG_1252 After last season pitiful crop of potatoes this season we meant spud business! This year instead of planting the potatoes in the trench way we decided to try planting them like a bulb. This method has been very good. We decided to plant our seed potatoes between St Patricks Day and Easter (Con the old Irish plot potato growing guru swears by this) despite the weather. We chose a dry bright day in between cooler weather and covered the bed with cardboard until the weather improved. This seems to have paid off. We’ve had some amazing potatoes and probably the best yield we’ve had to date. This year we grew heritage varieties, Red Duke of York, Salad Blue, Highland Burgundy, Shetland Blacks and Pink Fir Apple. The Pink Fir Apple are still in the ground but we’ve been enjoying those we’ve harvested like the brilliant pinkish Red Duke of Yorks below.

IMG_1250 Everyone was saying it, “it’s the best soft fruit season in years”, and they were right. We’ve had some bountiful berries this season. A little later than usual, but worth the wait, the strawberries have been fabulous. After initial fights with netting and rat and ant thievings we managed to harvest many a strawberry. We’ve had them on breakfasts, paired with rhubarb for crumbles and have made the brightest and sweetest strawberry jam ever. Definitely saving a jar for the allotment show!

IMG_1113 The blackcurrants too have been bountiful. We’ve been picking them for back aching weeks! The pigeons have managed to break through the netting a little but we’ve still had a good glut to speak of. I’ve made jam, bottled them, made fairy cakes and we even like them raw on our breakfast cereal with greek yoghurt. Oh and we had a fabulously sharp sorbet too.

IMG_1251 The blueberries planted a couple of years ago have hit their fruiting stride this season. We’ve been enjoying handfuls of them this summer.

IMG_1214 For the first year we’ve managed to get a crop of Gooseberries before the Sawfly completely strip the bush. Jam and crumbles a plenty and even a cake and some homemade ice cream.

IMG_1170The Chillies have been a surprise outdoor success this year. Growing these small black variety called ‘Chenzo‘ they’ve been churning out more small black chillies than the pair of us can handle. We’re no chilli heads, more a chilli wusses but these have a medium-hot heat of 45,000 SHU and have been cultivated to suit the British climate. They have a good aromatic heat to them.

IMG_1283 After a shaky start the Sweet Peas have finally gotten into their stride. Not as prolific or strong scented this year though, I wonder why?

IMG_1168 The Holyhock’s have flowered this year after sowing them from seed I gathered from parks and, shh, from peoples front gardens the season before last.

IMG_1240After the lose of our Sunflowers to the slugs and snails last season, this years are a sight for sore eyes.

IMG_1268…. and a treat for the bees

IMG_1269 And it’s all been for the bees. Every flower I grow I grow for our fuzzy friends. We’ve had huge numbers of bumblebees on the plot, not to mention hoverflies and solitary bees. However despite a hive locally very few honeybees.

IMG_1306 The ladybirds however have been noticeably absent for much of the season. Especially the all in important late spring, early summer months to help keep the aphids in check. They took their time but the ladies arrived fashionably late in the end.

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The Chard has been triffid like, and though not pictured here, the Swiss Chard has been a favourite of ours for tea. Making a tasty alternative to spinach in a Spanakopita pie.

IMG_1299 The Carrots and Parsnips are suffering with an attack of willow aphid, but I have high hopes they will recover. We enjoyed some of these baby ‘Purple Haze’ carrots with a veggie sausage and mash, with homegrown mash of course!

IMG_1300 And of course there’s still plenty to look forward to yet. Even though the weather this weekend might feel a bit autumn-like we’ve still got a few more good growing weeks to come yet. Although the fruit trees suffered yet again with the late frosts of May causing iffy pollination, we still have a few apples on or cordon trees to look forward to, oh, and two conference pears!

IMG_1293 And of course there’s still pumpkins, squashes, autumn salad crops, sweet bell peppers, aubergines, tomatillos, beetroot, Pink Fir Apple potatoes, parsnips, raspberries, blackberries, turnips, kale, courgettes, borlotti beans, french beans, spinach and more radishes still to come. Bountiful indeed.

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Author: Crafty Garden Hoe

For me it’s all about the simple things in life. Pottering around my allotment, growing things indoors and out, baking a good cake, being outside, pretty things, vintage finds and a good pot of tea. It’s all the small things that make me tick, noticing the beauty in everyday things. Although this blog initially was intended to be a blog about all these things its evolved into being basically a blog about our allotment. Our adventures, highs and lows, wins and loses. So join me & Mr Wilson as we learn from our mistakes and successes down plot 18a.

8 thoughts on “Bountiful. A review of the season (so far…)”

  1. Have only just come across your blog and wow! What an amazing selection of fruit and veg, some of which I have never heard of before now. This year has been a great year for my garden too apart from the pears as they didn’t pollinate that well either. I have 7 on one tree and none on the other but the apples and the plums have made up for it. I have had the largest plum crop ever so loads of jams and chutneys being made here. As for the ladybirds we have spotted 100’s. They are literally everywhere (aphids not too happy though!). According to Biodiversity Ireland large numbers have been recorded in Wexford and throughout the South East.

    1. Hi Mary

      Oh thank you, that’s so sweet of you! Against the odds we’ve had a bumper crop of things. I put it down to the cooler spring, and the extra sunny warm summer… oh and lots and lots manure!

      Funny about the fruit trees. We had plenty of blossom but then the frosts came back and cooler day temps so no pollinators. We have six apples, two pears and two plums! Not too bad for just four cordon trees I suppose.

      I’ve heard about the ladybird invasion over in Ireland! They seem to have gone in hiding again here again. At least we haven’t got any Harlequin ladybirds this year.

      Happy growing!
      Emma x

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