July’s Changing Seasons ~ All Hot Air And Going To Seed

I said in an earlier post that plant life was galloping away to flower and set seed all before being fried. Now with the end of July approaching, we have definitely reached the fried stage. I took the header view of Townsend Meadow as I was coming home from  the evening’s allotment watering. I thought it captured the day’s residual heat in a ‘baked-to-a-turn’ kind of way, a muted version if you like of Vincent Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with crows, a work that always seems to exude its own hotness. It’s a shame the local rooks did not put in an appearance to complete the scene, but sensibly they seem to be keeping a low profile – no doubt roasting quietly in their treetop roosts on the Sytch where the brook no longer flows.

Rain keeps appearing on the weather forecast, and then disappearing. Today’s promised thunderstorms have blown away. I think we’ve only had one significant watering in two months, and the heatwave looks like continuing.

Up at the allotment the harvest has been hit and miss – much bolting of lettuce and wilting of peas; puny potatoes, though wonderfully free of slug spit. The sweet corn continues to flourish and is starting to form cobs, and there have been loads of raspberries. The courgettes keep coming, and even the squashes are producing. In the polytunnel the Black Russian tomatoes are fat and delicious, and the peppers and aubergines beginning to fruit. All of which  means much hauling of watering cans every evening.

Here then, are more scenes of simmering Wenlock in and around Townsend Meadow.

 

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Changing Seasons July 2018

Please visit Su to see her changing season in New Zealand

This Morning – If Wenlock Still Had Larks – I would Have Been Up With them

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6 am and I’m up and dressed and heading over the field to the allotment. No sign of the sun this morning, but there are plenty of yellow flowers standing in for it, including the ragwort with departing red-tailed bee (a female, I think). And it’s only when I reach my plot that I remember that early mornings are the time to catch the courgette (zucchini) flowers looking their best. I discover a real cracker by the polytunnel. Not only is it making all its own sunshine, but it is also hosting some very busy ants. I can only think they are grazing the pollen.

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Inside the polytunnel, the French marigolds are in full flower too. I planted them out among the pepper and aubergine plants to deter white fly. It seems to work. And they are cheery too, but difficult to photograph as they seem to reflect the light and end up looking remarkably surreal; as if they might be made of marzipan.

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There’s nothing surreal about the cucumber flowers though. The plants are churning out fruits at a rate of knots. I pruned off excess stems and now think I may start restricting their water intake. There are only so many cucumbers one can eat – even mini ones.

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The allotments are a lovely place to be in the early morning. I got lots of jobs done: feeding beetroot and leeks, tying up wayward tomatoes, sowing Florence fennel, Paris market carrots and Boltardy beetroot, harvesting cylindrical and golden beets, leeks and Russian kale, and a single huge globe artichoke, which may be past its best, but we’ll give it go this evening. If it’s too tough to eat, the garlic butter will do on something else. What a trial that will be!

In the raised beds the sweet corn is tasselling, the French beans and raspberries are cropping furiously, the borlotti beans are making pods, the Crown Prince squash are blooming, and soon there may be a couple of crunchy Greyhound cabbages to pick.

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All in all, it was a very yellow kind of morning, brimming with bright prospects, though it is a shame about the lack of larks. I dashed home at 9.30 for cup of tea, only to think that I might have left the allotment tap running. So it was back up the field, through the towering wild oats, and past the browning rapeseed crop. I hadn’t left the tap on, but I had forgotten to collect the Russian kale, so it was worth making the second trip. Then home again to make raspberry jam.

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On The Path To The Allotment ~ Too Hot On The Plot

It was nearly 7 pm last night when I finally thought it might be cool enough to head up the field to the allotment. In places, the nettles and grasses are leaning over the path at ear-height, and the nettle stings can be vicious, even through clothing. At one point the makeshift path alongside the rapeseed crop all but disappears, and it’s a question of remembering to turn left at the opium poppy, which was fine when it was flowering redly, but not so easy to spot now it’s gone to seed. I’m beginning to think I need to go out armed with a machete. Also the ground beneath my feet is so unyielding, it is difficult to walk on; baked into unexpected ridges and contours that are hard to navigate when you can’t see the way ahead. Who would have thought going gardening could be so challenging.

Of course, I had to stop to take this photo, the sun shining through the allotment boundary hedge.

On the plot I have been trying to shelter the plants’ roots with whatever vegetation I can find up there: comfrey, horseradish leaves, even rhubarb leaves. I’m now eyeing up the goat willow tree on the neighbouring abandoned plot, thinking a little prune of its leathery foliage might make some useful shading material.

So far things are surviving – apart from the strawberries that is, and the broad beans which produced a half-hearted crop and then fainted away. The most astonishing success, at least so far, is the sweet corn. It just keeps on growing, and with scarcely any watering, which is very strange for sweet corn. I bought the seedlings by post after the seeds of my own first sowing rotted. They were tiny when I planted them out in May – no more than a hand’s width tall. Now look at them.

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They cost £2 for 20 from Delfland Nurseries which probably works out cheaper than growing them yourself from seed, and certainly cuts out the faff. I also bought some of their Iznik mini cucumber seedlings, which are now producing well in the polytunnel. The fruits are about 4 inches long when ready to pick, and delicious. The best thing is you eat the whole thing at one go, so no more squishy-cucumber-end discoveries in the fridge.

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The Black Russian tomatoes are busy fattening in the next door bed. They are now one of our favourite tomato varieties, under-sown here with dill.

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Outside, the runner beans are struggling to get up their sticks, but we’ve had our first good picking of the climbing Alderman peas. These peas are supposed to continue cropping over the season, but I’m not sure that this will happen with four more weeks of drought and heat promised. I have just planted out another lot, sown for quick germination in lengths of plastic gutter, and I shall definitely grow them again next year.

We’ve been told there is a ‘world shortage’ of lettuce in UK supermarkets. It doesn’t germinate well in heat. I have grown some of my own, but I was also very pleased that I bought a tray of ‘living salad’ lettuce from Waitrose. It was intended for cutting fresh into one’s sandwich, but I planted out the seedlings instead, outside covered with fleece and also in the polytunnel. So far it’s doing well. I reckon there were about 50 seedlings in the tray, several different varieties, so plenty of lettuce to share with neighbours.

Now for some more hot-plot shots.

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One unforeseen circumstance of the hot weather is that my piled-high compost heaps are bone dry, and are therefore doing very little rotting down. While I don’t feel I can help them along by actually watering them, I have heard that the addition of urine is very beneficial, and since most of the allotmenteers are chaps, it has occurred to me to put up ‘please pee here’ signs. All deposits gratefully received.

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copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Old Allotment Shed And Artichoke

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This was my shed when I took up allotmenting eleven years ago. He who builds sheds stopped it leaking and leaning into a complete state of collapse, and I and the snails and mice were very glad of it for several years. But then two years ago I left behind the plot it stands on to concentrate on my polytunnel plot. No one has taken it over, and this year it is doing a good imitation of the prairie with elephant’s eye high grass and thistles. Rather sad after all the hours of digging I did there. But at least the shed is still standing, and this year,  the greengage tree that stands over it has quite a bit of fruit in the making. The artichoke, though, was eaten long ago.

Traces of the Past: Black & White Sunday  Please visit Paula to see her dramatic seascape

Look What I Found At The Allotment Yesterday – An Unexpected Cauliflower

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As vegetables go, cauliflowers are sneaky entities. I could swear there were no signs of this one a few days ago. In fact  when I ventured to lift the protective mesh to give the outer leaves a prod, I decided it was probably a cabbage. It and the four other ‘cabbages’ were looking pretty healthy too – an astonishing feat after three lots of winter snow and months of never ending rain.

I bought the seedling plants on line in October from Delfland Nursery, along with sprouting broccoli plugs which have also grown strongly and served us well. I’ve used this company several times, and they are brilliant when you have forgotten to think ahead and sow for autumn and winter crops. Or just forgotten.

Anyway, after the long overwintering I thought the ‘cabbages’ deserved a feed and gave them the last of some vintage homemade comfrey liquor which I discovered in the polytunnel during an unlikely phase of tidying. That was a couple of days ago. And look what happened. I’m going to try for giant beanstalks next, though promise not to facilitate the advent of any outsize fee-fi-fo-fumming individuals. A hen that lays golden eggs might be fun though.

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Going Quackers On The Way Home From The Allotment

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Now is the time of year when I often meet the Three Ducks on the path to the allotment. Despite all their owners’ fencing-in strategies,  they continue to escape through the hedge from their nice garden pen – out into the big wide world of Townsend Meadow. Clearly a duck finds far more exciting things to do in a field, though they always stay together,  keeping up a constant reassuring chatter.

I usually try to shoo them home, but the other evening they were so busy with something on the path, I took them by surprise. Then it was  a case of ducks all of a dither.

‘Now what shall we do?’

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Panic!

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Regroup for a more dignified retreat and take ourselves home.P1050542

 

Nothing More Cheering Than A Marigold

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This marigold had its photo taken on 22nd January. She was growing in my strawberry bed, one of several  plants that have spread themselves hither and thither on my allotment plots and been quietly flowering all winter. They make their own sunshine, don’t they. Though I think even they will have been defeated by the current Siberian onslaught. I have not ventured over the field to see.

For hundreds of years the marigold has been much loved by herbalists. Its properties comprise a complete pharmacy – from healing skin conditions to boosting the immune system and many disorders in between. I usually just add the petals to salads, or as a garnish to rice dishes. The colour alone is enough to lift the spirits.

I’m also hoping that Debbie and Becky won’t mind my killing two challenges with one marigold:

Six Word Saturday  Please visit Debbie to see a very shaggy sheep.

March Squares For this month Becky has set us the daily challenge of posting square photos featuring either squares or circles. You may post as inclination strikes.

Out In The Field With Runaway Crocus

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Several things spurred me to the allotment on Saturday – sun, dryness under foot, onion sets in the post, and the need to get a 2” covering of compost onto the raised beds as per the ‘no dig’ methodology, a job I had forgotten to do in the autumn.

For once the field path was not all of a slither, and along the way I found these crocus (tiny in real life). Clearly they had grown bored with the confining domesticity of suburban flower beds, and so taken off over the garden hedges to try things on the wild side.

Breaking bounds with a flourish – one could learn a few things here…

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Cee’s Flower Of The Day