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

The Changing Seasons ~ Snow and Marigolds In January

Well, it’s hardly been gardening weather – far too wet; not at all like our good old winters where on fine, cold days you could pile on the gardening togs, balaclava and all, get out your trusty spade and dig the allotment, naturally always standing on a plank as you went so as not to compact the soil.

I actually like digging, though I’m trying to wean myself off the practice (as many of you who come here will know) opting instead for the no-dig approach which relies on raised beds and the annual autumn application of compost. Around 2 inches worth says no-dig guru, Charles Dowding, and only on the surface (he has lots of useful videos on You Tube and grows parsnips and carrots the size of cruise missiles).

The only problem with this approach is you need loads and loads of compost, and despite my having a dozen assorted piles, bins and bays of decomposing garden waste, I never seem to have enough garden-ready stuff at the right time. I also completely forgot about the autumn application as I had left my brain in the olive groves of Kalamata back in October. Drat! However, it did return briefly in December to remember to gather leaves for making leaf mould, and it’s probably not too late to go out and gather more if only it weren’t raining, and Wenlock’s likely byways a sea of slithery Silurian mud.

We also had more snow in January, but not the glistening, Snow-Queeny landscapes of December, but the dank and dreary sort followed by more rain, which soon washed it away. Except that when I went up to the allotment on Monday I was surprised to find heaps of it lurking along the sides of the polytunnels. Oh no! I remembered the old wives’ tale which says that when snow remains we can expect further falls to carry it away. Hmph. A curse on old wives for being so doomy. We’ve done snow. Now we want spring!

But then the odd thing about that is, along with our snow and frost we have also had spring, or at least if the pot marigolds are anything to go by. These are self-seeded annuals that grow hither and thither around my plot, and not even being buried for a week under December’s snow drifts stopped them flowering. When the snow receded they emerged full-on, like floral headlights, though their stems were somewhat misshapen from the burying. As anyone would be.

Anyway, here are some views of the allotment taken on Monday. I’m  including some of my compost heaps – not a pretty sight, I know, but they bring joy to this gardener’s heart. Also of my parsnips, which as you will see were exceedingly hard to extract from the mud. They are also nowhere near the size of Charles Dowding’s cruise missiles, nor as perfectly formed. But then as the shed-building man who lives in my house says, who needs parsnips that big?  A vaguely existentialist enquiry to which I find there is no answer…

 

The Changing Seasons

For those who haven’t caught up yet, Su Leslie is now our very excellent host for The Changing Seasons monthly challenge, having taken over from our former very excellent host Max at Cardinal Guzman  (btw fantastic ski-ing video at Max’s blog). We have thus shifted across the globe from Norway to New Zealand. Please pop over to Su’s place to see her and other bloggers’ monthly round up from their corners of the world. And please join in. The ‘rules’ are simple.