Allotment Diary (June 2020 – Week 1)
Overview of the week
I’m writing this diary on Tuesday and so I’ve now forgotten a lot of what I did last week, which is why I normally write it on Saturday! Having consulted my personal diary though I discovered that I spent Monday and Tuesday cycling, installed yet another grow light which was gifted to me by Mars Hyrdo on Wednesday and pottered around the allotments and garden for the rest of the week. That sums up to a good week in current circumstances. We also had very high winds again, which are a frequent hazard around here, but had been forgotten because of the incredibly mild spring we’d enjoyed (the sunniest on record).
My mind has also settled down sufficiently to allow me to do some serious reading and I’ve got plenty of time now too, so I’m making progress on my backlog. I’ve also started planning for next year, in part so that I can secure the seeds, but also because it’s good fun on rainy days.
I’m changing the way I plan though. I’m sowing a little of a lot in the polytunnel to take maximum advantage of it in spring, trying to grow early veg that can’t be grown in my cold-frames and low tunnels. I’m also planning what I want to HARVEST in the hungry gap months (January, February, May and June) and then working back from there to figure out sowing dates, trusting that the other months will sort themselves out. In previous years my focus has always been on scheduling sowing.
Having given the greenhouse a good clean out last week I made use of it this week, filling one of the drying racks with a third of the over-wintered onions.
I was very surprised this week to have another excellent harvest! last week I was anticipating a big drop, but as ever I fail to take account for the incredible growth rate of the spring/summer crops which are now romping along and almost making up for the spring crops that are finishing, this was especially true of the broad beans!
Our harvest total for this year is £4,285 and continues to show a significant increase on last year.
We have now easily harvesting more from our little back garden than from the allotments, which seems incredible until you remember that this is the strategy. The garden has been designed to provide most of the food in summer, leaving the allotments to focus on the food for the other 9 months of the year.
What we’ve harvested and eaten
We harvested £262 of veg this week, a small decrease from last week, just a little more than last year’s £250. Although last year we were already harvesting NZ spinach and golden purselane, the over-wintered carrots hadn’t gone to seed and we were still eating true spinach, so we haven’t improved in all areas. This year though we’ve had cucumbers for 6 weeks and tomatoes, so we win some, we loose some!
We picked: cherries, baking potatoes, romanesco cauliflower, tomatoes (ildi), French beans, runner bean (yes 1 runner bean), broad beans, fresh onions, mangetout peas, strawberries, courgettes, green garlic, spring cabbage, new potatoes, cucumbers, new season carrots, asparagus, rhubarb, radish, chard, red beetroot, sprout leaves, lots of types of kale, spring onions, mixed herbs, true spinach and a lot of lettuce. We also raided the store for: squash, garlic and dried apples and pears. Bold items are new this week.
What we’ve bought this week
Videos this week
Now it’s summer I’ve finished making daily videos. In part that’s because the lockdown is easing and life is returning to normal, but also there’s just less of interest to show, everyone can and is growing food in summer.
What I’ve sown
It’s been a busy sowing week. The big news is the storage beetroot have been sown, ready for planting in 3 weeks and the winter and spring flowering brassicas.
What We’ve planted
We planted the summer squash this week:
- I squeezed in six extra Crown Prince Squash
- I squeezed in four extra courgettes
- I planted my first bed of golden purselane
- Two beds of Bright Lights chard replaced onions and chard (I know chard following chard, not good planning, but the bed was reconditioned well)
- A small bed of lettuce replaced the corn salad
- Four kalettes went into the back garden
- A few more containers of tomatoes and cucumbers were squeezed into gaps in the polytunnel
What I’ve potted on
First harvests of the year
- Our earliest tomatoes, grown in the conservatory
- Our earliest ever French beans and one runner bean!
- Cherries from the back garden
- Our first baking potatoes, which were actually Arran Pilot first earliest that grew huge in the unusually sunny spring and were surprisingly delicious
What we’ve run out of in store
- Fresh apples, week 11
- New potatoes
- Main crop potatoes
- Carrots, the last few have gone to seed
- Golden beetroot (we don’t have any fresh available yet which is a big failure for me, although we have red beets in store and fresh)
- Oca – we now only have tubers for planting next year, week 1
- Artichokes – we now only have tubers for planting next year, week 7
- We harvested the last of the beetroot that we left in the ground, week 4
- Romanesco cauliflower, week 10
- Sprouts, week 12
- Cauliflower (planted 2019), week 12
- Carrots from the ground, Week 14
- New potatoes from 2019, Week 16
- Winter cabbages, week 16
- Last year’s kale. week 18
- Spinach Matador and Red Kitten, week 22
- The autumn sown carrots are now finished, although we harvested enough for two weeks, so actually week 24 (we don’t yet have spring sown carrots available)
What’s left in store
The store is is still on good shape:
- Red Beetroot – 2 large boxes
- Carrots – None
- Onions/shallots – None (we have fresh onions though)
- Garlic – None (we have green garlic though)
- Dried pears – l large cool bag
- Dried apples – 1 large cool bag
- Potatoes – none (we have new potatoes though)
- Squash – 2 Crown Prince
Loads of stuff in the freezer too and dozens of preserves.
Water Reserves and Rainfall
The taps have now been switched on, so I won’t be monitoring our reserves as they will be fully depleted by the end of the month.
What we’ve processed for preserving
Debbie is now harvesting a lot of herbs and preserved pickled onions and lots of stewed rhubarb and jam
- Being self-sufficient in veg and much of our fruit means we get embarrassingly excited about every first harvest!
- We harvested our first beans
- The salad mixes are starting to colour up nicely, thanks to the first tomatoes and all those baby carrots!
- Incredibly we harvested baking potatoes! I actually have a bed specifically for early baking potatoes, but these are 2-3 weeks away from harvest
- The weather is returning to normal, a mix of sunny, cloudy, rainy and windy days in all permutations and combinations – much better
- The back garden is now more productive than the allotments
- I gave away a a lot more kale cuttings last week
- The greenhouse is filling up with alliums for drying
- I’m gradually increasing the load on my knees, cycling and harvesting and they are coping
- We now have lots of fruits on the Centercut Squash plants, so we should be harvesting within a week or so, the flowers are stunning!
- Watering is becoming a real chore. We are applying half the RHS recommended amounts because we have invested so much in water retentive mulches and other water saving techniques, but it’s still a lot and can never replace a good storm!
- The scheduled rain last week turned out to be a light shower, probably doing more harm than good as it encouraged surface roots
- The lettuce beds growing too quickly and they are degrading quicker as a result. Some are already hearting up, so I am racing to try and replace them by early July. Next year we will sow smaller successions monthly, rather than follow Charles Dowdings advice which is much less resilient to pests and weather issues.