Allotment Diary (August 2020 – Week 2)
Before I get started, just a quick note about the future!
I’m experimenting with a few changes to how I write this diary. I won’t be including as many weekly statistics because these just duplicate data that’s already available in my Airtable databases. This reduces all the redundant cut and pasting that I have to do, instead live access to the Airtable data will now be directly embedded. Unfortunately that means if you get a copy of this diary via email, most of the content won’t be visible unless you open the web page up.
I’m also changing the way I make youtube videos. I’m intending to make a lot more that show progress over seasons or the whole year. This involves a lot more planning, the number of videos will decrease, but the quality will hopefully increase. Both of these changes are part of my ongoing strategy to reduce my routine allotment workload, replacing it with more research, artistry, non-routine project work and other hobbies
It’s been a good week! Anna and Thom have been staying with us, taking a break from London life, enjoying the beach and all of our home grown delights. In payback they spent Friday helping on the allotment, clearing beds, dismantaling frames and re-assembling them in new configurations. Jen and Jon have also been working on their plot, tidying up after me as I swept through the squash bed, pruning back the rampant growth!
August is always an exciting time for me. I start the process of clearing the summer beds and replanting everything for autumn and winter. It’s my objective to have almost every bed replanted by early October, but we have close to a hundred different beds, so starting in August is vital to getting through them all. Also key is keeping on top of the weeds, I like to make sure everything is close to weed free in early autumn, before foul weather makes weeding a chore.
I’ve also had plenty of time off this week. I went hiking with a good friend and cycling on my own. These short breaks help keep my motivation levels high, but they also prepare me – fitness wise – for spending more time hiking and biking in the cooler months when the holiday season starts.
Work started last week on sowing for autumn and winter, there’s a lot to get through. Last week I sowed the first batch of onions, brassicas and leafy greens. These are almost all up now and ready for pricking out next week. The two trays of salad onions are still no-shows, but then they are always the last to surface and create an unreasonable amount of anxiety as a result. If they ultimately fail to germinate, that put me two weeks behind and as we rapidly approach autumn, each week becomes increasingly vital to a successful harvest! Here’s what we are sowing this august.
I’ve also direct sown a few seeds, something that I rarely do. This year though the onion bed came free 2 weks early and I had nothing to plant, so I decided to chance it. I sowed salad onions, radish, turnips and spinach. I also sowed three containers of carrots which will finish their life in the polytunnel and hopefully help us navigate the early spring carrot hungry gap. I will be sowing more in October when I have more room. These carrots are on top of the thousand or more that we already have in the ground.
The harvests continue to break all records. Of particular note at the moment are the tomatoes and peppers which have had a huge boost from our outdoor beds. Debbie is making passata batches every few days and this looks set to continue for a few more weeks.
Squashes have also been good this year, we’ve been picking squash for several months, but this week we picked our first winter squash, a lovely Crown Prince, that was outgrowing it’s peers. Unfortunately we’ve also noticed that some of our squash and tomatoes are not the varieties we expected, not a single one of the courgettes we planted on the allotment turned out as expected!
My biggest success though has to be the salad crops. For the first year in my 5 years of gardening we have an abundance in August. We are still losing a few a week to lettuce root aphid and various caterpillars, but we are keeping up with demand. In previous years we’ve had to significantly reduce supply, even taking a whole week off harvesting last year.
I’m also doing a better job with cooking greens. Now that we have more space in the garden we’ve been able to diversify. We have an abundance of perpetual spinach and chard and we have early and late beds, which should help secure our winter supply. We also have a mix of New Zealand spinach, Mikado spinach and true spinach. We will soon start freezing the New Zealand crop because we don’t typically have quite enough fresh supply in January and February. Finally we are trying out turnip greens as a quick growing alternative to chard in early spring.
Here’s a look at what we’ve harvested this year so far, sorted in reverse order (ie you are looking at this week:
Another August highlight has been the fruit salads. We now have a very long harvest period for berries, starting in April with the early strawberries and finishing with raspberries.
Over the years we have planted dozens of types of berry and many varieties of each to give us a harvest from spring to autumn. Debbie consumes the surplus for a huge array of different preserves. Here’s a list of this year’s preserves:
Not everything is going well of course. We continue to loose a few lettuces to caterpillars and this year has been the worst for letuce root aphid. The summer beetroot beds have been a bit disappointing, delivering perhaps half the harvest we’ve come to expect. However we still have plenty to keep us going, as always it’s our friends and family who feel the pain of disappointing harvests.
Perhaps the worst affected crop this year is the sweetcorn, especially the batches that flowered during the gales and hence suffered poor polination, but our strategy of growing multiple successions has paid off. The same can be said of the beans. We had reasonable harvest of super early (polytunnel) beans, offset by a wonderful harvest of dwarf French beans. Our main bed of climbing beans was incredibly late, but as it happens came on stream just as the dwarf bed finished.
Youtube videos for August can be found here: