Allotment Diary (May – Week 3)
Next week is the ‘last push’ as I clear almost all of my over-wintered beds and re-plant them with the summer crops. It’s a major milestone and it marks the beginning of my lazy summer. It’s also a bit of a relief because there’s a lot less to manage. The summer crops need less water, are less prone to slugs, easier to harvest and less prone to gluts. The only real issue is keeping them warm enough. That’s where the compromise comes in, but night time temperatures are about 8c now, so it’s not so bad.
My first batch of tomatoes are way too big, as are my peppers. My second batch of tomatoes are, however, perfect size and could easily wait for two more weeks, giving me lots more flexibility. My second batch of peppers are also slightly two big, so starting those 2-3 weeks later would be better next year. Because I grow both peppers and tomatoes under lights, I can be fairly confident that these dates are reproducible year on year. One of the great things about keeping good records is gradually refining everything year on year, which is a big part of my strategy for growing old.
Each year I try to eliminate pointless effort and document tried and true systems, that get easier with each year of refinement. I’m also gradually investing in semi-permanent structures, that are easy to adapt to different crops, like my new easy bean and pea frames and the asparagus supports. Finally I’m gradually migrating to perennial crops. I figure that by the time I’m 70 I will still be able to grow everything that Debbie and I eat, but with a much smaller surplus, in only a day a week. Of course the potential for pottering around is much greater.
One of the most time consuming activities in spring is usually watering, but this May has been showery and what a delight that’s been. Modern weather forecasting is fairly accurate, so I’ve managed all my usual outdoor activities, only got wet once and had loads of spare time for spending time with the kids/grandkids, reading, writing and swimming, because I’ve hardly had to water.
I’ve had a few things go wrong this last month. First I’ve realised that my grow light setup in the garage doesn’t get enough ventilation, so as a result I get a little algae on the compost surface. This competes with the plants and stunts their growth, so a few things are late. Second 30% of my second succession of turnips has gone to seed, but the third succession is close to ready. Finally an important planting of potatoes, which was supply baking potatoes in July, was badly nipped by frost, fortunately I’d doubled up my volumes from last year and the second bed was unaffected. All these are examples of the need to refine dates and systems.
Harvests are still going very strong. I’m now at full capacity in salads, onions, garlic, spinach, chard, turnips and brassicas. We are still only feeding ourselves luxury items like: courgettes, cucumbers, beetroot, potatoes, strawberries and carrots. We will soon hit peak production and it will be mid-August until we reach similar harvest levels.
There are many plants though that we can’t achieve year round availability of and these are almost all the legumes and fruits, so it’s really wonderful to enjoy our first harvests of courgettes, cucumbers and strawberries! The broad beans and early peas won’t be far behind.
We do have a few early tomato plants, but there’s no rush, as we long ago became comfortable with buying tomatoes (we very rarely buy peas, courgettes, strawberries and cucumbers). We have access to wonderful tasting commercial varieties, very close to the quality we can grow. Right now we are eating fantastic locally grown tomatoes, from heated greenhouses, not great for the planet but great for eating.
I’ve a new way of tracking my first harvest dates now. With a few exceptions I’m only tracking first harvests from sowings in 2021, but it’s still useful. The beauty of this new system is that it’s fully integrated with my sowing records, so I automatically get ‘sowing to harvest’ and ‘planting to harvest’ data. New firsts are at the top.
Here’s what I sowed this week:
Here’s what we planted this week.
We are now at full harvest volume, feeding everyone on our target list for this year. We have a way to go before we are growing everything they eat each week, but for dozen or so things that are available in the hungry gap, we are happy.
Here’s our harvests for the year so far, with the most recent at the top. We hit our target for last year and harvested over £12,000.
Here’s a list of the preserves for last year. We don’t have any preserves this year yet, although Debbie is certainly making a lot of stewed rhubarb for immediate use!
YouTube videos for the week can be found here: