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.

The plot is nearly re-planted

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.

One of several new structures, this is a permanent pea/bean frame

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.

Plenty of time for hiking now

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.

Swimming and teaching swimming is now a daily activity again

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.

Salad beds are now in full production

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.

Harvests are close to their peak

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.

Salad mixes are a delight, especially with the addition of cucumbers and carrots for extra crunch

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.

Every morning means a dozen strawberries for breakfast, great motivation to visit the plot

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:

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

6 Responses

  1. It’s interesting to hear that the summer crops require less attention with less watering, pests etc. For most of us in Southern California, it’s just the opposite. Winter gardens plug along, requiring less light, water, weeding etc. What a nice pea/bean structure. Your salad bed is a work of art. I always try to time and place the lettuce varieties for a rich palette of colors and textures.

  2. Hi Sue, it’s the spring crops that are most difficult to manage. The beds still have their covers on, so they need a lot of water and they are close to the ground (spinach, salads, turnips, radish etc) so they get more slugs and are hard to weed/harvest. There are also a lot of them, say 25/m2 with an additional 15-20 interplants. Compare that to tomatoes and peppers, with 6 plants/m2, easier to water and harvest, easier to weed and less slugs etc. Even salads are easier to manage in summer, I water with the sprinkler and harvesting is easier because I can pick more leaves off each plant/week : All the best – Steve

  3. I’m with Sue – your salad bed is lovely! Your Navara is much more red than mine, and it looks like Smile next to it which I am trialing this year.

  4. Thanks Dave, it helps that we eat a lot of salad, so I need big beds and they do look nice. I’ve noticed a few times that my Navara seems very red by comparison to others, not sure why, maybe just the specific supplier, or maybe the rich soil I grow in. Yes it is smile, quite a nice crunchy rib, not much taste.

  5. Anna Bengtsson says:

    Hi. I am planning to build a conservatory. I live south of Paris and have a similar winter climate as you, around 0-5 degrees, some frost nights. I like to extend my season and I now you like numbers. Do you know how much it costs to heat it up, around 12 degrees for five months?

  6. Hi Anna, as it happens you are in luck. My conservatory heater is on a smart plug that tracks electricity usage. I have it set at 11c and it’s only on at night, I only put it on in March the average was 2kwh, so about 30p a night

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: