Allotment Diary (June – Week 3)
I was still feeling a bit rough at the start of the week, so Debbie drove me to the allotment and we worked together on the last jobs of spring (we are running slightly late). We cleared the second early onions and planted the last of the sweetcorn and winter squash. All the beds were weeded and we switched from fleece to butterfly netting on the brassica beds. In mid July we remove the nets altogether so that we can harvest easily.
By Tuesday I was feeling back to normal though, so I turned the two compost bins and then set to, tidying the plot. A lot of dross accumulates through spring as I focus on the growing and forget the aesthetics. More important though is that the plot accumulates a lot of trip hazards that need clearing away, before the summer visitors arrive for a look around. All that clearing up and watering took me 8 hours, over two days and it’s a great feeling to be finished. All that remains now is weeding, watering and harvesting.
This year we’ve finally executed our new plan for the allotment in summer. That’s to focus on crops that need the extra protection of low and high tunnels and crops that are easy to look after; perennials, squash, winter brassicas, root crops and alliums. Everything else is at home, where they are so easy to look after.
Our garden only needs about 1/4 the effort of the allotment for the same area. It has no perennial weeds, few annual weeds, less pest pressure. It’s more compact, watering is all automatic, harvesting can be done in small quantities. The few jobs that are needed, are usually done in passing or when I have a few spare minutes to fill. I rarely have to schedule time to do serious work.
The garden couldn’t be more different to the allotment, which in many ways is a terrible place to grow food. It has horrendous deep rooted perennial weeds that are an endless chore and huge annual weed problems. The pest pressure is immense and watering very manually intensive and in limited supply. Because so much of the space needs to be protected with nets, plastic etc it is complex to manage and needs lots of maintenance. But, and it’s a big but, it lovely community space, a great place to escape to and relax and it’s VERY cheap to rent. Where we live it’s literally impossible to buy a house with a big enough garden to be self sufficient.
Our long term strategy is to retreat to the garden as we get older. Gradually transitioning the allotment to perennial crops and easy to grow ones. One day we might just garden at home and buy a few low value, space intensive veggies like winter squash, carrots and onions.
I’ve also realised that I value having lots of space in the polytunnel, more than I value the extra harvests that come from cramming it full of containers. This extra space makes working in there a joy and gives me more flexibility to respond to opportunities.
In the back garden I’ve started clearing the spinach beds that unexpectedly went to seed. That means I have nothing to re-plant in them and I really dislike having empty beds, but there’s no other option. New veggies are 2 weeks away from planting.
Finally I’ve been busy pricking out seedlings: lots of lettuce, Asian spinach, autumn and winter brassicas, chard and beetroot.
Harvest volumes are increasing again now, having taken a bit of a dip in early June. Despite trying hard to reduce the amount of veg we grow in summer and shift the focus to growing, staples and more for autumn/winter and spring, we’ve still ended up with too much. It’s amazing how quickly leafy greens grow in summer, when well watered!
So it’s been a busy gardening week, but with that last big push over we are now in gardening relaxation mode. We really only need to pop into the allotment for an hour a day each evening now. The rest of the days are our own. I’ve been out cycling and we’ve had a lovely day on the beach, celebrating Jennie’s birthday.
I’ve a new way of tracking my first harvest dates now. 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 and one lucky extra person as we have a bit of a surplus.
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. We will never harvest as much again as we have less land now, our objective has changed now.
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 and dried parsley for immediate use!
YouTube videos for the week can be found here: