Allotment Diary (August – Week 3)
Although the weather is predicted to improve next week, summer definitely seems to have finished here. The outdoor summer plantings are definitely feeling it too. The high winds have battered the climbing beans, the constant damp has stimulated an explosion of snails and slugs, the outdoor tomatoes are showing signs of rotting and the purslane has given up.
This is perfect timing for me. I don’t like to rip up summer plants that are full of vigour to plant for winter, but I love getting rid of them when they are in obvious decline. It’s great to see old summer plants, replaced with new life, holding the promise of months of glorious harvests ahead.
Seed sowing and planting has all of my gardening attention now, but it’s not occupying much time. This week most of my time went on decorating and hiking. The decorating was well overdue and I was pleased to finally get around to it because it was a complicated task that had a lot of physical challenges associated with it. The hiking was – as always – glorious.
On the gardening front I was pleased to see 95% of my seedlings all germinated and growing well and since I will be sowing mainly second successions (from the same seed packets) next month I’m confident that I won’t have many failures. I always breathe a sigh of relief when I get to this position as there’s now no time to re-sow several of them.
It’s also great to have my conservatory grow room full of life again! My autumn cucumbers are ready for transplanting into their troughs next week.
On the allotment I cleared the last of our shallots and re-planted with lettuce. This year, having so much less space, we interplanted almost all of our shallots into the beetroot and parsnip beds and we ended up with more than we grew last year!
I might have mentioned this last week but I’m working trying to avoid the huge autumn glut this year, by staggering my sowings more. Take spinach for example:
- I start spinach successions outdoors, where it will be productive until November, when I replace it with field beans
- I plant my first under cover succession (sown mid August) in early September, this will reach peak production in late-October just as the outdoor plants are pulled
- The next, October planted, succession should reach their winter peak production in December just as the earlier one starts to slow down
- Finally the late succession won’t be harvested at all this year, but will come ready in February when harvests from the earlier plants are at their minimum.
- As we head into spring the plants won’t all run to seed at the same time, rather harvests will fade away over a 2-3 week period, matching the increasing harvest rates from the new season planting.
That’s the theory anyway. I’m following a similar strategy for lettuces, brassicas, carrots, bunching onions etc. It’s a more complicated way to grow, but once the timings are worked out, not only does it smooth out the harvest volumes, but it also smooths out my workload. I should note that this approach really only works because I grow a lot under cover.
Harvest’s are still strong, we have a lot of sweetcorn now, along with peppers, squash and beans, but the beans will soon slow down a lot, just as the tomatoes will soon reach their peak.
I’ve also done a test harvest of our potatoes. We grow three different varieties, a salad potato, a general purpose and one specifically for baking/jacket. We have enough to harvest one tub a week now until our January started plants come ready in May. In reality that means we harvest 3 tubs, every 3 weeks, to give us the right mix. Here’s the first harvest:
I refilled the potato tubs and planted them with baby leeks, which we will harvest and use in place of bunching onions in mid autumn, in late autumn we will will plant garlic, to be harvested green, in their place.
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:
Harvests are actually a bit low right now as we race to clear beds for autumn, winter and spring crops, but we have plenty for ourselves and the family. Our friends won’t go hungry though as they do have some excellent supermarkets to fall back on.
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 the year. Debbie is now busy making lots of preserves.
YouTube videos for the week can be found here: