Despite having not bought a vegetable since late spring, I still feel like we haven't made the best of the plot this year and as I've said before, I think it's lack of planning - or lack of manure!
However, the dried bean harvest is the best we've had for 3 years - the past two years have been too wet.
I have enough beautiful flageolet beans and borlotti beans for stews all winter long.
The Sweetcorn crop has been dissapointing ... although it LOOKS ready, the cobs inside are barely formed. I'm putting this down to poor soil.
My fennel didn't bulb up. It ran to seed quite soon. I have very large flat bulbs which smell delicious but are very woody inside.
The squash patch is doing well, I have big butternuts coming
.... and a few little pumpkins which I stuff and roast.
My winter brassicas ... booooo hooooooo! Look at them! Despite protecting them with butterfly net as soon as they were planted, they have been utterly savaged by the cabbage white caterpillars. The butterflies still got in, and their offspring seem very happy in their number! Next year I will use envirofleece as it seems the best solution. It's more expensive, but in the long run, better all round. It also stops those clouds of little white flys which float up as soon as you so much as look at a cabbage leaf! Next door have taken to more "chemical" methods of caterpillar control. It breaks my heart to see all that poisonous squirting. It's so unnecessary. Do people not have a care?
We also harvested the last of the Broad Beans - I have a freezer full, enough for the whole winter. Maincrop potatoes have done well - also enough for the winter and spring. As for the beetroot - even though the mice took a good 70% helping of the crop, I still have more than I can cope with quickly!!
So between potting, pickling and processing of all this bounty, we are writing lists and more lists. Budgeting to buy something each month so that we are not overwhelmed with expense as things come up next year. It's not that we need much, and it's not that alot should be spent on allotmenteering, but things like wide swathes of envirofleece are expensive to buy when there are other things which might crop up too (haha pardon the pun!).
After our holiday the allotment was looking rather overgrown. It's very disheartening to find fields of weeds on previously perfect plots, and enough grass to provide a hearty meal for a field of sheep! But an hour or two of tidying makes everything seem plausible again.
Although our harvest this year isn't too bad, I can't help feeling that we have to change a few things for next year, and plan better. In previous years, when i've planned plot by plot well in advance, we have had better yeilds and more variety. This year, I think I put too much into my broad beans and not enough into everything else! I have enough broad beans for the whole of winter safely residing in my freezer!
Add to that, the mouse problem and I think I need a bigger greenhouse, or a potting shed at the allotment because it's impossible to plant certain seeds directly into the beds without 24 hour security in situ!
The crops so far this year
The first Butternuts are setting..
One of the raddiccios bolted quickly and made a show of some beautiful flowers, I haven't got the heart to cut them down yet!
There is a fennel forest. Not very happy with the fennel. Although I followed all the instructions to the letter, and earthed them up regularly, the bulbs are flat instead of round, quite bland in flavour and seem to have bolted without me noticing! Dissapointing, so I will try a different variety next year.
The first sowing of greyhound cabbages are all but finished, but red cabbages are coming on nicely. I have decided that this 'envirofleece' is the best protection against those pesky (but nonetheless beautiful) cabbage white butterflies. I have 'butterfly netting' on the rest of my brassicas, but somehow, it is not an adequate deterent, and those clouds of tiny white flies are also far too apparent in them!
However, when it comes to the taller brassica's like sprouts and brocolli, the envirofleece just isn't big enough. Here we have the first brussels ... these are the best of quite a measly crop.
We have two apple trees in the allotment and although the apples LOOK ready, they are not. Still bitter, so a bit more 'cooking' required.
Drying beans Borlotti are coming along nicely and are such lovely colours!
Of the 4 artichoke plants I put in a few weeks ago, two of them are looking very healthy indeed. The third is still a little puny and the fourth seems a little dead ... but I gave it a little TLC - it might come back. Otherwise, I will plant a Jerusalem Artichoke in its place.
There are sweetcorns and carrots yet to harvest, along with all the maincrop potatoes, beetroots, raspberries and blackberries.
At this time of year, there is still time to plant a few things. Strawberries, parsley, Japanese onions, new potatoes (for xmas), various salad crops, turnips, and spinach.
I've been looking at the other allotments on site, and will blog about them next time.
I have noticed that our plants this year aren't quite as vigorous as usual. This is because we didn't dig manure into the ground last autumn and we ran out of chicken poo pellets early in the season and never quite got round to replenishing the stock. So our plants have suffered. We wont make the same mistake again. There are piles of manure available around the field so we have nabbed some and will make sure that every bed which is vacated will get a liberal dose before being dug over ready for spring.
However .. roots and brassicas prefer compost!
I've discovered this year that when the beds are planned a year in advance, crops turn out better. This year I have been rather haphazzard with my planting and it shows with haphazzard crops! We have hardly had any peas, and no carrots. My sweetcorn I think was planted too late, and what with the lack of 'food' in the soil, they are not doing well at all.
That said ..
We have picked our entire broad bean patch.
We got a lorralorraLORRA peeling to do! These will all be de-shelled and immediately frozen. No blanching.
And we have the best cabbages we've ever had ..
Even though some have exploded! This is due to heavy rain causing a very fast growth spurt - I think! Still plenty left in various stages of growth, and more planted for over wintering.
The cabbages are ready to harvest. Greyhounds, sweet and delicious.
And a few iceberg lettuces. Crunch and tasty.
Sprouting brocolli sprouting, Brussels Sprouts sprouting, and more brassica's planted, brocolli, sprouting brocolli, grehounds, Kohl Rabi. All netted over with 'butterfly net' which is cheaper by far than 'envirofleece' and easier to deal with. I could have sworn I planted cauliflower but it doesn't seem to have materialised...
Fennel bulbs are bulbous and now earthed up. This has to be done every few weeks. The thinnings make a delicious addition to salad already. I think it's still ok to plant some more.
Sweetcorn planted in blocks of two to aid wind pollination.
All sorts of climbing bean, mainly for drying. You just leave them on the plant and the sun does all the hard work. When they are nice and dry, around September, de-pod, store, and add to winter casseroles.
The mice are still at large, and multiplying. This is what they did to the peas. Burrowed underneath them and nibbled the roots. Grrrr... I have decided that the best way to deal with mice is to note the location of the burrows and runs and avoid them. Mice, like rats, rarely change course.
They ate all my carrots.
It's officially an offical hot and dry summer. How do I know? My onions rotted. This only happens in hot dry summers. I can't plant onions in this bed now for 8 years apparently! So I planted artichokes instead. Lots of space between them for another short term crop. Perhaps some salad or herbs.
The first courgette. I am prepared for the onslaught with lots of recipies and soup freezing bags. Courgette and basil soup is particularly nice.
We have succumbed to the temptation of rotovation ... somebody loaned us this one because the ground was like cement having been covered up with polythene since last summer. Not a weed in sight, so we thought it would be safe. It did a smashing job. And FAST. So now we have a bed for winter veg which will be ready to plant probably by next week. We have got a rotovator. It is somewhere on the field after somebody offered to mend it, but never returned it. I expect it'll turn up when we look for it.
I have changed my mind and now think that this is an essential tool for busy people!
It looks like rain ... but it did yesterday, and the day before, and so far, nothing..