A proper afternoon of graft on the allotment at the weekend, which was much needed. Lots of weeding done, pulled out a sprawling mass of nasturtiums, and harvested a few bits and pieces. One sunflower stands a few inches taller than me at the moment. We also planted out leeks and celeriac for the winter.
Things are roaring away, more or less. Harvested some spuds, peas and a pile of blackcurrants. Planted some more baby sweetcorn. Sweet peas and beans are climbing up their various wigwams. It’s a lovely time of year to be there.
I realise it’s actually been a while since I’ve posted allotment photographs, so here we go. Things are in full swing. The potatoes are roaring away in the centre. Cauliflower, peas and brussels sprouts are under some fairly robust netting. The tomatoes are in the greenhouse – I think we’ve about 20 plants in all, or something stupid like that (I expect a good crop). We’ve actually got a good system where we’ve opened the greenhouse window and the door, but draped netting over it, to allow good airflow.
The only bad news is the onset of allium leaf miner. Not many books even cover this pest, as it’s relatively new to the UK, but suffice to say it has wiped out every onion on the entire allotment site. Some of the chaps are convinced it’s eelworm, as the symptoms are similar, but it isn’t – not if you crack open the onions and see the signs. What it means, though, is that from every year now we’re going to have to grow onions under horticultural fleece, which isn’t the most attractive thing.
So I’ve finally finished building all of the beds, about 14 months after we took on the plot. Here’s how it looked back then, by the way. Currently there are loads of seeds doing what seeds do, fruit bushes developing nicely, potatoes beginning to surface, and onions roaring away (well, where pheasants haven’t rooted them up out of curiousity). It’s been a much more gentle pace to the start of the growing year, so I’ve enjoyed the strike-force of robins that scour the earth for worms, the sparrow-hawk that scour the hedgerows for robins, and the field mouse that scampers along the hedgerow doing who-knows what. And the skylark song filling the air.
It’s all go now. Manure has broken down nicely into the soil. I’ve dug over a couple more beds, but the gist of it is, the ground is already much better than at this stage last year. I repaired a broken greenhouse panel, which blew down in the bad weather in February, and we’ve been potting seeds in there. Outside we’ve planted the first phase of carrots – we’re planting in phases so we don’t get gluts – and root parsley. The second photo up above is of the random corner bath, which now contains strawberries at the front and onions planted at the back.
The grassy area behind the shed is in full swing as well, with our two new trees showing life. Last year that was full of glass, which I think came from a former broken greenhouse; and bits of slate which, cleaned, have proven quite useful. This is the thing with some city allotments – it’s not a perfect world, and they’re occasionally used as dumping grounds. People move on from their plot, leaving things in a right state. It’s technically against their contract, but the council tend not to chase the matter up. This is the sad side to allotment sites in Nottingham. Whereas some of the more prestigious sites in the centre of the city get a lot of funding, ours, which lies at the periphery of the city, is rather forgotten about…
We are now, pretty much, in full swing. The grass seed, which was planted last autumn, has come up really well – giving much needed colour, as well as a sitting area for hot days. First early potatoes are now in the ground, as well as a few more onions. The manure has been dug in properly, so that should hopefully get the soil improving. It was also a tremendous afternoon to be working there. I remember this time last year, we spent most of the early months building beds and so forth. It’s been much more enjoyable in the second year.
Certainly we’re in a better position than last year. All the beds have already been built, paths marked out and so forth. But the soil was still of pretty poor quality – whoever had the plot before us never put any muck down. Which is precisely what we did today – a truckload of manure has been chucked on top of the beds, ready to be dug in when the time comes. But for now, all of that juicy poop is a shot-in-the-arm for these beds. Suffice to say my back now really, really aches…
We’re not quite, but very nearly done for the year. The weekend was spent clearing away for the winter, and preparing some of the beds for spring. We planted garlic and onions for the winter, but that’s about it. I was amazed at how, even in mid-November, this still felt like early autumn. But there was an amazing light, complemented by the faint tang of woodsmoke nearby. This is the time for burning cuttings. At this point in the year I just want to spend all my time outdoors rather than behind a computer.
I’ve not bored you all with allotment stuff for a while, but things are progressing nicely. It’s mainly weeding and harvesting at the moment – we’re almost at the end of the courgettes and onions, but the runner beans are still going, and the first wave of carrots are just waiting to be eaten. We’ve still got some potatoes waiting in the ground as well. The big patch near the greenhouse has been planted with overwintering seeds. I’ve also ordered some more onion sets for us to plant soon. I’ve got plans to make a more formal raspberry system as well, with posts and wires. Now we’ve got a good foundation, next year things can start to look a bit more professional…
Having been away for two weeks, there’s a huge amount to do on the allotment. Mainly weeding, as the weeds have pretty much taken over. We discovered several enormous marrows had erupted, along with almost a dozen patty pan squash. However, as you can see from the top photo, we’re now able to cook full meals with allotment produce, which is just great. The flavours are so intense compared to supermarket produce – and the food looks real, not freakishly symmetrical.
Having handed in the second Drakenfeld novel before I got married, I can actually enjoy the allotment now without feeling too guilty for being away from the computer.