Notes from a small allotment
By Peter Hordern
Yet another challenging year on the plot with persistent rain early in the season and a drought from the beginning of July to mid August. But at least the early rain saved us from a hosepipe ban and fewer weeds germinated! And it was very pleasant sitting under the apple tree drinking tea and eating custard creams. It’s not all hard work on the plot!
In the polytunnel I discovered another excellent tomato variety to add to Sun Gold and last year’s find which was Orange Santa. This year’s success was an almost black variety called Rosella which produces dozens of delicious sweet toms from early in the season until well into October. Try it, and the others, in a grow bag on a south facing wall but remember to keep it well watered. I hope to have some Rosella plants for sale at the Spring Plant Sale.
Early French beans were also good in the polytunnel but the mangetout were very pale and stringy – not sure what I did wrong.
Outside I grew lots of new pumpkin varieties from the Real Seed Company. I lost a few plants early on and one or two others refused to grow. I think I planted them out before the soil was warm enough – a basic error. Best variety is Queensland Blue which the cooks assure me makes delicious eating either roasted or in soup.
The runner beans were also affected by the heat. They grew well enough and even flowered but the beans would not set despite my repeatedly spraying them with water. It was only when the rain came in mid August and the weather cooled a bit that they began to set and we then got a decent crop.
My summer fruiting raspberries were OK but the dry weather meant my autumn fruiting bushes produced almost no fruit worth picking.
Last year I reported on the arrival of allium leaf miner in this country from Hungary, which burrows into leeks and destroys them. The only known cure for us mortals is enviromesh so I decided to put it to the test (see photo). So far it seems to have worked but maybe it was down to the hot spell. The leeks look a bit ‘manky’ but once you have dug them up and removed the rusty leaves they are delicious.
Of course, dahlias love the heat – as long as you keep them well watered they will thrive. My favourite variety is a waterlily named Kilburn Glow which is excellent for arrangements. In most years it produces an almost non-existent tuber but this year they look much better - must be due to the weather.
And last but not least there is no doubt that the star attraction this year on the allotments was not what we grew but the bonfire we had on November 5th. Several of us have compost heaps made from four pallets tied together. These last about five years before they rot and they all seemed to collapse and need replacing at the same time which provided a large heap of burnable material. Add thirty or so happy allotment holders, a few beers, lots of barbecued sausages and some spectacular fireworks and we had a memorable evening.k here to edit.