2021 has been another year where the allotment has been a wonderful retreat from the stresses and strains of modern life as well as from Covid, despite the fact that it was probably the most challenging growing year I can remember, mostly due to slugs.
The damp summer brought us tomato blight as early as July when it normally doesn’t arrive until September. I understand that the reason you get less blight under cover is because the plants themselves do not get wet so the blight spores do not take hold. I used to spray my tomato plants regularly with water thinking they would like it but not any more.
My runner bean geodesic dome nearly fell at the first fence because the Council deemed it an illegal structure. I had to apply for retrospective permission along with someone who had built a vine arbour. Fortunately retrospective permission was granted to both of us. Phew! The dome proved a great success with a massive crop which carried on well past most other bean structures. I had visions of hundreds of beans hanging down inside and, although there were some, most insisted on growing on the outside. It certainly attracted a lot of interest at the garden walkabout.
Yellow rattle seeds doing well
The wild flower plot continues to flourish and the all important yellow rattle is spreading well. I even managed to collect some seeds which I will broadcast. I sowed the front section with wild flower seed and it produced a very colourful display.
The necessary banning of metaldehyde as slug bait has made life very difficult for young plants and gardeners alike. There is no doubt that hedgehogs and other wildlife do suffer when they eat slugs that have eaten this chemical. I have tried numerous methods but none are very successful but have yet to try nematodes which are a bit of a faff but they are reported to be good. The new slug bait based on Ferric Phosphate seems pretty ineffective.
I am growing my young plants bigger before I plant them out and this seems to help. I also have put out some strips of heavy duty plastic weighed down with a piece of wood. The slugs hide in here during the day so you just turn them over and dispose of said slugs humanely.
Massive crop from the flimsiest plants
The poor amount of sunshine did affect some crops notably the sweet corn which thrives on sun. We still got enough to eat but please can we have more sunshine next year? Carrots, leeks, potatoes, raspberries, and courgettes were all good as were the climbing French beans which seem to grow a massive crop from the flimsiest of plants. I think that these are the best producing plants of all and if you only grow one thing it should be these.
The early potatoes were grown under mypex, the reusable plastic material that lets water through. I made holes at regular intervals with a blowlamp and planted the spuds through the holes. They duly came up through said holes and the plants needed no earthing up, no weeding and almost no watering and the resultant crop was very satisfactory. We were still eating them in October.
And one last tip – a friend gave me a tomatocalled Apero which produces a great crop of deep red, small oval fruits that don’t split and I can heartily recommend it.