Bed 8: 4 August 2021

To the allotment this morning, with a couple of crates to bring the onions home (much better in my opinion than a certain world cup). The brassicas are doing well, though each of the four ‘Golden Acre’ cabbages I planted had grown very tall (supposed to harvest between June and October) and the edges of the outer leaves appeared to have been nibbled – but by what? Too even for slugs and snails, and rabbits can’t get in (unless a couple of them lift the cage up while another slips in to feast. Perhaps they take turns). It didn’t stop me harvesting one! I also appear to have several tomato plants growing here. Not planted by me! Either someone spilt seed (unlikely) or there were tomato seeds in the food waste I buried to enrich the soil. I will leave them to see what happens.

Most of the onions had grown to a decent size, just a few tiddlers, though several more had developed thick flower stems, easy enough to snap off and put on the compost heap. Apparently, onions bolt due to cold or hot weather – so these had no chance this spring and summer as we fluctuated from one to the other and back – with no chance to “keep their growing conditions constant” as suggested by TV gardener, David Domoney.

At least the carrot seeds I sowed last time have grown, though not by very much (which is more than they have at home), so onions and carrots will be grown again in 2022 (moving along from Bed 2 to Bed 3).

The potatoes have put on plenty of growth, though not yet yellowing and falling over. I did try to harvest one of the Red Duke of York plants and found a few potatoes, but nowhere near the size of the one I harvested at home from a bag (there are more, hopefully).

The problem with missing most of 2020 at the allotment was that I didn’t have chance to check the condition of the soil. I knew that it was pretty claggy when the beds were filled with topsoil (which is why I immediately sowed Red Clover seed, though I didn’t have chance to dig-it in before it flowered). Today, trying to dig potatoes out, first with a hand-fork and trowel, and then with a garden fork was like trying to dig through concrete with a spoon. And the weeds! Creeping buttercup, hairy bittercress, speedwell, to name a few. Persicaria, nettles, and a few things removed that might have been parsnips – oops!

The only way that I can see of making sure to get all the potatoes out, will be to remove all the soil from that third of the bed and put it in a dumpy bag (one of those large sacks beloved by builder’s merchants to deliver sand and gravel). We’ll be taking the pick-axe as well as spade, shovel and fork.

With the soil out of the bed, it will be easier to add home-made compost, cardboard, grass cuttings (I might advertise for those), and anything else that will improve the texture and drainage of this awful sticky clay. I can already see that digging the compost trenches/cat holes in Bed 1 a couple of months ago has helped condition that end – better, but not perfect.

I won’t be adding well-rotted manure as onions and carrots don’t like it. Neither will I be growing potatoes in the bed. A few allotmenteers have placed growing bags at the end of their beds and are growing potatoes there. I expect they had the same issues last year as I am having this, but it would have been nice if they’d actually shared information as I wouldn’t have planted my potatoes here. After the potato bed is dug out, potatoes (if any) harvested, and composting layers made, I will have to do the same with the middle section (Bed 2) which will become next year’s brassica bed. This will leave Bed 1 (currently brassicas and parsnips) free for other things.

As I am only going to grow dwarf and bush tomatoes only next year, I could put a few in this bed, along with mediterranean herbs. One thing about the allotment site is that it receives full sun most of the day, unlike my raised beds at home. I could also try dwarf peas – I have a packet of ‘Tom Thumb’ which only grow to eight inches tall and don’t need support. A couple of rows down the centre of Bed 1 with tomato plants either side should work, but would mean visiting the allotment more than once a month!

I might try – for the last time – radish, beetroot and nasturtiums, sowing seeds between other plants.

Harvest Home

I did harvest, accidentally, a couple of carrots but they were tiny and the roots were twisted and bent. It will be a few weeks before we attempt to harvest the potatoes!

A look around the site. Note the size of the cabbages in Bed 6. And our heritage orchard is doing well, though no-one is inclined to knock off the fruit (as we were told we must). It doesn’t look much but that bank is 3 metres high and quite steep, and I’m not good on steep slopes, so I won’t be doing it either.

Park in the Past Update

Work is still ongoing as it was held up by the rains in May and June. They have got nearly all the earth moved in and moulded into a landscape. There are standing stones in place and some trees have gone in too. But with more bad weather at the start of August, opening day is delayed once more.