© Our Plot on Green Lane Allotments -
Archive for previous years' diaries dating from 2007 can be accessed by clicking here
October was heralded by fierce winds that have either stripped most leaves from bushes and fruit trees or reduced them to tatters. The large felty leaves of the kiwi are now brown and shrivelled and the banana plants in the garden are completely tattered and sorry looking.
One positive is that the strong winds have at least kept any signs of frost at bay. Strawberry plants are still producing flower and a steady supply of fresh fruit from both large and alpine strawberry plants. The netting which was removed from the plants whilst I weeded the beds and cut back the old leaves was never put back in place but it seems that the birds have lost interest and have left the berries untouched. The dry weather has also reduced any slug damage. A top tip that I read somewhere was to resist removing any slug damaged berries as the slugs will go back to these during their nightly visits and leave other fruits alone. Amazingly this has worked – I guess they follow the previous night’s trail and if the source of their snack has been removed go on to look for another berry. The first frost will blacken the centres of the flowers and curtail any chance of fresh strawberries until next June.
Spent crops are gradually being cleared and beds tidied but it is still too dry to dig over the soil. Some beds are still active, housing autumn and winter crops so gale force winds which have a desiccating effect and a serious lack of rain mean that the watering can is still in the thick of the action.
The remaining border in the plot greenhouse has been cleared. All the tomato plants have been removed but the cucumber plants which are still producing fruits have been allowed to remain. A couple of troughs have been planted up with garlic, Solent White and Solent Purple. A bulb of the white variety that was grown last year has been split and planted. The chrysanthemums which were moved in last week are now beginning to supply cut flowers.
All the squashes and pumpkins have been gathered in and are now being hardened off in the garden greenhouse. Not only was there the danger that frosts could turn them to mush but last year at this time vandals stole all the pumpkins and squash growing on site and used them as footballs. The lack of cover at this time of year means that they stand out like a sore thumb and obviously proved too tempting.
You can’t beat eating an apple freshly picked from the tree. Golden Delicious really lives up to its name when enjoyed this way. This week, however, we removed all the remaining apples from the trees so no more mid afternoon ultra fresh treats.
The burner has been put to good use this week. Old bushes that were removed last week have now been burned. We also removed a very overgrown patch of lavender which was also burned. Disappointingly this didn’t produce the lovely Provencal aroma of distilled lavender that I had hoped for!
Harvested this week:
At this time of year weather conditions and the slackening of pressure to keep on top of things means visits to the plot are by no means as regular. It is also a time when changes and improvements are planned for both the plot and the garden. As usual we are full of plans, whether they will all be achieved is another story.
We doubled last year’s crop of medlars this week. It sounds very dramatic but in fact we picked ten fruits from the tree in our garden as opposed to just five last year. As a fruit had jumped off the tree I guessed it was time to pick the rest. This year the fruits are noticeably larger. The tree was planted only a relatively short time ago and, although we have only managed a tiny crop, so far every flower has produced a fruit. The fruits now have to be bletted before we can taste them and so have been set aside on kitchen roll paper. To read more about our attempts to grow medlars click here
In the garden, tidying the area behind our greenhouse where the cold-
On the plot clearing up and digging continues. The bed that was cleared of old blackcurrant bushes has been dug. This area hadn’t been dug for years and as a result the soil was very compacted making it very hard going but I did my bit by offering lots of encouragement. Due to the condition of the soil, digging has produced large solid clumps of earth that we hope will be worked upon by winter frost and rain into a consistency fit for planting.
A couple of rows of Belle de Fontenay potatoes had been left in the ground. There was no hurry to dig them. Most Belle de Fontenay tubers that had already been dug having been very badly affected by blight had been destroyed. It was therefore, a surprise to find that although some tubers had been blighted, there were also many that were seemingly unaffected.
We usually plant a variety of seed potatoes as an insurance policy. At least one variety will crop well in the prevailing conditions meaning that we usually obtain a decent crop. This year the Sarpo Mira potatoes were definitely the stars of the show producing approximately double the yield of the other varieties. All other varieties produced similar results. Although our records imply that Nicola has fared the worst this is deceptive the mixed bed contained a large proportion of Nicola tubers.
The potato harvest has been very successful so we will be able to keep friends and family supplied. It’s either that or open a fish and chip shop!
Harvested this week:
Last week we dug the last of our potatoes and this week we have been browsing seed potato suppliers trying to decide which varieties to plant next year. There always seems to be so much to take into consideration. Suppliers are obviously going to present the seed potatoes that they sell in the best light so a website such as The British Potato Variety Database can be a good source of information.
Pruning a blackberry is never a task for the faint-
Our plot neighbours talked us into growing some mushrooms this year – not the common
variety that grows quickly and prolifically but something that presents more of a
In the cold allotment greenhouse shoots are emerging in troughs planted with garlic.
Outside on the plot winter onions are also producing shoots. These were hiding amongst
weeds that were carefully removed. Weeding and clearing continues, including the
removal of the pathetic plants that had no intention of providing us with any sprouts
and were serving as a home for thousands of whitefly -
Most of the weeds accumulated during the year are piled on a separate compost heap which is now being cleared. Dried weed roots and tops are being burned along with the blackberry debris but some good compost has been produced. As this is likely to be full of weed seeds it is being used to level paths. Once spread it was seeded with grass seed. As the paths are continually mowed the weeds that germinate are not the problem they would be if the compost was used in the beds.
There have been some adjustments made to the layout of the plot, including the setting out of a new path to facilitate access to enable us to keep our rampant kiwi plants under stricter control, so measurements have been taken and plans redrawn using the Growveg system.
Harvesting is winding down now although we have plenty in storage to see us over the lean months. All chillies from a plant in the garden greenhouse were gathered. They looked wonderful and were supposedly mild so I decided to deseed them and prepare for freezing. Halfway through the task my hands began to sting and so I washed them thoroughly and pulled on rubber gloves to complete the task. Gradually a burning sensation increasing in intensity that could only be eased by plunging them in cold water was experienced. For two whole days the burning sensation kept reoccurring and so the chillies were consigned to the dustbin. No more growing chillies for us!
Harvested this week:
Inactivity on the plot has been made up for elsewhere this week.
At the beginning of the week our car became a hedgehog ambulance. Our September diary
featured a video of two baby hedgehogs spotted in our garden. As these were obviously
late babies I have been keeping a watch for them. I was worried that they wouldn’t
make the weight needed for successful hibernation. Any hedgehog weighing under 600g
when going into hibernation is at risk of not surviving the process. At midday on
Monday of this week we spotted a small hedgehog eating food put out for the birds.
Hedgehogs feeding during the day are often in trouble -
Winter can be a time when gardeners can be at a loose end and so my husband has decided to take up another hobby – weather recording. He purchased and fixed up all the necessary kit in our garden. Then waited for some ‘weather’ to test his installation. All seems to be working and so our future diary entries will hopefully include weather reports!
On the plot and in the garden we have continued the big tidy-
Whitefly are everywhere and are constantly being disturbed by our activities. This year they have arrived fairly late but seem to have reached plague proportions. Clouds of them rise into the air as soon any growing thing is touched. I suppose what we need are a few keen frosts to deal with them.
Our parnsips also need a little help from frost to enhance their flavour. We couldn’t wait to find out if there was any root beneath the soil or whether they would turn out to be top heavy so we dug a couple this week. We were happy with the size but the flavour was rather bland. They need to be frosted so that most of the starch is turned to sugars but at least we now know we have something to look forward to.
Mild weather is helping the winter onions to grow although there is no sign of the spring onions that were sown along with winter lettuce and radish. For some reason we haven’t had much success with spring onions this year most have just failed to geminate.
In the plot greenhouse most of the garlic cloves are now shooting.
Chrysanthemum plants are also producing very welcome cut flowers for the house.
We can now be compared to squirrels in that most of our fruit and vegetables are being taken from storage rather than fresh from the plot although we are still managing some fresh harvesting.
Harvested this week: