Allotment Adventures: A Tidy Up

I love to read Allan Jenkins’ Sunday column in the Observer about his allotment. This week, in one of the comments, someone talks about this time of year and the garden’s descent into chaos. While the plot isn’t actually in chaos, just yet, July and August are busy times. If May is the ‘plant all the things’ month, July and August are the months where often you have to choose between watering, harvesting and weeding and come to the conclusion that there is no time for all of it. We are almost at that stage on the plot and have the added task of keeping Joe’s quarter plot tidy (the rest of his plot is behind some loganberries and it feels intrusive to weed there, but we have permission for the other bit!)

When I first got the plot, I knew that I was going to garden in beds and I knew that I wasn’t going to dig the entire plot over every year. I’m not fit enough and even if I was I don’t have the time. So I accidently became no dig, Joe is an old fashioned gardener who digs his plot over every year which works for him but the weeds are immense compared to our plot.  That’s not to say we don’t have weeds, but we have them mostly in the paths.Some annual weeds come up in the beds but they are easily dealt with and the only real problem we’ve had has been with the old raspberries, which have been sprouting up everywhere, paths and beds. However, we’ve been diligently pulling them up and for the moment, they’ve stopped although I don’t think we’ve seen the last of them. We do have a bit of a patchwork situation with regards to the weed fabric the wood chip covers up, I wouldn’t do it again but under the wood chip paths, we have some biodegradable weed fabric, some plastic weed fabric and some bare earth. Which means we have different types of weeds on the paths depending what’s underneath them. Over the black plastic the wood chip breaks down into a great growing medium, so we get lots of annual weeds and the occasional self-seeded squash (yes I am going to leave it and see what it does!). In the other areas as the woodchip layer decomposes, we have both annual weeds that are harder to remove and the perennial nasties like bindweed.Our method for both types is the same. Pull them out put more wood chip down. Fortunately, there had been two wood chip deliveries in the past couple of weeks and a downpour on Friday. So first job on Friday night was to clear Joe’s space, which includes the courgette corridor. There is a big area of unplanted soil which we cleared of weeds so I’m going to ask Joe if I can plant the bunch (40) of cabbages, calabrese and cauliflowers that came with my kale, I don’t have room for them and don’t like seeing empty space, it also gives me reason for keeping up with the weeds at that end under control and Joe likes cabbages and cauliflowers so it’s a win/win.On Saturday we did a lot of work on our plot. Harvesting, obvs. Out total courgette count is at 36, (since the 3rd July) and one crookneck but this does include the pick I did while watering on Tuesday. The yellow ones are currently doing better than the green ones and some of the fruits developing aren’t germinating or are and then dying off, which on absolutely no evidence, I’m blaming the bitey ants…We only have a couple of more weeks of beetroot yet and we’re not going to get around to a second sowing this year because there’s no room! There is currently lots of lettuce but again I need to sow some more because in the mini heat wave we’re having this week, I think it’s going to bolt!

Although they aren’t nearly ready, we have tomatoes, which makes me so happy!We also have calendula floweringWe’re a couple of weeks away from french beans, the autumn raspberries are beginning to set fruit and I took the first plums yesterday, I forgot to put a grease band around the tree in spring (again) and we’re in an off year for the tree but there are certainly enough for plum gin. The squashes are all doing well, the butternuts are way behind and just starting to flower but the Georgia candy roaster, the ukichi kuri and the burgess butternut have all set some fruit and by some I mean we have about 20 squash, so it’s all good. We’ve hit the time of year where spring and early summer veg has slowed down but we’re a bit away from all the late summer harvests, which is fine.Then we weeded and woodchipped most of the plot. We didn’t get to all of it, I went back on Sunday morning and did a bit more but still didn’t get it all done but I did get all the fruit beds (raspberries, blackcurrant and boysenberry) and reserved some for the gooseberries too. If there is more there at the weekend, I’ll finish it off.Other than weeding, I got all the kale planted out. We have 10 cavolo nero, plants and 5 curly kale plants (the only ones that survived my neglect in the spring!) While I was doing that Ma sowed the borlotti beans in the three sisters bed, yes it’s late but that does seem to be the theme of my years.I also picked some flowers which made me really happy, although I think the time for sweet peas to come up has come, there were bugs all over them, some greenfly and some pollen beetles. I love sweetpeas but I’m pretty ruthless about them, we took one set down already and it’s time to take down the others. Ma also sowed some dill in amongst the baby cukes (this is dill that we allowed to go to seed last year – one of the few places I managed to save seed!).

So to future planning.

The big task for next week is the shed, which has become Mum’s domain and is very messy and not my fault, I’m not allowed in there! We’re at that stage when everything has to be taken out, it has to be cleaned and then we need to put things back in so we can reach them. Some friends are gifting me a set of shelves they don’t want and I’m going to pick them up before the weekend, which I’m hopeful will help.I need to find homes for the leeks, the ammi visnaga, the brassicas which I’m hoping we can put in on Joe’s empty space. I also need to take out the sweet peas and pull out the spinach that hasn’t grown enough to harvest any. I want to sow some fennel there and see if it does any better. I also need to get to sowing the chard (really, really need to do it now). I’d like to finish with the wood chip if we can.

Tasks not for this week but in the next month are finding a spot for autumn/winter lettuces that can sit under a cloche when it gets cold. And thinking about any other autumn/winter planting. We were very lucky that we had some extra space from Joe this year as we have too much we, ok I, wanted to grow, even though we had extra space, so I’ll have to give that due consideration for planning over winter!

About nicdempsey

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