Allotment Adventures: Review of last season

In January and February, work has and will slow down, Ma is only coming over every other week, we’re only collecting produce every other week and I won’t be near the plot for at least half of February. All of this is a long winded way of explaining why there isn’t much to write about the plot this week.

However, although doing things on the plot is slowing down, my brain isn’t. So I thought I’d write about our plans for this year and to do that I’m going to talk a bit about how last year went.

Overall it was a pretty decent year, it was extremely hot. Keeping up with the watering was difficult and I did most of it and I basically did it every other day. The plant death due to heat, included some of the camomile lawn planted in the ‘wild area’, the sweet peas, the wild garlic I bought in the spring and the viola bought at the same time, just didn’t survive.

Some things were watered but didn’t do well at all, the Jacob’s Cattle beans managed to produce about six beans, the french beans were the same, we got loads but only for a few weeks. The winter squash suffered a bit too, we got more squash than the 2021 season but they were tiny in comparison. In 2021, I took 9 squash home in a wheelbarrow, but this year I took 20 home in two buckets!  The summer squash had a weird year, we grew a crookneck and a straightneck squash, and two patty pans which did well, but the courgettes were a problem. I used one of the many packets of free seed and they were a cross with a winter squash I think, we had 4 plants and got three different shapes and colours and they ran all over the allotment, like a winter squash . They were edible and we used them but sometimes that’s how it goes, in terms of supply some weeks we were over run and some weeks we didn’t get any.

The soft fruit had an amazing year, we got decent amounts of gooseberries given that the poor plants were almost smothered with cornflowers, the blueberries really produced and we had a great crop of blackcurrants (about 4 kgs), even the strawberries and the new blackberries did alright, prompting our expansion plans this autumn! Speaking of expansion I bought myself a cherry tree and a small lemon and, a lime tree, I don’t know how they will survive the winter yet so the jury is out on that!

The garlic and onions also did well, it was dry when we picked them and having the polytunnel to dry them really helped. Last year we grew a ‘long season’ collection but we do have leek rust on the site and it really showed with the early garlic doing really well while the later garlic no so much. The onions were great too.

The potatoes started well but also suffered in the heat, but we grew so many we had good crops!

We grew more beans for drying up the arches in the winter squash beds last year and that was partially successful. The ‘lazy housewife’ did better than the gigantes, but we didn’t get the masses of beans promised, I think the heat really affected pollination too, because on the gigantes, the flowers just fell off before we got to bean stage.

The tomatoes suffered because of my watering regime, I had more tomatoes with blossom end rot this year, but more tomatoes over all. In terms of what we’ll grow again, the Amish Paste, Tigerella, Gardeners Sweetheart and Tumbling Toms are all on this years list, but I’ll talk more about that when I talk about what we’re growing next year.

The polytunnel was a huge learning experience this year. We got some early crops (including some surprise potatoes!) and I do think having the tomatoes in the poly helped when they were seedlings, it wasn’t without some hiccups, May was very warm and some of them got a bit fried when we were in Newcastle! Overall though, the tomatoes went out stronger than usual. The sweet potatoes did not do all that great in the polytunnel and it was a lot of space for not much result. But we did grow a melon, which I was very excited about!

The brassicas and leeks, haven’t faired so well this year and that’s largely down to me. I didn’t manage to grow anything from seed last year. We bought plugs and then they languished in the polytunnel, because most of the time I spent on the plot in the heat was spent keeping up with the watering and collection, so they went in late and while we’ve had crops they’ve not had a fantastic year and the leeks are still very small and thin. On the plus side we grew sprouts! So I have some learning points for next year and while I’m not over the moon about how we did, I’m still pretty pleased with it.

That’s the food side of the plot, the flowers did really well too. There were all the usual suspects, verbena, california poppies, calendula, borage, cornflowers, knautia and the bulb flowers (daffodils, narcissi, grape hyacinth, hyacinths, blubells, crocuses, irises and the alliums. The roses didn’t do so well but the peony and the bleeding hearts came back which I wasn’t convinced about. The flag irises finally blossomed too.

I had some petunias and zinnias this year too and some nasturtiums but they suffered in the heat. The lavenders did well as did the thymes and it was nice to have things for the bees through the year.

It wouldn’t be a review of the year without mentioning that I won a silver medal for the state of the plot (and I wasn’t even trying this year!)

I learnt a lot this year and it’s going to affect how we do things this year, but this post is long enough right now so I’ll waffle on about that another time!

About nicdempsey

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