I have been meaning to write an update on the allotment for a little while now. While reading the previous chapter, I am wondering how on earth I am going to adequately convey everything that has happened at the plot. It has changed almost beyond recognition, mostly due to the unseasonably warm and sunny weather we have had recently.
So, I shall just plunge in…
We now have produce in every single raised bed. We are literally squeezing in plants where we can and we still have more at home ‘hardening off’ to take to the plot. Who knows where they will end up?! However, I have found this to be half the fun. We are taking up a tray of seedlings that were destined for a particular bed and when we arrive at the plot, we end up putting them somewhere else entirely, trying to use up every inch of available soil.
As well as beds full of edible produce, we also have a few beds that are devoted to flowers, both for pollinators and for cut flowers at The Watch House. As much as I enjoy growing fresh fruit and veg, I am particularly excited about the flowers, simply for the mass of colour that we are going to enjoy. There is nothing more pleasing at the allotment, or in the garden, than a mass of colourful blooms nodding in the breeze, smothered in bees and butterflies. We have calendula, salvia, gladioli – G. ‘Shaka Zulu’, ‘Flevo Laguna’, ‘Bimbo’, ‘Sancerre’ and ‘Blackjack’, totalling around 150 plants -, cleome, helichrysum, Iceland poppies (Papaver nudicaule), cosmos, chrysanthemums, antirrhinums, cerinthe, datura, eschscholzia, Verbena bonariensis, zinnias and sunflowers: H. ‘Russian Giant’, ‘Double Dandy’, ‘Claret’ and ‘Magic Roundabout’ to name but a few.
It goes without saying that we are growing dahlias. As you can probably guess, we have dedicated a bed or four just to them. In fact, we are growing over forty different varieties on the allotment, and there will be a good number at home in both gardens too (we do love dahlias!). The majority of tuber-grown plants are already in the ground, however we recently received our order of rooted cuttings from The National Dahlia Collection in Cornwall and we are just waiting for them to harden off before planting out – hopefully this will happen at the weekend.
Another bed that excites me is the sweetcorn bed. In it we have three different varieties, ‘Double Red’, ‘Mexican Giant White’ and a standard yellow variety called ‘Incredible F1’. I am very excited about the ‘Mexican Giant White’. If they perform as they should, they will be around 12-15 ft high and their cobs will be around 2 ft long. Now that’s a mouthful!
I have underplanted the sweetcorn with ‘Turks Turban’ squash. They will happily spread themselves under the stems and hopefully give us a decent crop. I’ve also thrown in a couple of ‘Hunter F1’ butternut squash as a little experiment just to see how they perform under the corn. Time will tell and you will, of course, hear all about it.
Our biggest bed is what I refer to as the ‘tomato bed’. There are four varieties – ‘Golden Crown’, ‘San Marzano Plum’, ‘Black Opal’ and ‘Tigerella’. In total we have around 40 plants and, if they all crop well, we will have copious chutneys, sauces and salads. With the tomatoes we have planted two varieties of Cucumber to grow up the Maypoles – ‘Crystal Lemon’ and ‘Burpless Tasty Green’. In between are some climbing beans ‘Selma Zebra’, which produce unusual marbled pods.
TFG has taken it upon himself to grow enough lettuce to feed an army. Because of this, we have a number of different varieties on the plot. A couple of my favourites are ‘Forellenschluss’ and ‘Mascara’. Both have unusual, colourful leaves. We are also growing a number of oriental salad leaves. We have struggled with these as it would appear that flea beetles – aka ‘Destroyers of Crops’ – find them particularly tasty and have ravaged our youngsters. TFG bought some diatomaceous earth which appears to have seen them off, for now.
Another exciting plant is our tromboncino squash. I am very excited to see these beauties grow and develop. Tromboncino is often called a climbing courgette, although it is in fact an heirloom cultivar of the butternut squash from Liguria, Italy. They have a vining habit and can be grown up a trellis or arch, to give an exotic yet edible display. These are in the same bed as courgettes (‘Sunstripe’ and ‘Atena Polka’), Physalis ‘Goldvital’ (Cape gooseberries) and yet another crop that TFG seems to want to feed to the nation, parsley, both curly and flat-leaved types.
We are currently eating our way through the strawberry bed, treating ourselves with sweet, juicy mouthfuls on each visit to the plot. But we are not the only ones enjoying them; so is one of our dogs, Mildred. Her Ladyship has developed quite the taste for strawberries and has learnt very quickly that if she sticks her head in the bed and has a good rummage she will soon find herself a sweet snack!
Max, on the other hand, isn’t motivated by any food crop we offer him, much preferring the fun and frolics of his ball or rubber ‘piggy’. If it’s hot and sunny, he’ll be found flopping under the sage and having a good snooze in the sunshine.
There is so much more I could share with you: I haven’t mentioned our potatoes, brassicas, salad crops or beans. But I shall save that for the next chapter when I will also be able to share one or two pictures of our allotment blooms.
Happy Gardening One and All.
P.S. The Frustrated Gardener apologises for his recent absence and will be back with a new post very soon.