Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Ups And Downs At The Allotment

I'll start the post on a positive note, namely my cauliflowers. I had heard that cauliflowers can be tricky to grow. I experienced this when I lost every one of my seedlings, in fact I lost all my brassica seedlings. After doing a little research, I think I may have killed them with kindness, keeping them too warm after they had germinated. I therefore bought some plug plants and planted these at the allotment, and just look at what I came home from my holidays to find. There were actually three, but the third one had been got at by the slugs. You can see the slug damage to the outer leaves, but the heads are perfectly fine and untouched. The cabbages have so much damage to their outer leaves that they look like a very fine lace, but they are hearting up so I'll have to wait and see what the inner leaves are like. The Brussels sprouts look to be doing ok. They don't seem to have much slug damage at all, but there's no sign of any sprouts forming on the plants yet, so it remains to be seen if I actually get anything off them.

I'm having a total rethink about my allotment plans. When I took the allotment on in March of this year, I decided that I wanted to create seperate beds with a view to installing raised beds at a later date. We set about digging out each bed and left the gaps in between the beds as paths. In hindsight I think we should have dug over the whole allotment and then marked out the beds, as the grass and weeds which have been left behind in the paths are creeping back into the beds. Therefore, when I start digging over the plot in autumn I've decided to dig over the whole area and start again. I'm also rethinking the size of my beds. At the moment they are dug out into areas of about 10 foot x 4 foot, with a 2 foot path in between. There are two of these sized beds allocated to each crop i.e. potatoes, brassicas, legumes and roots. After working with these sized beds this year I find the space can be quite restricting in some areas. I'm now wondering if it would make life easier to have one bed allocated to each crop with a growing space of 10 foot x 10 foot for each. Decisions decisions. I'll let you know later in the year what I decide to do.

I mentioned in my last post that the courgette plant at home had succumbed to powdery mildew. Well, the courgette plant at the allotment is still looking healthy and greeted me with a huge courgette which had turned into marrow proportions. I've taken it from the plant but haven't used it yet as I don't know if I should treat it as a courgette as it's come from a courgette plant, or a marrow as it's grown to such a size. I'm hoping that the plant hasn't put all it's energy into growing this giant specimen at the expense of producing more courgettes. There were some more flowers on the plant, but only male ones. Another waiting game to see what happens.

I'm not very happy with my sweetcorn. I grew it in containers last year and the year before, and they were wonderful, but this year I have tried a different variety, Swift, and they're so small. I had great germination, and the plants now have their male flowers and some have got cobs developing, but they haven't put on much growth in height at all. If I get one cob from each plant I'll be very lucky.

One of my favourite vegetables is parsnip. I have read other blogs where people are pulling their parsnips up already, so I thought I would give it a go myself. I wasn't holding out much hope for my root crops this year as the ground hasn't been worked, and it seems very stoney. The one parsnip which I pulled up was still quite small, but it was perfectly formed. I shall leave the rest of them to grow bigger and just hope that as they do, they don't fork.

Good news on the potato front. In a previous post I mentioned that alot of the larger potatoes which I had dug up had lots of holes in them caused by keel slugs. I had left some plants in the ground and was hoping to dig them up before we went away. I never got round to doing this, so they were lifted this weekend. These plants had no damage at all, but were a different variety from the ones lifted earlier. The slugs seemed to like Kestrel, but left the Charlotte alone. Definitely something to remember for next year.

Broad beans are a plant which many people sow very early in the year, or they even start them off at the back end of the year hoping to get an even earlier crop the following spring. My broad beans were sown into toilet roll inners at the back end of May, and once germinated were planted at the allotment. I only planted four plants, just really to see if I would get a crop later in the year. The beans were ready at the weekend. I didn't get a huge amount off four plants, enough for one meal, but the plants didn't suffer from any blackfly which alot of broad bean plants do. I don't know if this was because they were planted later in the year, because I companion planted with French Marigolds, or just down to good luck.

My runner bean plants have started to produce very small beans, and there's lots of them. They just need to put on a little growth now and then I'll be looking for runner bean recipes.


  1. I thought parsnips were best tasting when left until after the frost?

  2. sounds like your doing well...your cauli's are fab. all of mine were blown which also happened last year so i may give up on this one!!

    I hope you get plenty more courgettes and I'm sure you'll have a bumper crops of runners very soon..I have been pulling mine for over a month now and have them salted, frozen and even made into chutney!!

  3. I've also decided that I need to dig over all the ground in the veg patch in the hope that it makes keeping weeds down a bit easier. But I'm not convinced it'll do any good. How are you going to lay your paths? I've got a neighbour who went all out to dig paths, line them with polythene then sand then gravel. It's worked well but the effort and the cost!

  4. Your ups are really great and your downs aren't so bad. Your caulis are fab, well done.

  5. Jo, your efforts at the allotment are really paying off, much more ups than downs I would say. I get so much veggie nspiration from your casually informative blog. Thank you!

  6. Growing veggies, is quite an exact science. Each veggie requires specific conditions to germinate and thrive. When I lost most of the sunflower seeds, I know, I am still far off at knowing and understanding them.

  7. Great caulis - I'm jealous!

  8. Ann, you're right. If parsnips are left in the ground until winter, the frost will turn the starch into sugars and they will taste sweeter. I only dug one up out of curiosity. I never did have alot of patience.

    One of my allotment neighbours' cauliflowers have blown too, Tanya. One of the reasons for this is if the ground which they're growing in isn't firm enough. I made sure that I carefully trod around the stems of my brassicas to make sure there wasn't any loose soil. Perhaps this helped.

    Your neighbour's paths sound great, Simon, and I would love to do the same, but as you say, the cost! If only I could source some free bark chippings. I had thought about asking the council, but I think they use theirs themselves. Failing this, I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet.

    Thanks Kella. I'm pleased with my caulis, but still feel as though I cheated really as they weren't grown from seed. I bought the plants as plugs after my own attempt at growing from seed failed.

    Thank you for your lovely compliment, Jeanne. I do love to get positive feedback.

    You're so right, Bangchik. My knowledge is growing slowly, but there's always so much more to learn.

    I'm sure your caulis will be fabulous next year, Allot Of Veg, after all that firming of the soil done by your son. Perfect ground for brassicas.


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