Monday, 27 June 2016

Late June allotment with photographs.

The allotment has been visited by several sets of people recently.  One Australian was keen to see British vegetable gardens. His comment after touring the allotment was that now he did not need to see any more.  A very kind comment especially as I regard this to be one of the worst years for growing since I started 60 odd years ago.  Also, I do not see the allotment as anything special.  Over the years I have seen many kitchen gardens that were much better than my allotment.  The loss of people's ability to grow and cook their own food is tragic but the interest in growing and visiting vegetable gardens is never higher.  The allotment shows people what can be done with relatively little effort. 

Several of my friends from the RHS courses visited the allotment and said they were impressed.  High praise indeed and much appreciated.  The best comment was from Janet who said that the allotment was aesthetically pleasing.   So, not just 'straight lines'.  Thanks Janet and all the RHS group.
RHS group

RHS group with Janet.
The rain held off and the sun came out and I was in my element showing off the allotment.

Although it has been growing weather with lots of warm, rainy days, the allotment has not produced as good yields as might be expected.  The very mild winter allowed lots of slugs and snails to survive and reproduce, which has had a very profound effect on the lettuce, peas, French beans and sweet peas.  They were remorselessly eaten back and they have not really recovered even though the growing conditions have been favourable. 

I must admit that I was trying to grow the vegetables without resorting to commercial anti slug nematodes - I have been trying to cultivate my own.  My nematodes were only effective for about a week and then died away.  Next year I will buy a commercial anti slug program again.  There are too many uncultivated allotments around to risk not using them.  So not a very successful experiment. 

Comfrey and store bins behind the shed.
The hedge needs cutting again and I have begun to trim it behind the shed.  I am trying to maintain the height of the hedge so that it is an effective barrier but not so tall as to cast shade onto the growing areas.  It is amazing how the hedge has grown back after being cut so hard back.  It is thickening up and the gaps are filling so that it looks more presentable now.  When I took the allotment over the hedge was growing over the top of the shed.  I have planted four hanging baskets with pansies grown from seed collected last year.  They are growing much better in the baskets than in the containers because they are away from the slugs. 
Japanese wineberry growing up the side of the shed. 
The wineberry has got some fruit on it but I doubt that it will come to anything.  I planted these two wineberries in November 2015 so I am not expecting them to produce anything until next year at the earliest.  It has made a lot of new growth from the bottom and these new canes will be tied in when they get a little bigger.  The fruiting canes will be cut out and put onto the compost heap.  (I will cut them into 5cm pieces)  The mint I planted as a ground cover has grown much better than I expected because it was planted into subsoil clay.  A new layer of woody chippings has been put around this area after taking out one or two weeds.  The woody chippings are a very good weed suppressant but it will not last more than a year. 
Fan trained gooseberry
 The fan trained gooseberry on the front of the shed needs tying in.  All I have done at the moment is tuck it under the concrete reinforcing wire.  The branches are not going in the directions that I want them to, so it will have to be sorted soon.  There is a variegated ivy and astroemeria in this little bed because I was not sure that the gooseberry would survive.  It was a gooseberry that I found on the allotment already and I have planted it into subsoil clay.  Looks to be doing well so the clay is more fertile than I expected it to be. 
The redcurrant on the other side of the shed. 
The redcurrant is beginning to ripen now and I will be taking off the currants to make things like jam and cordial.  The cold windy April meant that the currants have not produced as much fruit as last year but it will still be enough for me. 
Autumn raspberries.
I planted these autumn fruiting raspberries in January 2015 and they still do not seem to have settled in.  They are shaded by the shed a little but they should be all the same size.  I think that they are a mixture of different varieties. They were originally on the allotment before I took it over.  I will give them another year and, if they do not produce very many raspberries, I will replace them with an espalier apple tree.  I am not sure whether the raspberries like the woody chippings.  I have not put any chippings on the summer raspberries, Glen Ample and Malin's Admiral, and they have faired much better.  I doubt whether I will use as much of the chippings next year as I have this.  These raspberries have all the summer to grow bigger so I should not make any snap judgements and remove them prematurely. 

Three rows of leeks on the right and one row of onions of the left. 
It would seem that I have protected these alliums from the onion miner fly Phytomyza gymnostoma because they are growing very well with no contortion.  The miner fly makes them  twist about and the leaves not to develop properly.  There is no evidence of this here.  There are a few weeds in under the net that could be taken out but I will not do this until next month when the onion miner fly is not so prevalent.

Onions from sets.
The onions grown from sets are developing.  Their bulbs will start swelling now it is after the longest day. There are a few weeds trying to grow between the onions so I will have to take the net off .  The onion miner fly is not active during the summer so it will be safe to take the nets off to weed now.   The onions tolerate the woody chippings well and benefit from the reflected light that the chippings throw up. 
Onions and leeks under the nets.
It is a shame that we have to protect onions and leeks with nets like this.  In the past onions and leeks were planted and then left to their own devices until they were harvested. 
Path between Sue's and my allotment.
I was given some borage to plant on the allotment and decided to put them here.  They seem to be completely dead and then come back to life a few days later.  I am growing them for the bees.  There are several buddleia  cuttings that have taken  together with the red currant cuttings alongside the path.  I am always amazed that just sticking in a few twigs results in new plants  but this is the proof. I am trying to remember not to compost material cut off woody plants but to treat them as cuttings.  When I trim the box, rosemary, lavender and currants, I will use the trimmings as cuttings and just heel them into the soil.   Not too sure where to put these redcurrant cuttings.  I may well leave them alongside the path but spaced out a lot better.  I weeded the path and put some new woody chippings on it to suppress the weeds and make it look better. 
Big blackcurrant bushes.
Although they can't be seen the blackcurrant bushes have got quite a lot of currants on them.  They are only just turning black but I anticipate a good yield from them. 

These are the Kestrel second early potatoes and I can't really complain about these.  They are growing quite big.  The potato canopy means that there will be little light penetrating to the soil.  Weeds will not germinate and the ground will be clear until they are harvested.  I put woody chippings between the ridges and this will discourage weeds too. 
One of the Pitmaston pineapple apple trees
The potatoes are not shading the apple graft and the apple supports are holding the potatoes back.  As you can see I am beginning to tie down the lower laterals and train them along the canes.  The main vertical stem will send out lots of side shoots that can be trained along the other canes.  The smaller laterals are not tied in and allowed to grow more vertically.  The branches will grow more slowly once they are tied into their horizontal position.  Allowing the smaller branches to grow vertically means that they will grow faster and catch up the longer ones.
Victoria rhubarb
Although the giant Victoria rhubarb developed much later than the Timperley Early or Champaign it has now produced some acceptable growth.  I have not taken many leaves off the plants because I want them to develop strongly and I have enough rhubarb from the other varieties.  They are making an effective division between the potato bed and the three sisters bed.  Some people stop eating the petioles in the summer because they think that oxalic acid builds up in the leaf stalks.  I eat the leaf stalks throughout the summer and have no adverse reaction.  This may be because I have iron guts or because I have been doing it for so long I am used to the higher oxalic acid levels.  With all the fruit on the allotment, it means that I may only eat rhubarb once or twice a month.  This would mean that the oxalic acid does not become a problem.  Everyone is different in the way they tolerate different foods which is why you should be careful when eating foraged fungi but with a little common sense a more varied diet can easily be developed. 
Ben Connan blackcurrant
This is one of the black currants that came with the white and red currants. This one and the Ebony have not grown as vigorously as the other currants.  I am just letting them do their own thing at the moment because I have enough currants for the moment.  This is one of the plants that have a fading label so I will have to rewrite it with the indelible ink pen. 
Three sisters bed.
This bed has sweet corn, pumpkin, squash, courgette, and climbing French beans all growing together.  I planted the sweetcorn in a grid with each plant about a foot apart and sowed some bean seeds closely around them.  The pumpkins and squash were interspersed between them.  Last year this seemed to produce a good crop of both beans and curbits.  The mesh is not there to keep the plants in but to give the cucumbers something to climb up.  I secured the mesh with canes and sowed runner beans to climb up them. 
Three sisters bed
I planted the courgettes around the outside of the sweet corn grid.  I got my first courgette yesterday.  As I put a lot of compost onto this bed the calendula seeds from the composted plants have germinated and there are some marigolds growing in the midst of the other plants.  I could wade in and take them out but I doubt whether I will bother.  It will give the allotment a little colour.   Tracy has given me a couple of pumpkins and they were planted around the edge too.  It looks a little chaotic but it seems to work so why should I quibble? 
King of the Pippins apple tree with faded label.
 The King of the Pippins is beginning to espalier now throwing out two laterals fairly low down.  The lateral branches have been tied to the canes using garden wire.  I have put a thick mulch of farmyard manure around all the apple trees with a topping of woody chippings.  The vertical stem will throw out more laterals and they will be tied in to make the symmetrical layers. Pruning and training espaliers is much easier than I though it was going to be.  The early Victorians used poles to train their espaliers so I thought that I would take a leaf out of their book and do the same.  I am using canes rather than poles but they are just as good.  When necessary, they can be extended to allow longer and higher branches. 
Cucumber and courgette.
I wanted the cucumbers to climb up the mesh but they are all scrabbling on the ground.  Doesn't make a difference to the fruit and they taste the same so might as well let them grow their own way.  Belinda gave me two courgettes and I have planted them here.  They look a little yellow at the moment but they will green up after I have fed them with comfrey. 

Ebony black currant.
The Ebony black currant has not grown as big as the white and red currant even though they were bought at the same time.  I moved this plant during the winter so that it was out of the way and this might have restricted the growth.  However, the white and red currants are enormous compared with it. 
Fan trained red and white currants. 
Although the fan trained red and white currants have grown to about five feet, they have not produced a great deal of fruit.  They are good dividers to separate the three sisters bed from the peas and beans but it would be good to have a little more fruit off them too.  They are getting a little unruly now and will have to be summer pruned to keep their shape.  I will do this after harvesting the currant crop.  The currants had a thick mulch of farmyard manure and a topping of woody chippings.  I am using this mini swale as a pathway. 
Another Pitmaston Pineapple apple tree.
I was going to grow this Pitmaston Pineapple as a step over but it looks like it has thrown up an acceptable vertical stem in the right place.  I can use this to train it to an espalier.  I have three successful Pitmaston Pineapple grafts and they all are going to be espaliers.  This tree had a mulch of farmyard manure with woody chippings over the top. 
Broad beans.
These broad beans were grown from my own seed.  They like all the beans and peas took a hammering from the slugs this year.  They have only just recovered and are half the size of last years plants.  I will probably use these plants to provide seed for next year. 
White Buddleia
This buddleia decided to germinate and grow right on the corner of the allotment.  It's not in anyone's way at the moment so I will leave it here to attract the bees and butterflies. 
Tall peas
The tall peas have done much better than the smaller version.  They were cut back by slugs but recovered and grew on well.  The pigeons are sitting on the top canes and eating the peas but they will not be able to do too much damage and I don't want the peas to grow over the top of the netting anyway. 
Lavender edging alongside the trackway.
The little pear tree from my old allotment is growing well now and throwing out stems that can be trained along the canes to train it to espalier.   The lavender is planted here as a non edible edging because this part of the allotment is near to the trackway where cars and their fumes can contaminate vegetables. 
You can't see the small ditch alongside the trackway because I filled it with stone and it is growing over with weeds now.  It is doing its job of collecting hard surface run off from the track and allowing it to soak into the soil down the slope of the allotment. 
Bunyard's exhibition broad beans. 
The Bunyard's Exhibition broad beans have not done very well and are about half the size that they should be.  They have improved over the last couple of weeks and I will be interested to see just how good they are finally.  They have grown out of the flea beetle damage and have produced some pods now. 
French Beans.
 These beans were not too badly eaten by the pigeons and slugs.  They are beginning to climb up the canes now although they are way behind where they were last year in June.  It doesn't really matter because I will still get a crop and the beans will probably be frozen for the winter now.

These were the heritage French beans but I have reseeded with any old French bean.
Why are heritage vegetables heritage?  Because they are prone to disease, don't crop very well and possibly don't taste very good.  Well my Trail of Tears French beans were hammered by the flea beetle, slugs and pigeons.  They are still there but I resowed with various other seed that I had and now they are all mixed.  I will still keep the seed but they will probably cross breed with the other beans. 
Salad Burnet
This is the last of the salad burnet plants that I bought from the old allotment. It is doing very well here and I have been cropping it throughout the spring.  I think that it has a cucumber taste.  It makes a good addition to a salad.  It is going to flower now and the leaves have become rather leathery so it's a good job I could pick two cucumbers from the big greenhouse today. 
White currant
This white currant is producing a lot of fruit.  This is what all the currants should look like.  The bush is fan trained.  Once I have taken off all the fruit I will tie in all the extraneous stems. 
Lemon balm
I put a little of this herb into leafy salads.  Its leaves are a little too furry for me, which makes them difficult to eat raw. 

Alicante tomatoes and fan trained peach
These tomatoes are growing in ring culture pots in the peach greenhouse.  These pots have no bottoms so the tomatoes can grow into the chippings.  These are the Alicante growing up strings and they are nearly at the top.  I have Black Russian tomatoes on the other side of the greenhouse.  I have one peach on the peach tree which will be savoured when ripe.  I will cut it into little pieces and ceremonially eat it with a nice cup of tea.  The peach is getting a little overgrown now and will be summer pruned and trained next month.  Any stems that are growing outward front and back will be taken out and the others will be tied in if they are big enough. 
Black Russian tomatoes.
Not sure where I got the Black Russian tomatoes seed from but I seem to remember they were freebies.  They have gone a little yellow so I am feeding them more commercial tomato liquid fertiliser.

I haven't a really good photograph of the fan trained peach so you will just have to make do with this one.  It is only the left hand side of the tree. 
Lemon balm and rosemary edging with celery, celeriac and cucumbers
There is another clump of lemon balm on the other side of the peach greenhouse and I have cut this hard back to make it bush up and prevent it from throwing up flower spikes.  Although the celery and celeriac look small, they are doing as well as I wanted.  I have larger plants in the leafy vegetables bed.  The cucumbers on this side of the 3 sisters bed are very big at the moment.  I may have made the mistake of planting some of the indoor cucumbers.  I was mixing up the outdoor and indoor plants all spring. 
Rosemary edging with a few lettuce.  'Golden Reinette' apple tree graft.
The rosemary are cuttings that were given to me so I will continue to propagate and extend the line down the main allotment path.  I have a little space here for soft wood cuttings which I will be taking during July.  Not too sure about this Golden Reinette.  It is one of the 1600 ones but it seems to have a very ambiguous pedigree.
Golden Reinette apple tree graft.
I am still researching where it comes from and whether it is a genuine variety.  It is throwing out some really good laterals which I can train in to make an espalier.  Some might say that the horizontals are a little too close together.  Well this might be so but they can always be pruned out if they crowd each other. 
Oca, Lavender and King of the Pippins apple tree graft.
I have planted mint under the slabs and it has been quite successful here.  It is to compete with the mare's tail and to provide a minty scent when trodden on.  The marjoram and oregano have been eaten right back by the slugs but they are recovering now.  I have not been able to crop these at all this year.  The lavender edging has grown really well here and I might extend the row both ways.  There is a big clump of sweet cicely at the far end which I am mainly cutting to put into the comfrey bins for liquid manure but I have harvested some for salads.  It is another of the herbs that has a fury leaf and is not very palatable in large quantities but it does have a pleasant sweet taste and is fine when mixed with a much greater quantity of lettuce leaves.  The oca is becoming a weed in the allotment.  Where ever I have planted it volunteers are coming up regardless of how carefully I have removed the tubers.  It does make an excellent ground cover plant and the tubers have a sweet lemony taste which is a very good addition to vegetable curries and stews. 
King of the Pippins 2
 Another of last years successful grafts being pruned and trained into an espalier. 
Red onions and leeks.
The red onions have not faired quite so well as the other onions.  They are beginning to become distorted due to onion miner fly.  The leeks are still growing well though. 
Shallots, pickling onions and elephant garlic.
The shallots are still doing well and have not been affected by the fly.  Not sure whether the woody chippings discourage the miner fly. 
Two rows of garlic and one row of elephant garlic. 
Garlic is growing well.  This bed had a green manure of mustard last autumn and this was dug in with some farmyard manure.  The garlic has been mulched with woody chippings. 
The little leaning apple tree.
The little leaning apple tree has a lot of apples on it as usual.  I think that it might be a James Grieves but I am not sure.  It is leaning over so far because it was covered by the hedge.  There is a water shoot coming from the main trunk now and this is much more vertical so I could cut it back in the winter.  However, it is cropping so well at the moment I am loth to cut off fruiting wood. As you can see the pigeons have flopped down onto the raspberries and broken them off.  I have pruned out the dead wood now and put a string up to try and prevent them from landing on the tops. 
Cambridge strawberries.
I have capitulated and covered the strawberries with netting after seeing two pigeons nonchalantly eating them and disregarding my flapping arms.  Blooming animals.  Regardless, I have been taking off about a punnet of strawberries every day and eating them for my lunch.  I am finding it very hard to take any home, so no strawberry jam this year. 

Although they look quite small, these raspberries are about four feet and are covered in berries.  They are ripening now and I must admit that they are not being taken home either.  You can see the flattened tops of the raspberries where the pigeons have been flopping down and eating the berries.  The hawthorn hedge is thickening up well  and the comfrey is growing beyond my expectations alongside it. The clippings from the hedge are falling onto the soil below  and the comfrey are benefiting from their decomposition.  I then come along and crop the comfrey leaves and put them in the butt to rot down and put the resultant liquid fertiliser on the rest of the allotment. Any clippings that fall onto the path are swept onto the raspberries as a mulch.  The hedge has several wild blackberries in it and these will be harvested next month.  This means that the hedge is quite an asset to the allotment.  The path and the old carpets are a barrier to stop the roots of the hedge from extending into the growing areas and depleting the soil of nutrients.  The barrier also stops bind weed from spreading from the hedge into the allotment.  Under the path is a stone soakaway for excess rain water.  It is at the bottom of the south facing slope and carries water towards the big shed where there is a sump. 
Daphne in the pots and viburnum behind them.
I think that this is a Ribstone Pippin graft.  I have trained it to an espalier. 
The Ribstone Pippin espalier is separating the allium bed from the early potatoes.  It was the second set of grafts that I tried.  This tree was one of three that survived.  The others I trod on and broke the successful graft.  You cannot imagine the frustration I felt when I destroyed several months of hard work.  I am very careful with the apple grafts now. 
'Ben Sarek' black currant. 
 I coppiced the Ben Sarek last year so it has not got any fruit on it but it has produced some very good stems for next years fruiting wood to grow from.  More sweet cicely in the foreground. 
Early potatoes.
I will be cropping these early potatoes in the next month.  There is nothing quite like the taste of first cropped early potatoes.  These have made a very good canopy and there are very few weeds growing between them.  I will quickly cover the soil of the cropped potatoes with phalacelia as a bee friendly green manure. 
View up the main allotment path.

Logan berry LY654 and Blackberry 'Adrienne'
The loganberry and blackberry have thrown up a lot of new canes and these have been secured on the concrete reinforcing wire mesh.  After the fruiting canes have finished producing berries they will be pruned out and the new canes tied in for next years harvest. 
Several different varieties of lettuce
I have been cropping quiet a few lettuces that the slugs have left me.  I have put a lot of my own anti slug nematodes over this growing area and they have reduced the number of slugs but there is still a lot of damage.  Still probably too many lettuce for me to eat so I should worry. 
Globe fennel. 
I have not grown so much globe fennel this year because I did not eat a lot last year.  It is good to add to vegetable curries and stews but I do not miss it if I don't. 
Various leafy vegetables.
Asparagus pea

This year's apple grafts
I have about fifteen pots with successful apple tree grafts in them.  However, as I put two different varieties on some of the rootstock to make a family tree, I have about eighteen varieties.  I have successfully grafted the Norfolk Royal again after treading on two successful grafts last year.  This year I am going to be particularly careful.  Apart from the family trees, I will probably grow the others as cordons because I will not have enough room to espalier them.  They look fairly healthy at the moment. 

Herbs alongside the path.
The mints seem to be overwhelming the other herbs.  I will leave the mint and move the other herbs.  I want to make an edging of chives along part of the path.

Very poor rows of peas.
This is the poorest set of peas I have ever had.  They were slow to germinate and very slow to grow on once I had put them outside.  They were devastated by flea beetle and slugs and now the pigeons are taking the tops.  I think that I will just keep them for seed. 
The sage has grown well again this year.
The sage makes a good edging for the path but I never use it for anything.  It is more decorative than anything. 
Laburnum and lupin perennial legumes
Lupins and laburnum are perennial legumes and have nitrogen fixing bacterial nodules on their roots.  Most plants have a relatively quick turnaround for their roots replacing them regularly.  This means that nitrogen from the dying roots passes into the top soil fairly regularly and because of the slope taken into the growing areas.  I am espaliering the laburnum so that I can have more trees along the path than would be possible if they were standards.  Also I am pleaching them together to make a wall of laburnum. 

Red grape with flowers on. 

Swede, kohl rabbi, calabrese and cauliflower under the net. 
The brassicas under the net are getting a little big now.  I am hoping that the calabrese and cauliflowers will be harvested soon but they have not made very big heads yet.  The net is to keep the pigeons and the cabbage white butterflies off them.  I have another row of calabrese and cauliflowers under the other net. 
Cauliflower, calabrese and summer cabbage.
All the brassicas are growing quite large and pushing the net up. 
Opal Plum tree.
After only having one plum on it last year, the Opal plum tree has excelled itself this year by having none at all. 
Cold frame.
After trying quite hard to make a hot bed using woody shreddings, it was not a complete success but it did provide warmth for about a month.  The woody chippings are slowly decomposing and the cold frame is sinking making it almost horizontal now rather than sloping at about 60 degrees.  I have taken the melons out of it now and just planted cucumbers. 
Cold frame cucumbers. 
Various winter brassicas.
Various winter brassicas.

Various winter brassicas.
Sweet peas
These are the worst sweet peas that I have grown since I started growing them again in 2009.  They should be in blocks of variety and all the same size.  I have had to resow and replant so many time that they are all over the place.  I am just going to let them grow away now.  I will just grow them for seed now and as a legume break crop. 

Melons, cucumbers and peppers on top
Peppers and aubergine underneath.
Melons growing in the plastic frame.
Tomatoes in the large greenhouse. 
Not a complete tour of the allotment but most of it.  I am beginning to get quite a good harvest of salad crops now despite the slugs and snails.  The fruit has kicked in and I am getting a punnet of strawberries every day together with raspberries and loganberries.  I must admit that most are being eaten at the allotment but because the harvest is so good some have found their way home now.  The summer will be filled with harvesting and preserving.  I never found preserving to be particularly exciting but now I look forward to it. 
Hope you are having as good a harvest as I am.