OK, so like many people, the year at the allotment has come to an end and the new year is starting so its time to write a brief review.
A quick summary of what I planted where. We have two greenhouses, a polytunnel a couple of apple trees and some open ground at home, plus an allotment a couple of miles away. So this year, I tried to reduce the amount of time spent at the allotment both by improving the paths (getting rid of grass) and growing vegetables which require less attention. I also grew more vegetables at home, in the polytunnel and in the open ground.
The Allotment consists of eleven beds 6ft x 20ft plus a larger bed with fruit bushes, a couple of apple trees and some thornless blackberries.
First of all what has done well and what has done badly:
Most things did reasonably well this year, despite our three week holiday at the end of July/start of August which meant no visits to the allotment at that time which possibly limited the Strawberry harvest and certainly meant that the summer Raspberries were missed. The other fruit all did well and showed that it should be left until properly ripe (the Blackcurrants were huge and sweet) rather than picked because they look nice before they’re properly ready. The failure because of our holiday was probably the blackberries which had been and gone while we were away.
Also using half of the polytunnel for vegetables (rather than tomatoes) was a success with French Beans and Courgettes both starting earlier in the tunnel than at the allotment.
The sweetcorn did really well (and is now sitting as frozen kernels in the freezer) and the apples all did very well so we’ve got them sitting in the garage to be eaten over the winter.
The Peas did relatively well, but next year I think I’ll have to improve the support system so that they don’t pull down the netting.
The courgettes also did well, far more than we could eat ourselves which is a problem because they aren’t something that we like to keep. So we picked them really small and ate them in salads as well as letting them grow to their normal size and eating them or composting them during the real glut. The squashes are debatable, they probably need a support system to get them off the ground so that they can ripen better. I picked them this week and it looks like they’ve been frosted.
Lettuces did well and gave us salads all through the summer. The lettuce in the polytunnel gave us salads over the winter and kept the polytunnel in use so that was really good.
The Autumn Fruited Raspberries (as ever) did well. In my opinion, autumn fruited raspberries are one of the most productive and worthwhile crops to grow at the allotment. They need a reasonable amount of space and need lots of sun so they don’t do very well at home. But I would recommend to everybody to have an area of Autumn Raspberries on their allotment.
Now what did badly:
Potatoes. I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no point in growing maincrop potatoes, they need time both earthing up and watering to make a reasonable crop. Our soil (heavy clay) is not suitable for early potatoes, the grounds too hard and cold and all you end up with is a few misshapen tiny marbles. So next year there will be no potatoes. (which is probably a good thing).
The strawberries didn’t do very well and I think I possibly need to get some new plants into the ground. Again, I think the heavy clay soil doesn’t help, the plants struggle to get going and keep going so I need to get a good helping of compost onto the new rotating strawberry bed. (By rotating, I mean that I have four beds that I put strawberries in, three growing strawberries and one growing something else).
Cabbages: The plants never really got going properly so, whilst we had a few cabbages, they didn’t seem to be worth the effort, particularly growing from seed.
Tomatoes: I persist in trying to grow tomatoes at the allotment. It really is a waste of time. Blight is endemic and the plants dies off quickly once affected. I tried growing “Blight Resistant” varieties (Crimson Crush and Mountain Magic) and, whilst they got less blight than the other varieties, the fruit have blight and I would say that about 10% of the fruit are affected and won’t ripen. In addition, the fruit hasn’t ripened at the allotment (despite being in full sun) so now I’ve got a load of green fruit which I’m hoping will ripen but even when they do, they don’t taste particularly wonderful.
What about 2017?
I’m going to try and reduce the amount of time I spend at the allotment. I’ve read (and taken some ideas from) a book called “The Half Hour Allotment” which suggests that one ought to be able to manage an allotment on 2.5 hours per week (half an hour each day five days a week). So even more concentration on things that will look after themselves and no growing of things that need care and attention to avoid pests.
So that means:
- No Potatoes;
- No Tomatoes;
- No Summer Raspberries (autumn ones are best);
- No Mangetout peas at the allotment (they have to be picked every day);
- Cabbages from plants (not seed);
- Fewer Courgettes.
But grow more:
- Podded Peas ( a whole bed);
- Dwarf French Beans;
Other than that, its pretty much as before but concentrate on getting things done rather than talking, and improve the means of protecting and growing so that its easier to hoe the weeds (particularly around the strawberries) and make a “dust mulch” to reduce watering needs.