Its been a funny old year, both at the allotment and in the greenhouses/polytunnel at home. Things which are normally productive seem not to have been and accidents have done well.
So let’s have a review:
The plan to spend less time at the allotment has achieved its goal. The aim was 2.5 hours per week in two sessions. So far this year I’ve spent around 40 hours at the allotment. Whether that has reduced the amount of produce, I don’t know.
One of the best changes I’ve made is one of attitude. I’ve used the time going over to the allotment to decide exactly what I’m going to do meaning that when I get there, instead of wandering up and down admiring the plot, I get straight to it.
There have been a number of effects:
Watering: Spending fewer days at the allotment (the biggest change) has meant that things have to manage on their own. I think this reduced significantly the strawberry harvest because we had a very dry session early on and the plants haven’t really got themselves established. My plan now is to set the hosepipe watering when I arrive and move it a couple of times whilst doing other things.
Grass: I’ve only taken the trimmer once and the areas of grass are long and untidy making the plot “less attractive”. It takes 45 minutes to cut all the grass and (to be honest) its probably pointless.
Peas: With the peas, I did two things wrong. First: when I planted out the first peas I forgot to cover them so when I returned a few days later there wasn’t much sign of them, the pigeons had destroyed them. Perhaps if I’d been going every day I would have noticed and rescued them earlier. The second problem has been the quantity of weeds. Reducing the time spent means that I’ve done significantly less weeding, relying instead on hoeing quickly around things. This has not worked with the peas and they have been overrun by weeds and this certainly has had an effect on their productivity – we’re not going to get many peas this year (certainly none for the freezer).
Compost: I have taken a number of bags of compost from home to try and improve the soil, but I haven’t had any time to use the compost at the allotment which means its continuing to build up. Something I will have to deal with late on in the season when there’s nothing else to do.
Netting Fruit: Again, similar to netting the peas, the net over the gooseberries came off and allowed the birds in so the gooseberry crop was much reduced. If I’d been at the allotment more often, I would have noticed and so lost less.
Picking: Now that the season has really started, its impossible to much other than pick fruit and vegetables in the time available. Fruit takes a long time to pick and takes up all the time available.
Anyway, most things are doing well and my crop so far this year looks like this:
- Beetroot: 5kg
- Broad Beans: 22 kg
- Courgettes: 10kg
- Currants (Red & Black): 2kg
- French Beans: 3kg
- Gooseberries: 3kg
- Peas: 1kg
- Potatoes: 2kg (one root out of 20)
- Strawberries: 6kg
Which I don’t think is bad overall.
This is where I’ve had the biggest change. Previous years I’ve grown tomatoes in the polytunnel and greenhouses. Last year, I dedicated half of the polytunnel to tomatoes and the rest to a random collection of vegetables.
This year, I’ve tried to be more organised and grown French Beans (climbing and dwarf), courgettes, beetroot, lettuces, sweetcorn and swiss chard in the main part of the polytunnel with determinate tomatoes on the bench at the end.
The greenhouses have been used for tomatoes, cucumber and peppers with half of one of the greenhouses left for potting etc..
The result I count a success. We had French Beans earlier than the allotment, the courgettes have produced (but four plants is more than there’s space for, two would have been better). The swiss chard has been productive and produced enough both for salads and cooked spinach. The beetroot worked and produced enough to add to the beetroot at the allotment. The only failure is sweetcorn which grew too spindly and has been removed.
To show what we’ve had:
Here’s the polytunnel in May (pots of strawberries hanging on the left):
June (Some strawberries replaced by tomatoes):
Mid July (Courgettes overgrowing on the left):
Late July (The dwarf french beans are over and new ones sown, lettuces replace beetroot & sweetcorn)