Went up to the plot tonight after the scorching heat abated a little. Everything needed water, so we tried to give everything growing a little life-giving splash of water. And lo and behold, the first sighting of some developing cucumbers. Enfin!
Summer’s sweltering – London approaches the 40 degree Celcius mark for the first time in recorded history. Too hot to garden in the daytime lately, which is a sad state of affairs.
It’s been a funny growing season. Flowers and fruit are doing well, but other crops falter and seem in suspended animation. I planted a cucumber in June and it’s still not even producing flowers or growing that vigorously even though we’re tending, watering, cossetting… Same for our selection of sweet and chili peppers. The zucchini so far has avoided powdery mildew but again, not producing or growing much. I wondered if it was a soil deficiency but our beloved Sardinian co-allotmenteer who is an expert in all things growing and has had a plot at the allots for almost 20 years says his crops are similar to ours. A bad year. Climate change?
At least the flowers bloom, thrive and are beautiful. Here’s a selection of shots taken by the big dude.
I’ve spent a few hours up at the plots during the week and managed to tidy up the strawberry beds – filled the clay crevaces with manure, trimmed the fruiting stalks and removed any dead foliage. Strawberry leaves are remarkably strong and simply do not just snap off the plant after they die off – these need to be trimmed with secateurs. It’s tedious but I got it all done.
Haven’t dug out the strawberry beds to rationalise and space out the planting in a better way, but that can wait for September…
The hollyhock we started from seed at the back of the frog pond have finally matured to flowering! We weren’t sure what colour would come out and it turns out we’ve got a pale pink hollyhock. Happily it’s a natural form flower (not double blossomed) so easy for the pollinators to get to. Go bees go!
A few weeks ago sometime in June we found a seating bench in the good old garbage – so brought it up to the plot. This bench will sit on the platform that we reinforced with a big sheet of good quality plywood – also rescued from garbage/ landfill. London’s street refuse provides a lot of our resources for the allotments! I love it when we find something really genuinely useful and save it from heading to refuse heaps and landfill. So satisfying!
The big dude took time this afternoon to put a coat of green weather proofing onto the new seating platform, which we tucked in behind the greengage tree (trunk showing in the photo below) and to the side of the frog/ newt pond. This will be a great little seating space
We’ve not seen too many butterflies this year. Could be that we’re not up there in the daytimes…
(Hhhmn… Is it ok to admit that we miss the lockdown and furlough programme?? During those days which were admittedly a nightmare for many people, we were able to get out to the plots each and every day, so could monitor the goings on of bug and bird life much more closely. I do miss that, as does the big guy, who in June confessed that working for a living was interfering with our progress on the plots and flower gardens. But so it goes, eh?)
In terms of less butterfly sightings, it may simply be that there are less butterfly about. The news is always worried about the dramatic decline in insect life.
Much as me and the malink do our absolute best to promote biodiversity the trends are clear…
But this little butterfly is surely loving life on the allotment. We think it’s a Comma Butterfly, and looks very handsome and striking sitting on this blackberry leaf.
Earlier in the week I trimmed some of the rampant vinca that is overhanging onto the allotment path by the long bed planted with beans, squash and sunflowers.
This afternoon the big guy raked it all clear, then installed a new wood plank to create a new planting bed.
This will help protect from the vinca over-reaching it’s growing space under the greengage tree.
We are planning to plant this new narrow bed with perennial flowers. Maybe more red hot poker plants? More hollyhock? The beast loves those!
Whatever the ins and outs of declining butterfly populations, there’s nothing wrong with the birds by the plots. We have a new friendly robin.
This guy is a juvenile and hasn’t even grown a full tail yet. Absolutely fearless, he’s very curious and comes right to our feet.
So no surprise he was the first to check out the new bed and give it a good inspection.
The front narrow bed top-dressed with manure with the fork in it in the photo here is still unplanted. So there’s more to come in our beloved little allotment.
Oh yeah! And we ate our first yellow tomato today! Delish! And the blackberry bushes are starting to show ripe sweet early blackberries..
There’s always something happening at the allotment. We LOVE it!
We’ve had sunshine and showers through the end of June, with temperatures just this side of summer from spring – in double figures but sometimes just about! Evenings are cool so that’s at least a relief for sleep.
And all the rain does, after all, sometimes bring with it rainbows – not to mention taking the pressure off of having to regularly water the plots.
Early June really was the end of the strawberry harvest, but through June we had small harvests of red raspberries and also logan berries. Apparently we have two types of logan berries – one with thorny prickles on the stems and the other type is smooth stemmed and sans prickles. Next year I will take more notice and prepare a taste test.
In any case, in the success of the spring 2022 berry season from early strawberries, to raspberries and logan berries, it is fitting that as the last of the logan berries come to ripeness we see the start of the gooseberry and blueberry harvest. Yum!
Earlier this year the big guy took the mosquito netting we bought on the market from the habidashery table last summer and propped it up over and around our potted Hinnomaki Red gooseberry, blueberry and white currant bushes all of which we have growing in pots.
Potting these small fruiting shrubs helps to retain an acidic ericaceous soil for those that need it (the blueberries) and makes the other shrubs a moveable feast as we’ve never quite decided where the gooseberry could be planted in permanently…
The netting was put into place once the plants had flowered and were just starting to set fruit. Ideally you’d net when flowering because the birds are quite fond of eating flowers and don’t even wait for fruit buds to start to form before they arrive to ravage the branches and bushes. (The birds behave the same in cherry trees – and who would have known that big magpie and mourning doves were so deliriously fond of cherry flowers and fruit?!)
(Sadly the habidashery chap isn’t always at our local market as he does better trade down at Paddington market and other open air locations around London, as this worked well and makes me think we should have more of the netting to use if we wanted to try growing kale and brassicas again).
Amazingly, if you stop the birds from getting into the bushes, the harvest from the red gooseberry is really rather good!
And for the second harvest I might just go for gooseberry gin – which has to steep for a bit, so takes patience. But it’s going to be worth the wait!
Of course, even when you strain out the fruit after the first month, you can continue to let the gin sit and further mature in taste.
But an immediate perk is that when you strain the boozy soaked fruit from the infused liquid (with the sugar added and the fruity taste the gin becomes syropy like a light cordial), you can use the soft soaked fruit for a tangy quick-cook compote to accompany a meal of grilled mackerel or maybe a roast duck dinner….
So the sun is out – hot and 26 degrees. Felt hotter in the full sun working hard pulling weeds! Arrived in the morning after a nice breakfast on a terrace in south Hampstead, and once we finally wound our way into the site and onto our little plot we were amazed to find that our strawberry patch is ready to harvest! Had a fair-sized collection from the early ripeners. So tonight’s going to be strawberry and rhubarb crumble. Yum!
Had a great day on the plot. The garlic beds are looking like they are almost ready to harvest. The little pea patch has perked up and is growing well in front of the shed. There’s sign of life with the sea holly at long last. The gooseberry bush is showing signs of fruit, but we’re living dangerously and disassembled the netted cage around the gooseberry and currant bushes, so we’re hoping the birds leave us a few fruit this year. And the deep red damask rose is in full glory.
Cut a few long stemmed roses for home, a posy of Sardinian oregano, a handful of chive… (along with our strawberries and a few wands of rhubarb) and by 5 we were back in our little flat, watching the Giro ride around the bay of Naples and relaxing.
PS: Swung through the Regent’s Park on Friday at lunch and checked on their Echium patch. I’m amazed to say that our Echium in the back patch is doing much better and looks healthier than the plants in flower at the royal park. Wow!
Everything is springing to life. Flowers everywhere. We’ve had a bit of cold snap in the last week of April – a shocking return to winter conditions: grey, overcast, and quite cold at night. But the growth continues apace. Last summer I sprinkled honesty seed around the woods beds full of hope, and this spring we have lovely drifts of purple flowering honesty (aka money plant). They’re thriving nested in around the mid-woods Echium patch, and some of them stand waist-height, creating a dramatic splash of colour. Just shows the wonders of lazy gardening – simply cut seedheads and sprinkle around the place and – voila!
We planted white and pink Asiatic Lily, Lily tree and Gladioli into brick lined island bed, after a full afternoon of turning over the soil and digging out grass and weeds. Fingers crossed for a spectacular display later this summer.
During the week we went out to check on the lily beetles and harvest some fresh rhubarb for a spring crumble. And we spotted a tiny little wood mouse – one on the path and the other a veritable king in the castle, peeking out from the very top of a leaf composter. Very cute and very tiny! No bigger than my thumb.
The little guy on the path was hopping along with big huge feet, which helped to identify these little critters as ‘field’ or ‘wood’ mice – as distinct from house mice. To find out more about types of mice in the UK see the Woodlands Trust identication guide.
In the UK Wood Mice do not hibernate and can live up to 3 years. Due to so many predators they tend to live only a year, but these little critters have plenty of nestling spaces providing safe mouse houses. We decided not to dump the kitchen waste slops on his head, but I did place a nice chunk of cucumber in at the top of his composter castle to give him a tasty nibble.
We visited a garden centre on Saturday morning to see about getting blight resistant tomato plants. No luck! But we did pick up snow peas, garden peas, a flat of purple french beans and red lettuces. I planted the peas and lettuce but still have to plant the beans.
We’re down with the bug and have joined the ranks of the Covidians. So not up to doing much in the yard. But the sun shines and we wanted to check on the garden. And guess what?? The big tall Echium in the middle of the back patch meadow has magically come into flower. Wow! We started this plant three years ago and it’s now finally come to flower. Sadly, after flowering the plant will die down – but not before a real explosion of flower – and we will be sure to keep the seeds to start it all over again.