My diary and actual allotmenteering have both had something of a hiatus. Earlier this year I got back into horses, via volunteering at the RDA. A time-consuming passtime to add to a time-consuming hobby! My plots have really suffered and visits have been fleeting, particularly over the last 12 weeks or so when I’ve either been away or acting as nursemaid to my favourite quadruped. (He had an abcess. There is a ruddy gurt hole in his foot & it’s taking ages to heal. My poulticing is now the stuff of legend.*)

Thank you to all those who have sent messages asking if I am ok – or if my circulation list has had ‘issues’, that was very kind of you! All is very definitely well.

However I’m currently very much on an allotment salvage mission. I’ve missed most of the tomatoes, half the sweetcorn and my chillies are bonsai’d by neglect. Half the onions grown on Wendy’s plot got onion white rot. Basil is seeding all over the greenhouse, which appears to have been hit lavishly by both the botrytis and aphid fairies. There are knee-high weeds, bean arches which have fallen over, courgettes that escaped into marrowhood some time ago, a distinct lack of foliage where there should be spuds, bindweed, chickweed & brambles & that horrible taprooted buttercup thing EVERYWHERE. Fortunately the weeds look like they will be fairly easily beaten into submission with a bit of graft. Or a lot of graft. I have let the docks set seed again (aaaarrrghghhhhhh!!)  but I seem to remember seedlings are fairly easily to whip out. Note how sanguine I am about it now. Please remind me of this in Spring when I am wailing and tearing my hair out!

There are still many good things. The raspberries have been plentiful, as have the sugarsnap peas. I grew beans to dry rather than to eat fresh and have been reaping bounteous rewards from my unsteady arches. Although they need remedial propping, arches are by far my favourite method for growing climbing beans or sugarsnaps. There are 2 huge pasta plates of Snowcap and Cherokee Trail of Tears beans drying in the flat. I picked 2 large buckets of pods. The Veitch’s, Hutterite Soup, Monachelle di Trevio and the F2 of my strange Inca bean are starting to mature and I am crossing fingers for a dry, warm October. With all these beans we’ll be tooting happily through winter in Mudandgluts Towers!

The Sutton’s Zimbabwe Black chilli plant I was given at the Garden Media Event has been a fantastic performer. It’s been outside for most of the year, neglected, and is covered in masses of small, fiery chillies. I am VERY grateful for this, it’s nearly my only decent pepper plant this year. I have 2 isolated padron peppers for fresh seed, but the fruit is still really very green and it might be a race to get them to ripen. My track record of keeping pepper plants alive indoors is not good.

Despite falling over, the structure with achocha on is covered in fruits, so these will be coming home for dinner over the next couple of weeks. My leeks were next to them. I say were, because I am not sure how many will have survived an abrupt hug from an achocha trellis. Or the sudden leaping off a straw bale of 2 hefty potted aubergines.

Although the medlars fell off the tiny tree and my peach has only ever been a bit of a twig, the Harry Baker crab apples came up trumps, with nearly a kilo of little, burgundy, red-fleshed apples. Andy Bees really kindly let me pillage his tree too, and I have a stack of fragrant spiced jelly (adapted recipe here) in the larder for winter.

The saffron beds have been flowering like crazy, earlier than ever before. The flowers started on 21 September and are just beginning to peter out slowly. It means the whole harvest will be in before the onset of awful weather and a brief period of commuting. Yippee! I weeded & topped them up with fertiliser and manure before Lou Nicholls came to train us on summer pruning fruit trees (more on this later!) so that at least one corner of the plots didn’t look shameful. This is the first year I haven’t lifted and thinned them, so I am very interested to see how they do. So far it looks like my lifting and thinning habit has robbed me of quite a bit of harvest in previous years – some of the clumps are already on flower #6, rather than the 2-3 I have had before. But I won’t know how much more I have until the strands have dried out completely.

Continuing the floral note, my first dahlias have been stonking. Admittedly two of the three Sarah Raven dahlias took till September to start flowering (Bishop of Leiden and Ripples) but the others have provided vase after vase of glorious colour. I have learned the importance of staking (Dark Butterfly was toppled in the winds) and I have too many whites – two Eveline 2s and a White Onesta – but otherwise I am hooked. These and the delightfully 70s-ey zinnias from Higgledy Garden are to be regrown in a riot of colour next year!

And finally there are the squashes. Not everything has worked out. Rats ate the Flat White squashes, Yokohama & Japanese Pie were slugged (again!) and my giant pumpkins fell foul of something or other. Many other plants have been splendid. My running total is 4 Potimarrons, 8 Black Futsus, 2 Oregon Sweetmeat, 2 Chirimen (look like bigger BFs), 1 Tonda Padana, 2 Sibleys, 12 Sucrette. There would have been many more Sucrettes, but for some reason (weather? feeding?) many fruits failed to take. Eight of the Sucrettes are hand-pollinated and seeds will be going back to the Heritage Seed Library, as well as into this year’s Twitter-based seed circle. Which I need to get back to organising!

*in my eyes.

Categories: Diary 2017

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16 replies

  1. Hi Beryl,
    Your squash look great. How do they taste? I’m working on growing giant pumpkins too, although the plant was huge the pumpkin was not! How big was yours? Would love to join the seed sharing circle. Wendy (RDA)


    • I love squashes. The ribbed ones taste quite nutty, and the warty yellow ones are sweeter. Let me know what you think of the yellow ones. I’ve 40ish varieties in my seed tin, so if you fancy a few new things do let me know. (I also have similar numbers of beans, tomatoes, chillies…) Any time you fancy a veggie chat at RDA do let me know too! I am still keen on growing veg for the ponies at RDA somehow. The Wisley carrots we were given were so much better than the insipid supermarket ones…

      PS Seed circle 2018 would love to have you – 2017’s is closed unfortunately.


  2. I sometimes take time off from the allotment – it’s healthy as sometimes it can feel a bit like a job. At this time of year I go salvaging for seeds, and by the looks of it you’ll quite a few to sow 🙂


    • Oh I do – plates of beans and squash seeds are everywhere! Sadly no chillies or tomatoes this year, but my seed tins are pretty full. Plus there are the seed circles to come for more swaps…


  3. That’s an amazing squash collection. Most of mine failed / were eaten this year. Neglect is never as bad as you think, I love it when nature prevails regardless (and the weeds!)


    • Thank you! I do adore squashes and they are one of the biggest sections in my seed tins. And yes, it’s definitely a relief to find bumper harvests under the weeds!


  4. You come over as a bit apologetic for neglecting the allotment but you’ve been doing so much charity work that something had to give; congratulate rather than flagellate! Somehow, though, you’re going to have to get more out of each day. Why not add a couple of head torches (one on, one in the charger) and a few wind-up lights to your Christmas list? After all, sleep is for wimps! 🙂


    • I’ve got a headtorch now! Nothing can stop me….! The wind-up lights are a genius idea too and going on the Christmas list – thanks for that. I will have a floodlit allotment.


    • Thanks! I lost track at just the right time though – just after most things had been planted so really I’ve just lost winter brassicas and I can catch up with spring cabbage & raab I hope. The amount of weeds is a little dispiriting, but I’ll get there!


  5. That sounds like a good haul despite you being off with the horsies. All those pumpkins, I’m so envious. I tried growing some in pots – got nothing. Pulled them out early Sept and planted perennial flowers instead!


  6. You forgot to mention all the hard work you’ve been doing with charities and gardens at Hampton Court, all those plants you took back to the Riding Centre needed planting and caring for.

    Your allowed to take a step back from your Allotment because your so busy.

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