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Ad Libbing Into Next Season

Well, when all is said and done, planning ahead for a successful years allotment harvest can usually be thrown into chaos at the drop of a hat by the great, unfathomable British weather. After last winters deluges of rain and the associated flooding many allotments which were prepared for planting in Autumn 2013 needed preparing again when the rains finally abated. Was there a Spring? as I remember it here in Somerset, we were more or less straight into hot summery weather, giving us high temperatures and parched ground to work with, for several months, until about 2 weeks ago, when temperatures tumbled and the sun struggled to find a gap in the clouds to shine through. With only approximately 4 days with any appreciable rain here since the Winter monsoons abated, surprisingly, the majority of my crops have been good or very good, although I have sown less crops overall than I have done in previous years. Due to the hot dry Summer I decided to re-design large areas of both my plots, working on different areas of the plots as each crop was picked, or lifted from a given area, at the same time, prepping the ground ready for next year, as I think that this coming Winter will start very early and will be harsh.

Lifting Potatoes (Desiree)
The Last 5 Ranks of Potatoes Being Lifted From N2 Plot August 2014
Potatoes Desiree
More Potatoes N2 Plot August 2014
 As I mentioned in an earlier post,  the construction of a large fruit cage on N1 Plot to protect my currant bushes was completed several weeks ago. The previously unused ground within the cage has now been planted up with strawberry plants, which were lifted from their old bed and positioned in rows alongside the currant bushes after weed suppressing fabric had been placed over the soil.
This should save me time in the future as I will no longer have to place netting directly over the strawberries, to protect them from hungry birds, lifting and replacing the netting each time strawberries were ready to be picked. My alpine strawberries have also been lifted from the old strawberry bed. Some of them being re-planted within the fruit cage and the remainder planted into a raised bed at the lower end of N2 Plot. Both batches of plants have produced many good berries since being re-planted. My main crop potatoes were lifted a couple of weeks ago, from No 2 bed on N2 plot, despite the dry ground an excellent crop was dug up. With blight appearing on several allotments in mid August, (including mine) only a few of my tubers suffered with it, from 2 badly affected plants out of over 200. No 2 bed has been rotavated, weeded and limed and the edging tidied and will remain fallow over the Winter. N2 plot now contains only 3 large planting areas (beds), with the majority of wooden edging, surrounding the beds having been removed and disposed of. Several grass paths which were situated between the beds have been dug up, enlarging the beds and thus the growing areas ready for next year. Runner beans have been less than perfect this year and have just about finished cropping. The long hot dry weather didn't do them any favours with many beans over-ripening too quickly despite adequate watering with rain water from my water butts and earlier this year more than adequate preparation of trenches for them to grow above.

Potato Bed N2 Plot Cleared & Cultivated. Strawberry Bed N1 Plot (Right of Picture) Emptied (August 2014)
N2 Plot 1 Bed
The 4 Beds on N2 Plot Amalgamated Into 1 August 2014

 A third rank of runner beans sown at the top end of N1 Plot is flowering at the moment. If the weather doesn't get any worse I should have a reasonable late cropping of runner beans. Again with climbing french beans several early picks of beans were of excellent quality and abundance, until cross pollination set in about 3 weeks ago. Parsnips sown on N1 Plot failed to germinate this year but a third sowing in one of my raised beds is looking in excellent condition at the moment. Just 1 problem harvesting them though. A wasps nest is situated immediately below the plants with its entrance through the side of a wooden pallet which forms part of the raised beds' side wall. When the hot dry weather took hold this year it gave rise to a persistent outbreak of flea beetle which damaged the foliage and slowed the growth of turnips, beetroot, cavolo nero, radish and some cabbages. Although most of the plants eventually recovered, some of the damage to their foliage is still apparent. 4 or 5 early sowings of spring onions also failed to germinate this year but another sowing last month, just prior to a rare downpour of rain, finally germinated, giving a good crop of onions.

Harvesting
Earlier Harvesting August 2014
Toad
Toad N2 Plot August 2014

  A few advantages of the hot dry weather have been the lack of white and black fly this year. Although the slug and snail populations seem to have been on the increase for some time, remarkably I have had no damage whatsoever to any lettuce this year with some excellent quality plants. Sweetcorn, carrots and tomatoes have been beyond excellent. Courgettes and marrows are growing almost faster than they can be picked along with a prolific crop of very large cucumbers both inside my poly tunnel and outside on open ground. Fruit, apart from less cherries than expected, has been excellent all round, in particular, apples and a good cropping of blackberries. If many more grapes develop on the vines growing over my sheds, I think I will have to strengthen the sheds' roof structures to stop them collapsing under the weight of the grapes, amazing. All in all not a bad seasons harvest in general and only 2 remaining growing areas (beds) to prepare before the Winter weather sets in. The only other task I have to do, which has been neglected all year, is repair my poly tunnel which was torn in several places during last Winters' storms. Some time ago I mentioned in one of my posts that a family of great tits had set up home in the bird box, positioned on the side of N1's shed, and that I would try and take some photographs of the birds. I managed to take 2 photographs of the last chick on its first flight from the box. It darted from the box's entrance, flying across N2 Plot and attempted to land on a adjacent shed roof. It didn't gain enough height and flew into the side of the shed stunning itself and flopped down behind some timber getting stuck there. I moved the wood out of the way and after a couple of minutes the bird flew off, when its mother appeared with some food. It may be advisable to enlarge the pictures by clicking on them, to enable full detail.


First Flight & Landing July 2014 (Great tit)
First Flight & Landing (Great Tit) July 2014
Dead Hedgehog
Not a Pretty Sight of A Dead Hedgehog Skinned by a Badger (1 More Reason Badgers Should Be Culled) August 2014 (L-Shaped Bed N1 Plot)




There's Always Tomorrow!!

Comments

  1. With beds being cleared and emptied it seems like mid September already.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sue, I decided to clear up things early this year as I've spent a lot of hours re-designing the plots, fiddling with mechanical jobs such as renovating rotavators and installing water tanks etc. Hopefully the re-designed areas will give me more growing space next year and be easier and quicker to cultivate.

      Delete
  2. It looks like you are keeping on top of everything nicely this year - can't believe you have dug so much over already. It's been a bit of a mixed year weather wise hasn't it - I've had a lots of trouble with birds and slugs this year - I've ended up re-sowing quite a lot of stuff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Elaine. I hope the birds & slugs didn't spoil your harvests too much. Our weather has been blazing hot for months until a few weeks ago, with little rain. Because the ground has been so dry slugs have been less of a challenge. I also had to re-sow a lot of stuff earlier in the season but mainly due to flea beetle and nil germination due to the wrong temperatures/lack of direct rainwater.

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  3. I wonder what your plots would be like if the weather was actually predictable..? A veritable food-factory, I would think! You are so organised and neat (which I admire).
    I have a mixed result this year too: very poor Runner Beans, but fab Lettuce and (surprisingly for me) Carrots. The Winter Brassicas are looking strong too - mainly because I have been meticulous in my use of anti-butterfly netting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Mark, I think this season has been more relaxed for me from a sowing/planting and cultivation point of view. Once the potatoes were in, (still 2 areas to clear), I just sowed a few veggies now and again. I concentrated on various other jobs and hopefully the re-designed growing areas will be easier to work next year. Small beds surrounded with wooden edging are not ideal when using a large rotavator which I got my hands on earlier this year from my local recycling centre. Glad to hear your carrots were good this year, it's always a joy to see good ones as you lift them out of the ground.

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There's Always Tomorrow!!