The Autumn Term 2012

Can’t say that the Autumn term is my favourite, The days start of dark, and end dark, The window of light between these, is incredibly short. Making opportunities to play on the plot fewer and far between. Even more so, when the climate of Blighty plays havoc with your efforts to do something useful. The Autumn is however useful in taking stock, and planning for the future. With raised beds being built during the course of the summer, this will perhaps contribute to combating the challenging nature of the clay soil. Yes, it is full of nutrients. Its lovely for feeding crops. It is however, horribly frustrating. Prone to becoming a bog when faced with a deluge, and then drying out entirely in the dry weather. There has to be strategy implemented to thwart and prevent falling into pitfalls.

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Shallots, Onions, Garlic:

May have gone slightly overboard with these.

What we have:

  • Radar Onions
  • Electric Onions
  • Shallot Yellow moon
  • Shallot Red Gourmet
  • Shallot Griselle
  • Shakespeare Onions
  • Shallot Eschallote
  • Garlic Purple Wight
  • Garlic Bella Italiano
  • Garlic Sprint
  • Senshyu Onions

The reason for such a variety; is the success of last years over wintering crop. The sheer volume and quality of the garlic in particular, was encouragement to try again. Sowing and then harvesting was really quite simple. That said, the crop may have been lifted prematurely, even if there was rust starting to appear. I daresay that had it been left, the entire crop may have gone to ruin. Lifting them, and drying them for a few weeks, led to in excess of forty something bulbs of garlic. I’m at a loss now, remember exactly which varieties were sown. These all varied in the size, flavour and usability  There were a great many bulbs that had small cloves. Tiny, fiddly little cloves, that meant a whole bulb could be used for cooking, Other cloves, were fat, flavoursome and packed a punch when used. With the sheer number, a great deal were given away willingly to family and friends. The one comment that most people made, was that it tasted different! Nicer, that is, and the garlic also lasted longer than say the shop bought stuff. There were actually a few bulbs that did actually look as though they wouldn’t look out of place at a supermarket.

Yes, shallots have been sunk again. This is despite the numbers that were lost. Unfortunately, in not perhaps weeding the bed as diligently as I could have, this led to many shallots being swamped and squeezed out. The rain and freak weather also caused the clay to eat a great deal. That said, when onions were harvested, some of the larger shallots may also have been lifted!

The onions, well, they were okay. Lifted a tad early, as there was horrible weather conditions heralded. Yet, consumed, and enjoyed. A lesson to be learned here, is to perhaps leave them in the ground later still. To also weed the bed, feed and keep a closer eye on them. The red electric onions last year, were smaller, but still nice to eat. A repeated contender this year, perhaps they will fare better.

Tulips, Roses: There are a number of different tulip varieties, as well spring flowering bulbs that have been planted. There were a few different varieties that were sunk last year, and despite the wonderfully adverse weather conditions; they mostly survived! The experiment is being repeated this year, and spring flowering bulbs have been sunk everywhere. With last year being very experimental, just to see if anything grew; this year most of the borders have bulbs positioned there. There is actually a colour scheme, with red, white and blue winter pansies and primroses being planted. However, and this is altogether depressing. Many of these have been eaten by those devilish of creatures, slugs. So one is not entirely hopeful about any of these actually coming off. In addition, at the moment; it rains most days. Last year, the autumn and winter was relatively dry.The heavy hobbit land clay didn’t get so boggy. This year, it does seem to be excruciatingly wet. One’s red wellies are caked when pottering around. Suggesting, that whilst things may be sunk; the clay may get so boggy as to eat them all whole.

Roses, are always very pretty. What do we have:

  • Blue Moon
  • Christian Dior
  • Harry Wheatcroft
  • Silver Jubilee
  • Dutch Gold
  • Pascalli
  • Peace
  • Lovers meeting
  • Double Delight
  • Ruby wedding

These form a dog leg enclosure on the far side of the plot. The one concern about these, again; is that the clay will eat them. In some vain effort, these have been mulched and will need supervision over the coming season.

Leaf Mold

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Last year, there was only one solitary builders bag that was filled to the brim with Leaf Mold. This year, there are four! The leaf mold that was garnered from last year has been used to fill a few of the raised beds. For next year, the plan is as follows. Four builders bags have been filled with leaves. In addition, all 12-yes, 12-raised beds have also been filled with leaves. With in excess of 13 bags being filled and dragged down to the plot on a weekly basis, there are a lot of leaves! At least with the raised beds being filled at this point with leaves, as this all cooks down; next year a priority will be to top with compost. I appreciate that for certain crops, that may not necessarily be a good thing.

Weedkiller and newspaper mulch:

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Oh, the woe of British Summer! Whilst we all partied, with the Jubilee, the Olympics and the washout that was the Euro’s. The elements set about doing their worst. This has to be the worst year for being a new allotmenteer. The above image is a testament to what happens, when the weather goes wild, and you fail to get a grip on the weeds. Growing like triffids, the weeds rendered the site a far cry from when it a clear plot last November. The full 88 sqm metres was entirely covered. Demoralised and fairly despondent feeling, there had to be a plan. Or at least half plan. Simple. Weedkiller. There was no way, no how, that I would have been able to clear the plot quickly, efficiently and effectively, Whilst many would shake their heads, tut in disdain and choose not to use chemicals. I did not see any other way. It would allow me to have a blank canvas again and within a relatively short time. So, with a short dry window, the job was done. Weedkiller was applied, the weeds taken up. The next stage, was then to think about the naked exposed soil. This is where stockpiling newspaper paid off. The entire half plot was covered with newspaper. The newspaper was then weighted down with dead yellowing weeds. Of course it rained a fair bit, so that also weighed the paper down.

Grapevines

  • Boskoop Glory
  • Madeleine Sylvaner

These are red and white respectively. It will be interesting to see whether these will come off!

Fruity frivolity:

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There are three cordon fruit trees on the plot. Victoria plum, falstaff apple and concorde pear, The pear, this year failed to produce anything. The apple and plum did all right for the first year! Whilst it was hardly a bounty, the above crop was certainly better than nothing for a first year. Again, harvested early through ignorance. So very, very, very tart! Satisfying nonetheless to see the trees crop in their first year when this is not ordinarily the case.

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Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit

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