June has arrived, and it has been rather strange in it’s infancy. The weather hasn’t exactly been the best, confused and entirely erratic. We have had rather nice windows, punctuated by cold and chilly days reminiscent of early autumn.
With that, I have been looking at the tomatoes and squashes that were transplanted prior to the end of May bank holiday. (I was adventuring, and more on that later) Ordinarily, squashes grow like triffids; they are rapid, hungry and likely to take over the patch of ground into which they have been sunk. Looking at them though, they do rather look a little developmentally delayed. Perhaps it is early, perhaps I am overestimating them; but they should have started to get a wiggle on. I suspect that the inclement and inconsistent weather has some what confused them.
There are factions of the plot that are doing well, that are resisting the variance in the weather. Waking up from a slumber, the grapevines have started to send out leaves and bulk up on their frame. Small clusters of flowers and fruit have been spotted, and indicates that the vines are so far quite happy. Even the currant bushes are starting to flower and flourish, and look as though they have been strung with green pearls.
June, July and August generally involve garlic being harvested. In spite of the horrid weather, the Marshalls Heritage seed garlic appears to be romping away. It is a little wind burned, which given the windy nature of the site is not all that unusual. The foliage is still lush, green and is now nearly a metre high; it looks rather robust. It may be some time yet before the foliage starts to die back and become raffia like.
This would be plot, as we approach the ides of May. Over the last few days, the calmer and warmer weather has allowed the plot to dry out a little. It looks less like what one of the ‘old boys’ of the allotment described as a paddy field. It is drier, yes, and I am able to see the wood for the trees. Especially, as the potatoes have stared to come, the odd previously sunk gladiolus are also coming up and the grapevines are starting to look alive.
I mention the glads, as more have been sunk today. I think I have read somewhere that glad’s have their naming roots in Gladiator swords. Actually makes me smile, but also think of Clash of the titans. In the older Harryhausen movie, skeletal gladiators rose from the earth; so I often imagine this as I see thin green and scarlet tinged blades start to rise from the soil. More on the glads later though.
Fruit trees were looking frilly, the falstafff apple still is actually. I think the pear tree has somewhat suffered, and has been scorched by a frost. I was quite clad to see that the Morello cherry had blossomed out in bulk, as I wasn’t expecting it to be in bloom so soon after planting.
Today the task was to plant out this years cohort of tomatoes as well as sinking more gladiolus.
tomatos in polu
raised bed tomatoes
and bearing fruit already!
Having moved from home, this years tomato plants have been sat in the poly tunnel for a week or so. I did make an attempt to plant them out on Wednesday, only for the heavens to open whilst I planted just the one plant out. There were another fourteen plants to be planted out today, with seven additional plants being given to mum for her half plot. The first thing to keep in mind, is that whilst we are half way through May, a threat of frost still exists here in Birmingham. So if we do have a frost, these are probably for the high jump, and it truly be ‘good night, Vienna’ for them. There is an assortment of varieties, with yellow stuffer, aisla craig, marmande and cream sausage amongst the plants. Some of them have lost their labels, so I will have to take a rough guess if and when these do fruit. I did actually see a baby tomato on one of the plants on Mum’s half plot. All being well, they will be happy and won’t be frosted. Famous last words, I know.
The other job was to sink more gladiolus.
In the last couple of years, I must have sunk hundreds. There were a hundred that were sunk today. Thankfully, of those sown over the years, are starting to sprout. These are however, largely in raised beds. Those there were in open ground are thin on the ground as Ma has dug over large patches where they might have been on the edges and scattered them around. That’s not a bad thing, they will appear if they want to. I have found that those in the heavy clay of the open ground may well have decayed and disintegrated over the winter; during the summer they did actually flower quite well.
The varieties that have been sunk, vary from being dwarf varieties to larger, giant varieties that are easily four to five high. I am intrigued as how the green variety are going to turn out, as well as the black surprise. I remember giving the latter ones away last year when I felt that I had too many to sink. The purple ones are a favourite, and always look rather pretty. There is a vast variety in the butterfly mix. A smaller dwarf variety, this selection usually contains many different colours.
very purple glad
basket full of blooms
In the next few months, garlic will be on the agenda. This is the garlic kindly supplied by Marshalls, and it’s not doing too badly. There is strong and healthy looking foliage, that indicates just how robust garlic can be and especially during rather erratic weather conditions. I am very glad to say that it hasn’t bolted; there are not signs yet of a flower forming on the top of the garlic scrapes. The foliage has certainly filled out and become more leafy. When it starts to go brown and hessian like and falls over, then it will time to harvest .
If you ask my Mum, the tomatoes have been looking routinely quite sad. They needed watering, and they were cheered up with doses of haitch two oh as and when required. What was more important, was sunshine. Sunshine, which has been somewhat absent and has finally turned up. And very welcome it is too, as it has kick started and renewed feelings of optimism as far as the allotment is concerned. According to the weather people, the sunshine is going to be around for a while; a week at least. With that in mind, the tomatoes have been sent outside to the path in Dad’s garden to start the process of hardening off. Unlike last year, where the tomatoes were all grown under cover; these are going to be outdoors and in raised beds or open ground. Currently they are all having a strop in pots, and I am hoping that if the plants sun bathe for the next few days that I can then take them to the allotment and bury them a bit deeper. The appearance of yellow flashes, tomato flowers, suggests that these all need to get a wiggle on and fairly soon.
purple haze chilli
This year’s cohort of chillies are the current room mates of the tomatoes, and will also need to be removed to the poly tunnel and be potted up. There are chillies here that are supposed to be small and stumpy, as it were, and those who are supposed to grow tall and abundant. I did sort them out into two groups to make the sorting out easier. The taller chillies will be potted up into large flower buckets, whereas the smaller ones are going to put into pots as they are not expected to take up a huge amount of room. In the last few weeks, the chillies have rather had something of a grow spurt and on time. In the next four weeks they will grow further before being moved to the poly tunnel. Having been sown a little late doesn’t appear to have to knocked them too much.
chard in the poly
With the chillies hitting a stride, there are also emerging seedlings. Recently sown cucumbers and squashes have started to come through. With the frost window remaining open until the next May bank holiday, both of these have got four weeks to grow and become more robust. In my experience, squashes grow very quickly; you sometimes have to re-pot them to key up. I am hoping that with the four week window they are suitably sized for planting out once that they have been hardened off. With the cucumbers, I do intend for these to be planted and grown outside. I have previously grown crystal lemon outside and harvested a crop.
Seedlings are sat on the sidelines, mean making crumble. Last year I was able to harvest trugs full of apples and these were then frozen alongside some plums. Today has been spent making a plum and apple crumble. The second in four days!
With the crop of a previous year being used up, we can look to the future crop. A walk to the plot meant finding cherry and apple Blossom. The two cherry trees, Sylvia and Morello, are new additions to the plot; so it was rather heartening to see white buds n the Morello, but a lovely white bloom-just the one!-on the Sylvia tree. I wasn’t expecting to see any blossom on them this year, so I am really quite surprised to see blossom. I did check on the Concorde pear, that appears to have taken the frost on the chin, and is still looking frilly. The darling peach tree does still have a couple of deep pink blooms, there had been half a dozen; I did fleece at one point only for the wind to disagree with the shrouding.
The otherwise heavy clay of the allotment has had a chance to dry out. This has been to the relief to the heritage garlic that Marshalls were kind enough to provide for the plot. Garlic is wonderfully resilient, and is actually doing quite well given how much rain it has suffered. There are no signs yet of any bolting, and the ground is weed free so the bulbs should be making the most of the nutrients available from the clay. The foliage is still very green and leafy, and with another eight weeks to go there is still a lot of growing to be done.
I do like it when the post person delivers something that you’ve been hotly anticipating. Copies of ‘Sow Grow and Eat’ landed on our doormat and rather made my day. My thanks to the fabulous Howard-(the artist who once sunk spuds, remember him?) for having put the cover together. You will also spot that the Loldeantimber trug is now something of a cover star, it also appears in the book. Given how the trug is used so much on the plot, it was definitely going to end up in the book.
Have finally taken a wander down to the plot, having spent a little time away from the plot with real life. There wasn’t a particular task in mind, but I did take my secateurs with me as I remembered that the roses probably needed pruning. I also wanted to have a look at any possible damage that the recent storms may have done to the plot. I was worrying about the grapevines as they were already in something of a bad shape. Turns out there wasn’t too much damage, the plot is soggy more than anything.
The Garlic Farm Garlic is coming on in leaps and bounds. Unlike previous years where I have had numerous varieties of garlic; this year has a much smaller range. The garlic farm garlic is in raised beds and is starting to come through. I have in the past, worried about the garlic not doing very much. I have learned that it is important to just be patient and let the garlic do what it has to. The seed garlic has been pretty much left to it’s own devices, and beyond planting, I have worried very little about it.
I had taken my gloves and sacaeuters for the roses and autumnal raspberries. I didn’t get as far as the raspberries, I will have to look at those after Christmas. What I did do, was wander around the roses and prune what I could. However, some of the roses are still blooming. As you can see, William Shakespeare 200o has a handful of blooms that will hopefully unfurl in the coming days. I am somewhat surprised really to see the roses blooming still.
There are three roses bushes on the plot, that are something out of Grimm’s fairy tales. Sprawling, prickly bushes, that I planted when they were nothing by twigs some years ago. They weren’t expensive, each one was exactly £1 from a poundshop, funnily enough. These are rose bushes that have grown like triffids compared to the rather delicate tea roses. They are also rather vicious, if you look at the stem of one of the roses.
I didn’t always have three. To start of with, I had two. I must have pruned one, and left a stem. It founded itself wedged into the clay, and rooted. So today, I had a thought. A scientific question, really. If I pruned off the two bushes, and kept some of the cuttings, might I end up with bonus bushes. This may or may not work. I had pruned the stems at an angle, and a lot of the material is actually budding. So I have wedged a few cuttings into the clay. Clay that was otherwise bare and where a rose bush might not be a bad idea. I have no idea what these roses are, other than being being, and from Holland. I do remember the labels being in dutch. (I might have to learn a little, just to understand the plant talk)
The grapevines have been looking rather sorry for a long time. I have been battling to support them all the way through the summer, and anticipated that they might have keeled over entirely with the stormy weather that we recently experienced. However, they don’t look too bad. The windy weather has stripped them of their foliage, but this was probably causing them to bank over anyway. The next task for these will most likely to be create a more robust frame for them to clamber over next year. Though I am not too sure whether I am supposed to prune them again. I did prune them last year, and kept two main branches for each vine. That did appear to help the growth of leaves and the amount of fruit that cropped.
Heritage seed garlic from Marshalls is starting to push through the clay. You’ll have to look very closely, but the shoots are just about visible. In comparison to the seed garlic in the raised bed, this is in open ground. I was worried that it might have been eaten up by the soil as we have had quite bit of rain. However it does appear to have been a little more resilient than I had thought. Rather looking forward to seeing how this goes.