It has been so amazingly dry these last few weeks that I’m quite surprised anything is growing on the allotment. Fortunately I have my greenhouses and that keeps the tomatoes and peppers happy. I haven’t had so many tomatoes and peppers in all the years I’ve been working there.Thinking of the current situation it is quite lucky that I’ve had such a super harvest, I was able to bottle a lot of the produce – oven roasted mixed vegetables or just tomatoes, cooked blackberry and apples for future crumbles and the list goes on. I’m especially pleased with the oven roasted mixed vegetables, I just add a glug of olive oil, no water so the flavours are really concentrated.
The cucumber in the greenhouses did very well. I have planted two plants and they have climbed up and along a wire the entire length of the greenhouse, producing a lot of fruit. I had so much that I was able to make cucumber relish for the very first time and it was very tasty.
My friend Mary and her son Wayne have got a few beehives on their plot and today was the day to harvest their honey. I’ve never seen it done and was amazed how very laborious it is.
I’m sure it is thanks to the bees that our fruit harvest is so good. It is not only the fruit that benefited from the bees, my sunflowers did very well too. My tallest one was 915cm and today I brought home two of the biggest heads to save them for Chris for next year’s competition.
Both are 25cm in diameter so we should have enough seeds for everybody.
Everything on the allotment is doing well and as the weather is nice ( the forecast is good for the next number of days) I decided to plant out my sunflower plants. These are the Johnson competition sunflowers, they were in flowerpots on the veranda so they were ready to go out. I gained a strip of ground between two of my greenhouses, they will be sheltered there and it should be a bit warmer too.
I also dug some rich compost in before planting three sunflowers, supported with a cane.
I had more plants, they were not so big and I just placed them randomly here and there, it’ll brighten the plot, all 12 of them.
The strawberries are flowering very well, I even saw some fruit on the plants and I’m sure the birds have spotted it as well. That meant my next job was to cover all the raised beds. I have got the nets for the job, the biggest problem is to remember which net goes where. The beds are not all the same size but I think I have managed.
I will have a little break now as the next vegetables will be all kinds of climbing beans and courgettes and squashes. These are now in seed trays and are already sprouting. There is also sweetcorn – first of all I thought I’d wait for the weather to warm up even more and sow them in the ground directly but there was the possibility of mice eating the seed. Better be safe, there was room in the big greenhouse in the back garden.
The leeks are done so today I finished a job that I started on Sunday morning. My tomatoes are amazing this year, every seed I put in the pots must have germinated, I have got dozens of plants. Very carefully labelled varieties including Yellow pear. That one is prolific and produces lots of small sweet tomatoes, very late into the autumn.
I have managed to fill two of my greenhouses on the allotment – I need four more plants to finish altogether. I have even put some tomatoes in the big pots I have rescued from the canabis farm and still I had a lot left. I mentioned it to my neighbour’s daughter and she took 12 of them. Now it looks quite normal, I’ll put the rest in some more big pots and perhaps inside one of my net cages when the weather warms up.
Both greenhouses were thoroughly watered and I moved on to the next task. When my third greenhouse was erected it left a narrow strip of land between the old and the new one. I put a water butt at each end, collecting rainwater from the gutters. Unfortunately it closed the access to the piece of land so weeds grew quite well there. I was always going to sort it out, never had enough time until today. Of course I had to empty one of the butts so I chose the one with the tap as it stood on a structure made of bricks and would be easier to move. It wasn’t very full, I used the water on the sprouting peas in the net cage and the raspberries, then heaved it on the path and started clearing the weeds.
I’m pleased with the result, I’ll have just enough space to plant my competition sunflowers there, they will be sheltered from both sides.
The water butt is perfect in the new position, it is even easier to draw the water.
The Johnson sunflower competition is well established and my plants did quite well. I didn’t have the tallest one this year but I’m sure I had one with the biggest face.
It is larger than a dinner plate and I decided to bring it home because I was afraid that our resident squirrel on the allotment would decide to sample some of the seeds. It lives on the table in our studio so nothing else fits on that table.
Quite a few years ago I started making flower pots out of newspapers – using a jam jar as a mould they were just the right size for transplanting my seedlings. The advantage was that they rotted in the soil when I transferred the plants out into the open soil.
This is a step further. I have started growing my sunflowers for our annual Johnson sunflower competition. They started well, I put them into little pots and they did even better there. Now I needed to put them into something even bigger – but what?
I have been saving the brown paper than some mailing companies fill their boxes with – just because I hate throwing things away, it might come handy.
Today was the day. I used a tall vase as a mould because I needed something bigger than a jar and with straight sides. It is just perfect, I have used most of the paper and the plants look fine. I’ll keep them in the greenhouse for quite a while and when all danger of frost is gone they’ll go out. Last year I managed 11ft and 11inches, my hope is for that one inch more!
I love growing them on the allotment, they attract the bees and other insects and anyway – they look great. Especially if they manage to grow tall or have huge faces, like this one. I had to cut it and bring it home, in the past the squirrels found it and before I knew the seeds were gone.
This beauty wasn’t the tallest but had the biggest face – 39 cm! Enough seeds to grow a field of them next year.
I’ve got two very tall sunflowers – one on the farm
I didn’t manage to measure that one and
this one in the back garden – 10ft 10,5inches!
The time for measuring is here – the annual talest sunflower competition is upon us and this year I’m quite confident that I’ll do well.
The tallest one is 9ft and 11 inches. It stands beside the greenhouse so it is protected and also needs to grow tall to reach the light. I think that’s the secret!
My sunflowers aren’t the tallest but they have great faces – I can see character there!
I think this year I have finally managed to do what I knew I should be doing – not to get carried away when deciding what and when to sow.
In the past years I was sometimes way too early and then plants got leggy or just died so I didn’t gain anything or I simply sowed too many seeds and was then swamped.
This year is different – I’ve got quite a few kohl-rabies and cabbages, purely because I wanted a lot of them. As I have my brassica nets on the allotment, I shall have enough space to house them all and, as I have read in the RHS information pages about mushroom compost, that is excellent for brassica growing because it means that the plants are less likely to be affected by club root.
In the brassica line I’ll have cabbages – white and red, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, kohl-rabi and cauliflowers.
All of these are neatly transplanted into bigger pots and there they can take their time to grow, ready to be transplanted into the cages.
The tomatoes are doing well too, again the same rules apply – less is more and I’m quite pleased. I managed to find some purple tomatilloes, delighted about it as so far I only managed to find the green ones. It will be very interesting. I have got a few chilli peppers and sowed some sweet peppers today, just to make sure I’ve got a bit of everything.
I’d like to grow the tomatoes and tomatilloes on the allotment, inside the net cages – these do offer some protection and the fruit is much more tasty having been grown outside.
Apart from the veg I’ve got some sunflowers coming up, I’d like to plant them out on the allotment to encourage the bees – we have got a hive there, hopefully the bees are still in.