Monday, 17 October 2011

Annual Allotment Review

I'm a bit later than usual this year with my review, that's because it's only just starting to feel like the end of summer. It's been so lovely and warm during October, and this year, for the first time ever, it looks as if I will be left with virtually no green tomatoes, just about every single one has ripened. Yesterday I took out the  tomato plants at the allotment, and, guess what? put them in the COMPOST BIN!! Yes! - no blight! This must be the first year that has happened since about 2005 or 2006. I may have mentioned this before but apparently this is the driest year in the Midlands since 1976.

Of course this has had its down side as well, the lack of moisture has really affected some crops quite badly. We have had a few showers, and one or two downpours, but the rain that many other areas have had has just passed us by, the allotments are dustbowls at the moment, and have been all year.

Well, as usual, I'll start with the greenhouse crops:
Tomatoes - a really good year, as I've already said, both indoors and out. The sideshoot cuttings, grown outdoors, were a success too.
Chillies - I've grown a couple of new varieties this year, Numex Twilight, and Black Pearl (above) as well as the Heatwave I grew last year, and we have had masses. There are still plenty ripening in the greenhouse, and I'm not sure what I will do when the frosts hit - maybe put a heater in there? It would be a shame to lose them all.
Aubergines - well, success with aubergines for the first time, in as much as I've never managed to grow any fruit before, three produced all together, off two plants although the last one was the size of an egg.
Peppers - quite a few fruit, some very small and funny shaped, again, plenty still ripening in the greenhouse. Unfortunately all the red ones have had nasty little blackish patches on the insides, which I have had to cut out.
Cucumbers - not a great year for cucumbers, the first batch didn't do very well at all, but I started a second batch halfway through the summer, and these did slightly better. All were quite badly affected by mildew, which I have kept under control by spraying with milk solution.

On the allotment:
Fruit - not a great year for my fruit,  mainly because I have had to start with all new, or moved, plants, which haven't got properly established yet.

Runner beans - my worst year ever, and it wasn't just mine, so I can only put that down to the weather.
Broad beans - not bad, next year I want to try and stagger them a bit more so they don't all come at once.
French beans - pretty successful this year, again, next year I want to do a lot more of them, preferably staggered throughout the year, this should be easier with the extra space I will have next year.
Peas - I did mange touts, which I thought would be easier in terms of avoiding the maggots, but instead I had to contend with pigeons, so had the usual problems with them getting tangled up in the netting (the peas, not the pigeons). They were nice but I didn't have enough space to make the yield worth the effort. The jury is still out on whether to bother next year.

Cabbages - so-so, we don't eat that many, but space again was a bit of an issue here, I had no spaces between my netting tunnels, so it was very difficult to get in amongst them and look after/harvest them. The last few summer ones are still sitting there, some have resprouted, mainly because I can't be bothered to take the netting off!
The same applies to the psb and brussels sprouts, which I finally got around to having a good look at yesterday. The psb is ok, although one plant had already stopped sprouting and started flowering, so I have pulled it up. Unfortunately the brussels sprouts are covered in aphids, and sooty mould. They really don't look too good at all. And the whole lot is swathed in clouds of the inevitable whitefly.

Carrots -a good year for carrots, there are still plenty left, although they are getting a bit woody now.
Parsnips - looking good, but I haven't dug any up yet.

Onions - didn't do too badly, but we have already almost run out, there wasn't enough space to grow very many.
Shallots - ditto, and they weren't very impressive either.
Leeks - are really struggling with the dryness, the first planting is doing ok, the second lot are desperate for a good downpour.
I didn't get any garlic this year, the new occupants of my old plot would have had it.

Potatoes - could have done with more rain. They were ok, but nothing special. They ran out several weeks ago now, as there was not enough space to grow enough for storing over winter.

Sweetcorn - pathetic, again I put this down to the weather.
Squashes - underwhelming. Again, must have been the weather.

I say 'it must have been the weather', but of course I could have done a lot more watering! However, it wasn't just the dryness, it was also quite cold, so I think I wasn't really aware of how little it had rained, otherwise it might have occurred to me to do a bit more watering. I don't normally reckon to water things once they're established, and normally we have enough rain so that it's not necessary. It really has been an extraordinary year for weather, and they say it's going to continue in this vein for several years, if not decades.

I estimate I will have an extra 30% or so of space for vegetables next year. Although I now have a full size plot, nearly half is already full of fruit, but it is a wide plot, and I have paced it out and it is very roomy! I have already planted four types of garlic - Thermidrome, Germidour, Music and a couple of cloves of Elephant garlic.