The British climate is nothing if not predictably unpredictable. The first week of May was a scorcher, giving plants like our tomato seedlings an almighty kick up the roots, but who would have foreseen frosts the week after as we sipped Pims in a paddling pool (just us?).
We’ve done what we can for those plants that we’ve already planted, covering our green beans and sweet peas with plant pots overnight, and deploying tarp over our newly sprouted salad leaves as a last ditch defence against the unseasonable cold. It looks like it’s worked (though we did lose one brave sweet pea), but it just goes to show that no growing season is the same, requiring allotmenteers to be ever resourceful and quick to react to whatever challenges mother nature chucks our way.
Here’s a quick tour of our allotment this week, and a little insight into what’s coming next.
The one plant that came with our plot (apart from a ton of chickweed) was a single globe artichoke. We had a good crop from it in our first year, but when we put up the greenhouse we had to transplant it to the other side of the plot. It was touch and go for a while, and it spent all of last year sulking, making us doubt whether we’d get anything from it again, but this year it appears to have come back in full force. We’ll post our guide to cooking and preparing globe artichokes later in the summer.
One of our two rhubarb plants appears to be doing well. Rhubarb’s perennial, so we should get a lot out of this one plant when it reaches maturity, but as you’re not supposed to harvest it in its first year we’ll have to be patient.
We planted this apple tree last year. There are numerous apple trees across our neighbouring allotments so we’re almost guaranteed a good crop. In fact the first of our crop has already begun to show…
Being our first crop, we have no idea how these are going to taste – though I hope they’re on the sweet side as our daughter is already very excited to try one.
The newest fruity addition to our plot are a half-dozen raspberry bushes. Our daughter can eat berries quicker than we can pick them, so I hope we’ve planted enough.
Last year we planted a bed of strawberry plants and from the get-go they were prolific – not that we got to eat any of them. This year we’ve installed netting to keep the birds away, and as there are plenty of small, green strawberries forming already, I’m hoping for a bumper harvest.
We didn’t have much luck with broad beans last year. There are two ways to grow them – either plant them at the end of the year and overwinter them, or plant them early in the year instead. Planting them early is supposed to make them resistant to black fly, but we found that our plants grew too tall and were destroyed but the strong winds we get on top of our hill. This year we planted them from seedlings in march and will see if this works out any better for us.
The thing that’s transformed the way we plant things this year is the addition of a greenhouse to the plot. This has allowed us to attempt things we’d have had no chance of growing before, like tomatoes and peppers.
The peppers will remain residents of the greenhouse for the rest of their growing lives, but everything else is due to be evicted as soon as the weather decides to behave itself. The tomatoes are in for a treat, as I’ve just finished their new home…
Built in the same rustic style as our greenhouse and compost bins, this trough will hopefully allow the cherry tomato vines to cascade over the edges, providing 360 degrees of growing space. That’s the plan anyway. Though going by the amount of tomato plants we have, I may have to build a couple more of these bad boys.
With the frosts over with it’s now time to get everything we have into the ground. As always, we’re at the mercy of the English weather. Too hot and the ground will become parched and rock hard, and too wet and cold and we’ll still be reliant on the greengrocer for our peppers and tomatoes.
So that’s where we are in early May. The allotment is looking better than it ever has before but there’s still plenty of work ahead of us. Hopefully everything we’ve planted will make it but there are never any guarantees, and we’ve had out fair share of disappointments in the past. We’ll keep you updated either way.