One thing we all agree on is that every year is different on the allotment. The main reason for this is the one thing we can’t control of course and that is the weather. For most of the UK, July saw another month of predominantly hot days with very little rain. Meanwhile, hosepipe bans are now creeping into in some parts of the country.
Crops on some plots have begun to show the strain. Raspberries have been unreliable and generally have had it tough. As one plot holder said to me the other week ‘my raspberries have turned into a kind of jam on the plant!’ I know what she means. Some berries have indeed almost cooked in the heat, while others are half their normal size.
Peas are battling on bravely, though this has not been a summer for them. Peas prefer cooler, moist conditions and some pods have simply turned brown almost overnight. I’ve been watering my peas three-four times per week for weeks on end. The final yield hasn’t justified all the effort.
I’ve seen quite a lot of brassica plants especially cabbage and sprouts, stressed due to the extreme weather. Aphids have moved in and a number of plants are badly mottled and almost a write off as a result.
At the other end of the spectrum, my climbing French beans are having a field day. The traditional variety ‘blue lake’ has been outstanding, the round string less pods forming with clockwork reliability.
Club root has been an ongoing problem on parts of my plot ever since I got it over ten years ago. This year some cauliflowers and indeed cabbage have succumbed, after I unwittingly planted them in a bed contaminated with the disease. This soil borne disease lasts for twenty years in soil that is affected. By raising the PH level to around 7.2, this helps to negate some of the effects of the disease. Growing young plants on in compost until they have a good-sized rootball will also help.
Nonetheless, I’m increasingly resorting to resistant or disease tolerant varieties. F1 cabbage variety ‘Kilazol’ has good resistance to clubroot. Meanwhile for cauliflowers next year, I’ll be trying the resistant F1 variety, ’clapton’.
This month I’m transplanting my overwintering cabbage for next spring, into their final positions. Keeping them moist and shading from the sun for a week or two are essential tasks until they become established.
In the greenhouse, tomatoes are having a good year, with a typically earlier than normal ripening of the first truss. Meanwhile, I’m spraying water on the greenhouse floor to raise humidity for cucumbers. This has been a daily ritual for weeks, in a bid to minimize attack from red spider mite.
This is the perfect time now to order our overwintering garlic and onions. Garlic ‘germidour’ is a reliable old favourite of mine that I’ll be growing again this winter. My choice for overwintering onions is ‘senshyu’. In the time between now and the order coming through the post, I’ve got some serious soil improvement work to do. Both these crops will follow my summer broad beans. I’m going to add some well-rotted manure into the beds where the bulbs will go. It is important the crops get off to a good start before the weather closes in.
Finally, the next time you are fed up of filling up that watering can from a tap near to your plot. Do spare a thought for those allotment sites up and down the country with no mains water. There are still a surprising number!