I really enjoy this time of year. The increasingly damp smell of decomposing vegetation, partially rotting leaf litter combined with stunning tree colours offer plenty of stimulation for our senses! The allotment takes on a new guise, as we increasingly begin to focus on the dormant season.
Towards the end of September, the first storm of autumn played havoc on some allotment sites. On my local site many runner and French bean wigwams came a cropper. These structures, already top heavy with foliage and beans could not cope with the sustained buffeting they received.
My Williams Bon Chretien pear tree also suffered in the gales, this time the damage being more serious. The winds came just when the tree was at its most vulnerable, laden with fruit and foliage after a bumper year. Two of the lower branches were partially ripped from the main stem, tearing the bark in the process. This necessitated an emergency pruning to try and clean the wound and contain the damage. Hopefully the wound will not succumb to canker. The adjacent Conference pear tree was unaffected!
The winds are a timely reminder that autumn is now upon us. One seasonal task I undertake now is the barrowing of manure on to my plot from the allotment site car park. A local stable delivers it to our site free of charge. This helps us of course and also the stable too.
This year the strawy, steaming warm manure had threads of white mycelium embedded in it. Mushrooms were in the early stages of being formed! Hopefully I haven’t disturbed some of these too much. It’ll be interesting to see if they continue to grow on the manure pile now on my plot. I suspect not. A far more reliable way to grow mushrooms is by using a mushroom kit.
We are at the start of the bare root planting season now for trees and hedging plants. I have some blackthorn plants around part of my plot boundary and they have had a productive year. They make a good use of poor soil and an otherwise unproductive area. There are a multitude of mixed hedging plants suitable for larger allotment site perimeter boundaries, perhaps adjacent to a field or road. Hawthorn, or a mixed hedge containing, blackthorn, hazel, crab apple and cherry plums are ideal.
So many hedgerows have disappeared nationally over recent years; it is wonderful if we allotment holders can do our bit to help redress the balance. Hedgerows offer a winter home for our allies and provide us with food too!
Back on the plot, I’ve made a start on planting out overwintering garlic and onions. I’ve been preparing a bed for them by lightly forking in some well-rotted manure from last year. It needs to be a well drained bed that hasn’t grown alliums over the past year. Plant the individual garlic cloves just below the surface of the soil, 10cm apart, with 20cm between the rows.
With onions it is a similar story. I simply push and twist the sets into the soil around 12cm apart, with 30cm between the rows.
Birds do like to disturb the soil around both garlic and onions. It is important to cover the newly planted beds with netting or fleece until the plants begin to root into the soil. Check them periodically for any that have fallen over or pushed themselves upwards.