Unseasonally mild weather meant summer gloriously lingered on this year. The prolific yellow courgette F1 “Goldmine” cropped until the end of October. The delicious finger sized courgettes just kept coming, A similar story unfolded with squash which are still undamaged on the plants in the ground. I will be harvesting the rest this week as I don’t want to risk a sudden frost. There is nothing to be gained by leaving them on the plant now. I can’t remember a season as long and as productive as this for a long time.
It isn’t just summer crops that have benefitted; some of my Cabbage F1 “Hispi” are maturing now from a late July sowing. I’m growing this as part of my spring cabbage range. Perhaps I could say spring has come very early in this respect! The overwintering green manure is around two feet high. Amazing for the time of year and after only six weeks of growth. It could almost be cut now, though I shall leave it to grow over the winter.
I’ve also noticed some harlequin ladybirds recently for the first time in what is perhaps a less welcome development. Harlequins are bad news for our native ladybirds and seem to be spreading rapidly.
However, it isn’t just our native ladybirds that are under stress. Butterflies too have had a poor year according to the results of the big butterfly count.
It is a fact that we as allotment holders and gardeners will have an increasingly important role to play in helping wildlife in the future. The good news is there a lot we can do. Why not plant a small mixed hedge alongside your allotment and provide the perfect overwintering place for many insects? Bare-rooted plants such as Ilex aquifolium, Prunus spinosa, Craetagus monogyna (Hawthorn) and Rosa canina (dog rose) are just a few that are suitable. There will be summer benefits with pollination if your plot is teeming with insects.
Or best of all, my personal favourite, the native Blackthorn. In true allotment fashion this will produce a useable crop – this time of sloes. Whatever you choose the dormant winter period is perfect for planting all bare-rooted specimens. Another idea is to affix several insect hotels around your plot to help attract ladybirds, solitary bees and a large range of insects. The hotels provide a safe environment for them for nesting and hibernation.
As always there are plenty of general jobs to be doing on the plot this month. I’ll be cutting down the foliage of my asparagus as it yellows to stop wind rock and lessen the risk of water penetrating the crowns.
I’ll also be planting the last of my over -wintered onion sets and garlic cloves directly in the ground.
As ever the weather will decide when these jobs are done. Whatever happens, the allotment will still be there next week!