My allotment has been quite neglected recently. All of my travels (Yorkshire for a wedding, then Thailand and Laos, with a work trip to Ireland just 2 days after returning), my work and autumnal weather suddenly arriving after a mild sunny spell – quite a shock after Thailand for me! – has meant that I am not quite where I would like to be for November 22nd. Nevermind though, it will all get done and I have had a lovely time.
A big benefit of no dig gardening is that there are fewer weeds. Not no weeds – weed seeds blow on from neglected plots, or creep in from the edges – but because I am not turning the soil regularly all of those annual seeds underneath don’t get a chance to germinate. The mulch also makes it super-easy to hoe off small seedlings or trowel out anything larger.
So I was looking forward to some allotment time on Friday, after working with Charles bagging the salad and sorting books for posting. Early morning was beautiful and sunny but frosty, and so we went into ‘winter mode’ and picked all of the salad on Thursday, ready for bagging early the next day. It is possible to wait until the leaves had defrosted on the Friday, but that would mean delivery would be hours later, disappointing all of our customers.
Charles’ brassicas looked beautiful in the early morning sun. Here are Brussels sprouts, with Flowersprouts, as we have always had for them, but they are more frequently known now as Kalettes.
I needed to seize this opportunity as I was working all weekend making food for our no dig weekend course. Here is some of my dishes – all plant based and made from veg grown by either Charles or myself (except olive oil, lemons, limes, orange, spices, salt, pepper, cider vinegar, mustard).
Considering I’d been away so much, the allotment was in pretty good shape. There were a few largish weeds that needed trowelling out but most could be quickly hoed. A key job was ‘tidying’ the brassicas of old and fallen leaves, not because I am obsessively tidy (anyone visiting my home would vouch for that!) but because they can provide habitat for slugs and other pests.
I cleared squash vines, half dead summer plants and a lot of bean frames which i store beside the compost heaps.
However I was a complete ninny and forgot to take ‘before’ photos. The sun was shining, I was eager to be cracking on … and I only remembered after weeding the plot and sorting the brassicas.
I grow several varieties of sprouts so they crop over a longer season – that’s why the buttons are different sizes.
The compost looks gorgeous 🙂 It was spread in later winter, these brassicas are a second crop in these beds, no other feed.
I cover the cloches with butterfly netting, which also keeps off pigeons, pheasant and deer but hasn’t deterred white fly. If you click on the sprout photo below, those little white flecks are pesky whitefly. The plants are healthy and the whitefly infestation isn’t intense enough to be causing any damage to the plants.
Whilst I was at the allotment, I kept the netting pulled back to allow any helpful birds to forage for insects. It is necessary to recover them before I leave, otherwise they will be munched. (In contrast, Charles doesn’t need to use netting protection for his brassicas at Homeacres because there is not a problem with pigeons or deer).
Cooking Tip: soak whitefly infested veg in cold water with a tsp of salt or a good splash of cider vinegar for 10 minutes or so, wiggling about to make sure everything is dislodged, then rinse.
It is easy to keep my beds (mostly!) weed free because I don’t dig, but there are zones where the weeds try to creep in. At the bottom of the plot couch, bindweed and tormentil attempt invasion from the main allotment walkway. I didn’t have time to weed this on Friday – my boot shows where the end of my plot is. This will be a quick job with a trowel later in the week.
A neighbour has some very weedy patches and they are trying to move in too. The viola in the photo is cherished so I’ll keep that. However the Rosebay Willowherb is a tenacious weed, quick to establish and with roots that seem to grip to the soil. From a wildlife point of view it’s a useful plant, but we have plenty in the allotment wild spaces so I don’t need it on my plot.
I still have a lot of beetroot – red, white, yellow and pink striped – growing. It will be fine for a while longer outside here in Somerset, and I will harvest and store it before the end of the year. All of the beetroot is sown in modules, planted out in ‘family’ clumps. This yellow beetroot is larger than a grapefruit but still sweet and juicy enough to eat raw. I tided the chard, removing dead leaves and also much of the celery. The mangelwurzels will be harvested soon – for wine!
At the allotment I have growing…
purple sprouting broccoli
perennial broccoli “white star”
There are a few flowers too: borage, calendula and this Verbena bonariensis – fantastic for wildlife but is really in the wrong place and it has grown huge! I’ll move it during the winter but know that I’ll be needing to hoe off dozens of baby Verbenas in the spring…
At the top of the allotment, a large sheet of polythene is hopefully helping to kill off unwanted invasive horseradish. I have a huge plant in a large pot at home and would prefer to be able to grow other veg here. As it is so deep rooting it is quite likely that some horseradish will survive, but hopefully I will have weakened it enough to remove any shoots easily. This is covering rather a lot of potentially good growing space, so I am looking forward to removing the polythene this winter.
The barrels contain comfrey and nettle feed. I addded some more nettles, the lid will be replaced to stop wild creatures from falling in.
I still need to clear the last bean frames (they fell during a wild storm) and compost the sweetcorn – a job for another day.
I’ll be writing about my trips over the next few weeks. There’s still so much to do in the garden, fortunately as it is lovely to be outside and planning winter projects too. As I am typing this, we have just taken delivery of Charles’ newest publication, a 2018 Calendar! So once this has been published, we’ll be packaging up all of the pre-orders.
(It’s for sale on Charles’s website here)