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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


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By Mrs FM

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Harvesting Vegetables.

As we came towards the end of July I started harvesting more and more Vegetables and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of them, because we had a very erratic start to the Season. We had both dry spells and wet spells, but I guess with plenty of watering the plants coped very well and I had few casualties. The Beetroot and Turnips were both exceedingly good and although they had a few days of watering in, to start with, they had been pretty much left to their own devices. I think we tend to think of them as growing on the surface whereas in fact they have a very thin tap root that goes down quite deep to pull up moisture and goodness. After pulling, I normally keep Beetroot for a day, or two before boiling, to prevent them from “Bleeding” so much, when they are handled and they are cooked.
The Kohl Rabi looked awful plants when they were first put in, but they recovered well and produced some nice little “Sputniks,” as my mother used to call them. They will make a nice addition to my Salads, raw and diced up with the Beetroot. A second batch of beetroot and Kohl Rabi went in where the Broad Beans had been taken out, but it would have made more sense to put in a “leafy,” crop like Chard, or Cabbage, because the Nitrogen that had been added to the soil by the Broad Beans will encourage “Top Growth,” that I don’t really want for the Beetroot. I also sowed a couple of short rows of Radish Mooli that should go on into the start of the coming Winter and can again be used in my salads, or even cooked in Stir Fry’s and the like.

The leeks that I had been holding back also went into the same patch. Normally I plant them using a trowel, but this time I tried the old fashioned method of using a potato dibber to make holes for them. It does compact the soil in the bottom of the hole, but is a much quicker method of planting them if the soil is loose as all you need to do is drop the Leeks into the holes and then water the holes to settle them in. They are looking good now, but they went in very late so we will see how they do. They will be harvested towards the end of the coming Winter, along with the Parsnips that are also looking good, from the size of the tops on them, which I forgot to thin out. I don’t usually need to though as I sow the seed thinly and they do not usually germinate particularly well being a bit erratic, but this year they germinated particularly well.

The Courgettes are susceptible to Powdery Mildew, but they are growing nicely and picking freely, with no problems yet. The Ridge Cucumbers are susceptible as well, but they too are spreading well with plenty of small Cucumbers forming nicely and the Butternut Squashes are starting to take over. The Squash themselves develop late on though and do not really pick until the end of the season as the foliage starts to die down and they have had a chance to ripen. If the Squashes aren’t ripened properly in the sun they may stay green - both the skin on the outside and the flesh inside. Also of course if they aren’t ripened properly, they won’t keep as well and will be prone to rotting.

My mother used to love growing Tomatoes in her Greenhouse, but I never did very well with them until I decided to grow varieties with smaller fruit. The problem was that I have never been very good at watering them regularly, and erratic watering will, often, result in the Tomatoes splitting. Smaller varieties like the yellow “Sungold,” and red “Cherrola,” tend not to do this. I have also found that picking Tomatoes while it is still cool in the morning helps to prevent them splitting after picking when they are taken into the house and put in the Fridge. My first planting of Tomatoes started to produce back at the start of July in the greenhouse where they are doing very well, but it was only days later that I picked the first ripe Tomatoes outside from my Plot on the Allotment. Smaller Tomatoes on the Allotment are definitely a good idea because larger fruited varieties take so much longer to ripen that very often they don’t get chance before the weather turns in the Autumn. If this happens all you end up with is a lot of green tomatoes that can only be used for “Green Tomato Chutney.” Of course the other thing to bear in mind when planting Tomatoes on an Allotment is that they may be prone to Blight if it is endemic, because of Potato cropping. There are a growing number of varieties of Tomatoes though, that are Blight resistant, as indeed there are Potatoes that they are closely related to, hence the cross infection.

Fortunately we have not had much of a problem with "Blight," so far this season with only a few little signs here and there on the site. The Committee always recommend that people grow either “Blight Resistant,” varieties or “Earlies,” that should be ready before “Blight,” rears its ugly head each season. I grew Pink Fir Apple, which are a “Maincrop,” this year and mine seem to be alright. Blight usually shows in late June/July and “Maincrop,” usually harvest late in August, after they have flowered, so I was taking a bit of a chance. If they do get hit though, taking their tops off should mean that the Potatoes will remain alright under ground and if the Potatoes are left in the ground for 10 days, or so, after their tops have been removed, their skins thicken and then they will keep better.

I didn’t grow the earlier harvesting Japanese Onions, or Garlic this year, so my Onions were ready a bit later than some plot holders’. Their tops started to go down towards the end of July and the Onions were left to ripen a little bit longer before I dug them up. Some people just pull their Onions out, but you shouldn’t do that because that can damage the Basal Plate and then they won’t keep so well. After digging them up I dried them properly before storing them in a large and open, plastic crate, in my Garage, where they should stay cool and dry until I want to use them. Last year I had a bit of fun with my Onions and “Strung,” them, so that I could hang them up on a nail in the wall and thereby use the traditional method of storage. It worked very well and they kept superbly. (Link)
The Onions weren’t a bad size this time even though they did not get off to a very good start as we had a long, dry spell immediately after planting and I have to admit that I resorted to a bit of watering.
To make use of the patch that they came out of I put in some woody cuttings of Gooseberries and Black Currants that will hopefully root and be ready for potting next Spring. The Allotments are planning to have another Plant Sale next Spring, so they will be added to the mix.

Normally, my Dwarf French Beans harvest after the Runner Beans have started, but this year I had an excellent picking of them before the Runners had even started to crop - most unusual. However, the first few Runner Beans did start in mid July and have continued to crop heavily since. In a few weeks time they will stop flowering and that will be a sign that they are coming to an end. The last few Pods can be left on to “Over develop,” so that the Beans inside the Pods grow to maturity. They will be no good for eating at this stage, but if dried out properly they can be shelled and stored to be used as seed for next years crop. Beans are unusual in that they are unlikely to ever cross pollinate naturally, so their seed will always come true and can be collected and used over and over for years to come.

I did eventually cut a few Globe Artichoke Heads, but there were not many and they had no heart to them. They were no good for eating. The plants just wanted to put on a few leaves and the odd flower. I guess it was down to the cold spells we had in Winter and the dry spells that we have had since as they don’t like either. Hopefully, they will be better next year, but the quality and number of the Heads is always variable.

Most years I “Jump the gun,” and plant everything out a bit early, but this year everything went in a bit late, because I waited until after we had the Fundraiser in May, before I put anything into the ground. Sales Fundraiser Link. Consequently my Cabbages are only just starting to “Heart up,” unlike some plot holders who are picking theirs along with other Brassicas like Caulis, etc.
I will get second crops of some things in though, things like Beetroot, Kohl Rabi and Leeks, (already in) Turnips, Chard, Kale, etc. Indeed, August is not too late for sowing most vegetables as long as you pick suitable varieties. I have just sown some Parsley that will go in where the Potatoes have started to come out and will be pickable throughout much of the winter. Other things like Brussels Sprouts should be in already, but if you can find someone who has some left over plants, they could go in. Obviously many salad crops such as Lettuce, Radishes, various Salad Leaves, etc can go in at almost any time. In fact as we go through August it will rapidly become time to plant Spring Cabbages and the like, and a bit later still, as Autumn comes, plants like the “Over Wintering Japanese Onions,” Jerusalem Artichokes and even Garlic, and Aquadulce Broad Beans can be planted. Some like Cabbages will harvest throughout the Winter and into the Spring whereas others like Garlic, Onions and Jerusalem Artichokes will harvest later into next year.


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