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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


Plough Field Allotments at Amerton

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By Mrs FM

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Alan J Hartley



September Vegetable Harvest.

As we went through August many of my Onions had started going to seed, but I left them in to see if they would still bulk up a bit after cutting off the Flower Stalks. It was very dry as well so I had started watering them a bit, but that only caused some to start rotting. Onions actually come from Asia, so as long as they get established they can cope with pretty dry conditions without extra watering and mine obviously didn’t like the sudden drenching that they got. Eventually, I decided to turn the tops down to start and prepare them for harvesting. Some of the Tops were going down anyway and this is necessary to start the ripening and drying process. After a few days, when the tops had gone brown, I eased them all out of the ground with a Fork. Then I brushed the soil from the roots taking care not to damage the basal Plate which can cause them to rot in storage and left them on the surface of the ground, in the Sun, for a few more days. This helps sweeten them by using up the last of the green Chlorophyll that may remain in the Onions. When the skins were thoroughly browned off and crispy dry, I piled them into 2 buckets to take home, but they didn’t look very good. The best I will be able to store by Plaiting them, but a lot I will have to use up quickly. They were planted at the back end of last Autumn because they were what used to be called the “Japanese type,” or “Over Wintering type.” Planted as Sets they didn’t come cheap, so I had sown some Seed at Christmas which were pricked out and later planted out in early Spring. These later ones looked much better, when I got them out at the end of the Month, but they were still a bit on the small side. Perhaps next year, I will just do them from Seed as it will be less of a loss if the crop fails in future. The value of the Onions that I harvested from those grown using Sets was probably not much more than the cost of the sets as Onions are so cheap to buy in the shops and the Sets are becoming ever more expensive.

After clearing the Bed of Onions I thoroughly weeded it before re-planting with a few Swiss Chard and Yacon that had been held back in pots in case I wanted them. Chard will grow more, or less all year round so is an ideal vegetable to plant whenever any other crop is removed and you have a space regardless of what time of year it is. The Yacon is very much a Summer growing crop though, as the tops will completely die at the first Frost in Auntumn. However, they had been in quite big pots so I am hoping they will have time to develop some of their lovely, edible, tubers even if they are a bit small at the end of the day. Also I will be able to harvest the Crowns to cut up, divide, over Winter and replant for next year. I suppose I could have put some quick Salad Crops in the space I created by taking out the Onions, but I am not a big fan and we have had a very dry Summer that doesn’t suit such things without a lot of watering.

When I started planting in the Spring I was impatient as always and “Jumped The Gun,” with a lot of things including my Dwarf French Beans that went in far too early, but as we had such a mild Spring I got away with it. I ended up picking a lot of Beans, but they had more or less finished by Mid August and I had also got off to a good start with my Runners so I was picking bucket loads of them by Mid July. However, the Runners stopped producing Pods for a while which I understand may have been because they were too dry and the Flowers were getting Pollinated, but the Beans weren’t setting. Since then I have been watering fairly often as it stayed so dry, although I am trying to restrict watering too much as many parts of the Country were in Official Drought by mid August. With the French Beans just about finishing though, I left the last few pods on the plants to over develop and dry, then I will be able to save the Beans as Seeds ready to sow next year.
The same goes for my Borlotti Beans that also did well, but by the middle of August they were starting to over develop and some were drying off. So again, I am going to save those for Sowing next year.
Elsewhere on my Plot my Globe Artichokes did far better than last year with a good number of Globes cut, but I left the last few Heads on them for the Flowers to develop completely and open out for the Bees who love them. I think several other Plot Holders did the same because you could see giant, blue, Thistle like Flowers dotted around the Site. Then as the Flowers started to fade, the foliage also started to wither and dry up. I find that this always happens at the end of the Globe Harvest each season, but after cutting everything down the Plants will re-shoot through the Winter, as long as it doesn’t get too cold.
I have started chopping up the dead foliage and using it as a Mulch around the Crowns of the Plants. Dead Leaves will drop and naturally Mulch down throughout the Season anyway and this helps to create an almost Peat like top layer that the Plants love as it helps to suppress weeds and retain moisture.

Last Winter I planted a couple of little Bare Root Fruit Trees that I felt need a little bit of T.L.C. to help them through the very long dry spell that we have had, so I have been watering them on and off throughout. Normally, if you plant a Bare Root Tree in early Winter, they will get enough root on them by the following Spring to get them through an ordinary year, but in exceptional conditions it is wise to help them along. Indeed, long established Fruit Trees have been struggling this year and the Seasonal June Drop has just gone on and on with fruit steadily falling throughout the Summer. Having said that many of the branches have still been sagging under the weight and I had to retie a number of them. Perhaps I hadn’t thinned the Apples out enough, but strings often give way under the added weight of Fruit anyway.
Earlier on there didn’t seem to be any Figs on my Trees, but now they are loaded and developing nicely as we go into September. There are not so many Asian Pears, or ordinary Pears on my Trees, although other Plot Holders are doing well. Even my Medlar Tree is covered in fruit this year after an almost barren year last year. September will see much of the Fruit ready for picking with the exception of the Medlar that will not be ready until after the first frosts. As regards the Medlar’s barren year last year, Trees often seem to need a rest on odd years, particularly after a bumper year. One thing that does concern me though is the Old Wives Tale about “Lots of fruit on the Trees is a sign that there is a bad Winter coming.”
Elsewhere on my Plot my Grape Vines needed cutting back again at the beginning of August as there was lots more excess growth hiding the embryonic Bunches of Grapes. Cutting the growth back will of course let some more light in to ripen the Grapes as well as revealing them. I had to do the same with my Kiwis that were rampaging across my path and into other fruit Trees. As with all of the other bushes and trees, I was careful not to cut away any of my precious fruit though. After the spectacular splash of Flowers this year I was expecting to find a lot of tiny fruit on the Kiwis, but I could only see a few. Still, it is the first year that either Vine has flowered, so I will be hoping for more in future.

Other things that I have recently cut back include my Early Raspberries that finished fruiting a few weeks ago and are being replaced with Fruit on my Late, or Autumn Fruiting ones, both the ordinary Red, and the slightly exotic, Yellow variety. These “Lates,” will not be cut down until Winter time, or they may even be left until early Spring.
With the Early Varieties though, it is easy to see which Canes to cut out and which to leave, because those that have fruited will turn brown and die. The same is true for the rather vicious black Raspberries and Tay Berries. With all of these you need to tie in the remaining new shoots that will then go on to produce fruit next Season.

The Committee don’t like old Raspberry canes being put onto the Communal Compost Heaps, and decreed a long time ago that all “Woody Material,” like this should be put into the Farmer’s Tractor Bucket to be taken away. I do put them onto my own Compost Bins though. However, I do sometimes put them through my electric, home Shredder along with any Tree prunings, first. Occasionally, I can’t be bothered to bag them up and take them home though, so I sit on the edge of my Compost Bins and cut them up by hand using a stout pair of Secateurs. I find this monotonous task rather restful and almost therapeutic, just sitting there, patiently chopping away, in the sunshine and fresh air.

Pallets are the favoured method of constructing a Compost Bin on most Allotments as they are usually free, but my own Compost Bins were made from Bricks and Concrete, were expensive and will virtually last forever. Generally Pallets will last a few years before starting to brake up, but if they are free it doesn’t matter anyway. Indeed we had some unwanted Pallets delivered to our site from a local business a few weeks ago.

However, on our site we also have an assortment of Plastic Compost Bins donated from time to time. Sometimes they are given to us by Villagers and sometimes by Plot Holders who no longer want them, or who are giving up their Plots. These are generally left by the Compost Storage Area to be Recycled and are free for anyone to help themselves to. The most popular design looks a little like a Dustbin that goes in slightly at the top, however, there are other designs available. I understand the one that is on a metal frame and can be turned, is rather expensive, but does a much quicker job of turning the waste into Compost. I never used to turn my compost Heaps in the past and indeed we don’t regularly turn the big Communal ones, but in recent years, I have found that turning them every few weeks does speed up the composting process. With a little care there isn’t much that can’t be Composted, but it is often better to cut the waste up a little first. With Autumn coming there will be lots of Rubbish from everybody’s Plots soon to get rid of and if Composted efficiently, it can then be dug into empty Plots in the Spring to add a little goodness.


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