Riding the allotment roller coaster

And so the ups and downs, hits and misses, win some – lose some, life that is allotmenteering, or gardening in general, continues. We’ve gone from weather so wet and miserable that you’re forced to stay indoors, to weather that’s so hot and muggy you’re forced to stay indoors. Except the allotment calls me, ‘where are you? Come and sort me out!’.

We were away in the Lake District last week, and before I left I was having to tip water out from below most of my seedlings to save them from drowning, but by the time I returned, they were gasping for water. Most of them recovered fine after a drink, except for the sunflowers. They’re beyond help. Ah well. I’ll try sowing some seed direct on the plot and see if they’ll grow in time.

Most of my other seedlings are doing fine. Sweetcorn, beans and courgettes have all germinated and are growing well.

The exception here are the butternut squashes. It was a new packet of seed, sown at the same time and in the same compost as the courgettes, watered equally. But no show. I had a little route around in the soil, but there’s nothing there. Who knows? It happens sometimes. I think it’s too late to start again with them, so I’ll see if they have any plants for sale on our local market, as they usually do. I don’t normally indulge in buying young plants, but for these times when something fails, gets eaten by slimy creatures, or just gets forgotten, they can be a useful back-up.

Down on the allotment, the rhubarb had gone into big time flower production behind my back. These weren’t here a week ago! Five huge flowering stems. Quite magestically beautiful, but they have to go. They weaken the plants, and can even kill them off altogether as they take up so much energy.

The potatoes are growing strong. They all look good and healthy.

I have a full row of parsnips that have done amazingly well this year, so far. In need of some weeding I know, but I’m just so pleased to see them when for years I couldn’t get them to germinate. BUT, no carrots. You see, you just can’t have it all. It’s mother natures way of saying ‘now don’t be greedy’. I have searched and searched the marked row where I sowed the carrots, and all I can see are weeds. Pah, who needs carrots anyway? Parsnips are the new carrots around here!

I have a few interspersed beetroot, but they’re struggling a bit, so I think I’ll get some more started at home, and transplant them.

I’ve also lost the first few lettuces that I planted out in the raised bed. It could be the weather, but more likely that they’ve been the victim of a mollusc based incident. So much for the copper tape. I think my gardening philosophy would be, when it all goes tits-up blame the weather, and failing that blame the slugs! It’s usually one or the other.

The broad beans are still getting their extremities nibbled, but they don’t seem too bothered about it. They’re flowering nonetheless which is the main thing.

The circular bed, is now of an unrecognisable shape. It’s packed with poppies that are ready to flower at any moment. It will be a riot of colour when they do. It’s nice to have a little bit of wilderness on the plot, even if it is safely confined in a controlled space!

Among the poppies are lots of cerinthe major (or honeywort to some) which I planted a few years back and now just self seed. The rich purple flowers hang down from these leafy bracts, making them really unusual looking. The bees love them, and they, along with other beneficial insects, are who this bed is for.

My final job of the day, a bit of protection from the birds for my strawberries. I used pea netting one year and a fledgling bird got himself badly tangled up in it, so I don’t like to use that now. This chicken wire should suffice, while allowing the bees in and out to pollinate the flowers. Come on strawberries. I bought a half price punnet of them from the supermarket as I’m so impatient, but they tasted like watered down strawberries. A vague hint of sweetness, but nothing, nowhere near the taste of homegrown.

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