I’d say this is the word that best describes my allotment right now, after the blessed week of rain we’ve just had. We’ve had the driest Spring, possibly on record, certainly as far as I can remember. For about 6 weeks, we had nothing but a spattering of drizzle that barely wet the surface of the soil, so we were having to copiously water everything, including onions and garlic that are normally fine at this time of year. Thankfully we now have a water supply on our site, which was put to good use after our 2 water butts ran dry. Still, despite our best efforts, the soil became rock hard, and lots of the plants have suffered. To be honest I’m amazed they survived at all.
Then last week we finally had some proper rain, through Tuesday night into Wednesday it was non-stop, and on most of the other days we had a good prolonged shower. I do feel bad for anyone on holiday in the UK last week, but personally, I wanted to go out and dance around in it! Living here, it’s so easy to take rain for granted … until it stops, and then you realise how precious it is, and how fundamental to our green and pleasant land. So the plot has been given a much needed drink, the soil transformed from impenetrable rock to the rich dark loam we better know here in the fens. The smell, when I visited on Thursday, was that wonderful warm, damp, earthy smell, you get in a woodland after the rain in summer, and already I could see signs of the bindweed enjoying a born-again rejuvenation along with the vegetables.
Unfortunately the garlic has suffered the most from the dry spell and is probably beyond repair. It should have lovely tall green stems by now, and be thinking about providing me some scapes (edible flowering stems) but it’s not looking likely. The stems are pathetically short and thin and more yellow than green. We did our best to keep it watered, but it obviously wasn’t enough. There are bulbs forming, but they’ll be on the small side to say the very least. I also think our soil is becoming seriously depleted in some areas, so we’ll need to address this before planting again in autumn.
Also, another of our favourite crops, the asparagus, hasn’t been great. This is the 3rd year since planting it, so by rights we should be in asparagus heaven right now, rolling in it, gorging on a never ending forest of thick juicy stems, whereas in reality, we’re diligently sharing the 2 or possibly 3 stems we get at a time. And when I say time, I don’t mean everyday or even every few days, I’m talking a couple of weeks. Buckets of water and a mound of manure have gone unthanked. I’m really not sure where we’ve gone wrong with it, but I did spot some asparagus beetles on one tip the other day. Can they affect the growth, or is it just the weather? A never ending gardeners debate: pest, weather, timing, disease, variety, bad luck? It’ll be one of the above.
And so, as ever, it’s a whole series of ups and downs. A walk along the path gives you a roller coaster of emotions – ooh great, oh, not so great, brilliant, hmm not sure what’s happened there, ooh look, oh! In emojis it would look something like this: 😏🙁😀😁😕😠😞😀😋😟 pretty much every face there is.
If anyone asks me how the allotment is doing, I’m not sure where to start. So, the onions and shallots are so far looking great, potatoes growing well, no signs of blight yet, we’ve started harvesting broad beans, but the plants themselves are small and covered with black fly, lots of baby plums on the tree, but it’s suffering an aphid attack making the leaves curl, the lettuce is in abundance, do you want some lettuce? Pigeons have attacked the kale, mangetout peas are flowering and looking great, the first carrots on seed tape failed to germinate, but the beetroot and parsnips have come through well, still waiting for the sweetcorn to come up, climbing beans are a bit hit and miss, squashes are in – fingers crossed, courgettes are a no show – I’ll have to buy a plant from the market, chillies have just been planted, and I’ve yet to plant tomatoes and leeks. Does that answer your question? If it’s a non gardener, asking out of politeness I just reply with – yeah, great!
At least I can say (to end with a glass half full) that we’ve so far successfully managed to keep on top of the weeds (mostly) and the plot is looking fairly neat and tidy (for us) so long as you don’t look too closely at the nibbled leaves and the ants busily creating an intensive blackfly farm. Or the patch of grass and nettles at the bottom end that I refer to as the nature reserve, yes there is that.
All in all, I’d say the allotment outlook is showery and cloudy with sunny spells. 🌦