Monday, 6 August 2012

A Crazy Summer


This is supposed to be holiday time, when we relax at home on the sunny patio with a cool beer or take a trip to sunnier climates leaving our worries behind. This year has been different.  The sun lounger is going rusty from lack of use. It has been very hard to catch up with outdoor work, as the rain has been a constant pain in the arm. Lack of warmth and sunshine don’t help.
Weed control with glyphosate has been difficult as you really need a couple of dry days after spraying to allow the foliage to absorb the chemical. Weed control by hoeing is a waste of time this year, as it just transplants the weeds, so they have been allowed to grow a bit bigger so we can hand weed them.
Crops that need sun, e.g. sweet corn, pumpkins, courgettes, French beans, Cape gooseberries are proper miserable. However green plants such as lettuce, cabbage, broad beans and turnips have never been better, and my opium poppies are bursting with flowers.

Allotment vegetables
Spring cabbage April has been brilliant, but now they are finished the ground was raked over, fertilised and a late crop of broad beans planted in their place. These were sown in mid June, then potted up and are now about nine inches tall.
Summer cabbage Golden Acre is now just about ready for cutting. No sign of clubroot as my rotation has been good and nets keep most of the cabbage white butterfly and pigeons off the plants. Rootfly has been prevented with nine inch square covers made from carpet underlay and placed around the plants at planting.
Turnip Purple Top Milan and Golden Ball seem to like the wet climate and are now ready.
I harvested a great crop of Amsterdam Forcing carrots, sown first week in May and protected from carrot fly with fleece. Some of these will be used within the next fortnight and the remainder will go in the freezer. Growth under the fleece was great even though our resident allotment black cat frequently used it as his hammock bed.
Courgettes are really struggling to grow, with some fruit just rotting and others eaten by the mice.
Pumpkins and sweet corn are standing still waiting on summer weather. We all know that feeling.

Greenhouse tomatoes are now growing, but most lost the first two trusses as the tomatoes just fell off in the cold sunless climate. Third trusses are fine, so instead of stopping them after four or five trusses I will keep them growing till the sixth or seventh truss.
Flame, my red seedless grape has totally failed to produce any grapes this year, but Perlette my white seedless grape is heavy with huge bunches of good grapes. Black Hamburg is always reliable, though excessive growth has had to be kept under control. It does not need too much foliage.

Fruit crops
Strawberries have not done well in this wet climate, suffering botrytis rot which took out about 70% of my crop. The remainder are not sweet and do not keep more than one day.
Raspberries are small and not very sweet. I think I have Glen Rosa, though they were purchased from Dobbies labelled as Glen Ample, which they definitely are not. However as I never retained my receipt they would not entertain my complaint.
Black and redcurrants, gooseberries and saskatoons are looking great and picking is well underway.
Autumn Bliss rasps and an excellent crop of figs both need sunshine to ripen them up.

City Road Allotments Open Day
Come along on Sunday 5th August to our allotments when we open our doors to the public to check out allotment life and see the rewards of hard work, enthusiasm, and getting close to nature.
Sample our produce from our sales stalls with fresh vegetables, flowering plants, jams and tablet and pop into our cafe for a coffee or tea and some home baking.
I will be showing some of my allotment paintings and Saskatoon plants and berries.
We are open from 10.30am to 2pm. And there is plenty of free parking on City Road.

Plant of the week

Opium Poppy is widely available as seed from most garden centres as a very colourful garden poppy.
Botanically it is Papaver somniferum and there are many variations of colour with flowers both single, double and pompom shaped. My colony started as a colourful bright pink chance seedling, which seeded itself and now flowers every year, even in these wet cold summers.
It has a history going back over thousands of years due to its high level of opiate compounds contained in the seeds, seedpods from the milky latex sap. Although it has been misused as the opium gets converted to heroin, drunk as tea, or smoked, it is also very important as a source of other drugs including codeine and morphine. Opium poppies are now grown in England commercially for drug companies to address the shortage of morphine.
Recent research has also found noscapine, a cancer fighting agent, which is giving hope in the fight against breast and prostate cancers. Trials on animals and human cancer cells suggest it may shrink the cancer cells and help to stop the spread of cancer throughout the body.


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