THE SUMMER HARVEST BEGINS
The allotment garden is now fully planted and providing an embarrassing amount of produce. We eat as much as possible, find some friend to pass on our surplus and still have plenty to pack into the freezer. A glut of courgettes and beetroot is quickly converted into delicious soups some for immediate consumption over the next three days and the rest goes into the freezer. The leaves and stems of the beetroot are also used in the soup. We waste nothing as the foliage and stems are packed with goodness.
Salads that started under a low polythene tunnel in April are still giving us spring onions and beetroot. Lettuce and radish are now into their third sowing.
Pea Kelvedon Wonder and broad bean Exhibition Long Pod have been picked, cooked and frozen. At this time of year with plenty of warm sunshine and just enough moisture they have been very tender and full of flavour. I have another three sowings of Pea Hurst Green Shaft planted at different times to give a succession of cropping over a few months.
The broad beans really grew very tall and the cropping has been huge, so this will give us very nutritious soup over winter.
My Purple Top Milan turnip all ran to seed so this crop was a complete failure, but my Golden Ball turnips were just fine and quickly replaced them.
First early potato Lady Christl suffered some blackleg so I dug up a few shaws. The potatoes were brilliant, with a good shape and colour and a lot of spuds. This potato has an excellent flavour and is also great in salads. I lost a few spuds from the blackleg, but the rest have been fine. There is a fair bit of potato blight around our allotments as we have suffered a few days of heavy rainfall with warm weather so I will keep an eye on the foliage and may have to lift earlier than planned if the blight gets serious.
Strawberries are now just about finished as are the summer rasps, but autumn rasps will come later. We have been eating fresh strawberries from a range of varieties for two months, and still had plenty for the freezer for jam, compote and summer puddings.
On checking out last years soft fruit picking dates 2014 is running three weeks ahead of 2013.
The mild frost free winter allowed most of the young fruit buds on our outdoor fig to survive the winter so we now look forward to this huge crop ripening up. The Brown Turkey fig size is quite large and the first ripe ones are ready for picking at the end of this month.
Blackcurrants, redcurrants and saskatoons are all giving great crops, but gooseberries are unbelievable. Every shoot is bowed down to the ground with the weight of berries. However there is some losses as the very hot sunshine in the middle of July cooked many berries, which swelled up and did not taste good. The crop is so huge that I can afford to lose a few and still have plenty left over for stewing, compote and wine making. This is one of my favourite wines and I should get about six or more demijohns of wine from my two bushes.
Last year I gave my Ben Connan blackcurrants a severe pruning. There may be a slight reduction in weight of crop, but berry size is now enormous. They were even bigger than my new Big Ben blackcurrants, though they are still young and will have their day next year.
Saskatoon bushes are all under nets, but good growth has taken them up to six feet and pushes up my fruit cage net. The birds sit on the top of the net and get a fair bit of my crop, but it has been such a good year for soft fruit that there is still plenty left for me.
Anna has made a brilliant Saskatoon jam by adding in some rhubarb to add some acidity and help setting.
Only disappointment this year has been the top fruit. There were plenty of flowers on apples, plums, pears, cherries and peach, but there were no bees around to pollinate them. I hand pollinated the peach but it was not successful as only one peach remains. The pear has one pear on it and the cherry only had about six cherries which the blackie got before they ripened up.
The apples and plums have just a light crop, but they are still growing.
Plant of the week
Crocosmia Lucifer makes a bright splash of colour with its vivid red flower spikes in mid summer. It is an herbaceous clump forming plant which grows about four feet tall. It is easy to grow on most soils but preferring moist rich well drained soils in full sun or partial shade.