Tuesday, 24 November 2015

End of season allotment scorecard

This was the scene at the allotment on Sunday, when our attendance managed to neatly and happily bisect a couple of squally rain showers. For shame: I haven't written anything veg-related on here since July, and in truth our attendance of the plot in real life over the last couple of months has been scarcely any more regular. The fact that we aren't now faced with an unmanageable forest of weeds is, as I have said since we took over this site in February, a function of its modest size. And yet, despite the limited ground space, and our infrequent trips to the site, we've still managed a very satisfying harvest.

As November begins to nudge up against December, the fact that we are still harvesting tomatoes is, I think, pretty remarkable. We were late planting them, as until one of the sheds was converted into a makeshift greenhouse we had nowhere to put them, and it has been a mild start to winter, but even so. There was plenty of red on display on Sunday, but with frosts now a regular occurrence I chopped down all the remaining fruits. We'll get a jar or two of chutney from the obstinately green ones.

We also picked the remaining two red cabbage, both now whoppers although sadly lacking in flavour. If I could remember what type these were I'd avoid planting them again. Much tastier are the 'Manchester Market' turnips, a bag of which came home with us. There are a good number of these left in the ground, along with lots of kale and some chard. Apart from the autumn-planted onions and garlic, nearly all of which have come through, that's all we've got going on. Future jobs on the horizon will be humphing some manure onto the unplanted patches, having the odd fire and that's about it until the weather turns again.

If you don't mind, let us, via the magic of digital image storage, jump back in time a couple of months to when the days were still long and life was bursting out everywhere to have a bit of a review of what we grew. As discussed in Patchy Growth passim, we had huge amounts of help getting the plot turned around and so everything we've eaten from the plot this year came with a side order of gratitude.

Harvests of both yellow and (unusually for us) red onions were excellent, due perhaps to the lightness of our newly acquired soil. Spuds were great as well. Stocks of both these will just about last into the new year.

After a ropy start, Kasia's pumpkin plants came through with the goods, and we've still got a couple of these to eat. We used part of one in a typically delicious Ottolenghi recipe for chargrilled squash with brussels sprout salsa.

Peas, mange tout and green beans all gave a good return on investment. As ever, we struggled to get any peas back to the house. It's their fault for being so addictively delicious, straight from the pod.

We also got a good few cucumbers, despite the plants not seeming to enjoy their spot in the shed with the tomatoes. We'll try and get a hardy variety and grow outdoors next time I think. Needless to say, we had far too many courgettes. Always, always, too many damn courgettes.

Other things: we had a first ever homegrown gooseberries and our maiden attempt at growing celeriac returned a couple of little beauties. We got a boatload of beetroot, a veg whose earthy tang I will never tire of. In fact, the only outright failure were parsnips, which is odd as these have always been our mid-winter banker.

Flower-wise, we stuck to sweet peas and nasturtiums, as we generally do. We'll get more adventurous one of these days.

We haven't spotted a great deal of wildlife on the plot, other than the ever-circling racing pigeons, and the occasional battle between a crow and a buzzard. We were there one sunny afternoon when all the winged ants decided as one that it was time to leave the various nests around the plot, and for an hour or so the late summer air was busy with the weird buggers.

It's just a little less than a year since we found out that The Freemen were finally taking the decision to shut down the Nunsmoor site, at which point I think we were ready to give up allotmenteering for a bit. That we had the chance to get back in the growing game so quickly, and had so much help from those on this site to turn our current patch around makes all that seem like a distant memory, as well as a blessing in disguise. Here's to the seasons to come.


  1. You've done really well for your first year I bet you are really glad that you have swapped sites now and aren't involved in the closure of your previous site.
    The insects that you have photographed are flying ants. The ants grow wings so that they can move nesting sites. Those will either be arriving from somewhere else or leaving your plot. Once they have arrived at their destination they shed their wings.

    1. Yep, there's a really nice atmos at the new site. Touch wood that continues, but if there are any issues at least it's a council owned site, not on Freemen's land.


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