I have to say that we have been very pleased with the allotment this year – we have hardly bought any vegetables for months and the store cupboard is full of runner bean pickle and courgette chutney after bumper crops. The house has smelt of vinegar for weeks and Mrs McGregor has still to make red onion marmalade, from the onions stored in the garage. We usually make this earlier – just after lifting in September, but the crop has dried well so there has been no hurry to use any suspect bulbs before they deteriorate. Red onion marmalade is a lovely preserve to use with cold meats and cheeses as well as a tasty addition to quiches, pizzas and sauces.
The allotment is a far cry from the heady days of summer, when it was neat and tidy and at full production levels! The runner beans have finished after a fantastic crop and I have cut the plants down to the ground, removing the supports which were groaning under the weight of the crop a few weeks ago! Peas and Broad bean plants have also been cut down and the tops and supports removed. This job alone has made the plots look much tidier as well as filling up the compost heap!
We still have a row of carrots to use along with beetroot and swede. The parsnips are growing well on top but I like to leave them in the ground until we get a good frost to improve the flavour. The leeks are smaller than I would like but there are lots of them, so they will be valuable through the winter months.
I have not been as diligent in my removal of caterpillars on my brassicas as I should have been and the curly kale plants are almost ruined. However, the Brussels sprouts, black kale (Cavalo Nero) and sprouting broccoli have survived the attacks and apart from a few lacy outer leaves are growing well so we will have sprouts for Christmas Day! These plants will all stand through the winter unharmed by even the coldest of weather which is more that I can say for my fingers and toes when picking them on frosty days!
The vacant areas of my plots have been sprayed with a systemic weed killer and I have removed the biggest of the weeds from around the winter crops to keep them tidy and prevent cover for slugs and snails that have been eating my swedes!
The next big job is winter digging as soon as the ground is dry enough, skimming off the top of the soil and burying it in the bottom of the trench. I always have dreams of completing my digging before Christmas but the weather usually has different ideas and often it is not even begun until February! I used to get worried about getting it all completed before I started sowing but now I am more relaxed – a few days in the spring when the soil is drier achieves much more than trying to dig wet soil through the short, dark days of winter! For now, it’s back to my cropping plan for next year and wandering if I should stick to my tried and tested varieties of seed or branch out and try something new!