Time to look back and learn | Voice of the Allotment

In the quiet days of the middle of winter, Barry Cuff reflects on the last year of growing in order to improve this year’s harvest.

Romanesco Broccoli – also known as Roman Cauliflower – has small lime green conical florets and was first documented in Italy in the 16th century. image – Barry Cuff

The plot supplied us with wonderful fresh produce over the Christmas period.
For our dinners there was cauliflower, romanesco, sprouts, leek, carrot and parsnip. Romanesco has small lime green conical florets which are more tender than cauliflower curds. With no real frosts, the salad patch continued producing excellent leaves of Mizuna, Palla Rosso radicchio, two mustards, Golden Streaks and Red Frills plus Bluemoon and Redmoon Autumn radishes. Both these radishes have coloured flesh and look great in the salad bowl.

How our 2021 looked

Looking back over the last twelve months, it is time to assess the performance of the varieties we grew.

Of course, as in farming, the weather has a major role in this, and I keep records of the weather on the allotment. Rain, or lack of it, is the most important factor for us. Rainfall for 2021 was about 39 inches, which is above average.

The wettest months were May and October. The driest April and August. White frosts occurred at the end of April and the first week of May.

Barry is still cropping exotically-coloured salads thanks to the mild winter, with leaves of Mizuna, Palla Rosso radicchio, two mustards, Golden Streaks and Red Frills plus Bluemoon and Redmoon Autumn radishes image – Barry Cuff

Under attack

Our five lines of Hurst Green Shaft peas suffered attacks from pea and bean weevil so yields were somewhat down on previous years.

Attacks usually are worse during cold dry spells when emergence is slow. For some reason the mangetouts were not attacked. The garlic produced much smaller bulbs than usual, despite being planted early. Our beetroot yields were well down – some of this was due to sparrows who love the young seed leaves!

The rain in May and June did wonders for growth, so despite these problems most vegetables gave excellent yields. Sweetcorn (Lark), squashes (Crown Prince, Butterfly and Sweet Dumpling) carrots (Early Nantes) Parsnip (Palace) and French beans (Safari) were the top performers. Onion, broad beans, runner beans and celeriac all did well too.

Our potatoes loved the wet May and June and yielded well. Top performers were Rooster, Elfe, Picasso, International Kidney and Charlotte.

The brassicas all benefited from the rain in June. Once again Cendis cauliflower produced heads weighing two to three kilograms! We were pleased that Ironman produced secondary heads well into December.

So a good year on the whole, with a few exceptions. We now look forward to the new growing season.

By Barry Cuff

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