Slim pickings in the heat | The Voice of the Allotment

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Like every gardener, Barry Cuff has been struggling with July’s drought – despite having a well on the allotment, he has felt the effects on this month’s harvest

The first of Barry’s French beans

With less than 0.2 inches of rain, July was an exceptionally dry month. Plants and seedlings needed watering every day. Luckily our well never ran dry and pumping was carried out daily to meet the demand.
When we took on our plot in 1989 there was no water on the site. In 1990 a plot-holder with foresight deepened an existing well and set up the beginnings of our present water system, which draws up water from a depth of about 12 feet. Over the years, extra storage capacity has been added to the system which serves all the plots.
Our courgettes and squashes all got a can of water a day to keep them going.
But despite watering daily, some of our vegetables raced through their growth stages with senescence and running to seed taking place much earlier than in a normal year. The worst to suffer were our peas, lettuce and potatoes, with lower yields from the potatoes and peas – as we sow lettuce each month they were less of a problem.
Harvesting
By 8th of July we had already dug our Foremost and Charlotte potatoes and both yielded well. Elfe and Royal were dug on the 13th, and it was clear they both suffered from the lack of rain and gave below average yields. A new variety, Sagitta, which we lifted on the 24th, did exceptionally well. From some of these, Val made some very tasty chips. One of our main crop varieties (Rooster), lifted on the 27th, suffered badly from the drought, with many, but quite small, tubers.
We picked our first French beans (Safari) on the 17th.
There were good yields from the mangetout and snap peas, but like the peas they finished producing earlier than normal, despite copious amounts of water. However, we do have second crops of these which should be ready during August.
Due to the sunny and hot weather, our currants ripened quickly and we had good pickings of red,white and black.
Lastly, directly after the potatoes, we planted our Musselburgh leeks for digging in the new year.

Barry had a good crop of red, white (and black) currants

In other news
Our small flower border attracted many butterflies including Small Coppers, Holly Blues and Gatekeepers. Twice during the month we spotted a Red Kite flying overhead.
We look forward to some decent rain in August.

Sponsored by Thorngrove Garden Centre

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