An unexpected winter growing season | The Voice of the Allotment


The unusually warm, wet November has meant everything has kept right on growing, says Barry Cuff – though he has resisted the temptation of new seeds

Barry has continued to harvest both vegetables and salads throughout November. Image: Barry Cuff

Unusually for November, growth of weeds, grass and some vegetables continued through the month due to the unseasonal weather, with high daytime temperatures, mild nights and high rainfall (about 7½ inches recorded locally). The only frost during the month occurred on the 19th and it killed off a few of the most tender plants, the French beans and the courgettes.
As a result of the long, dry summer, despite the high rainfall it was still possible to walk on the soil without doing any harm. Weeds could be removed by hoeing as some were still seeding, especially groundsel and the dreaded Gallant Soldier.

Muck spreading
Five trailer-loads of two-year-old horse manure for the whole site was delivered by a local farmer on the 9th November, all of which had been ordered and paid for by plot-holders in advance. We spread the first of our part of the order on to the plot which had been potatoes, and will be legumes, squashes and sweetcorn in 2023. The remainder will be put in heaps waiting for the ground to be cleared.
Of course some will not be spread until the crops, such as leeks, brassicas, parsnips and carrots, are cleared in the spring.
Sturminster Newton Town Council carried out an inspection of our site early in the month to ensure that plot-holders are complying with the tenancy agreement which they sign annually.
Back to the veg
We continued to harvest vegetables throughout the month. Carrots, leeks and parsnips were dug as required, normally about every seven days to ensure a fresh supply for the kitchen. Celery and celeriac keep well in the fridge and are normally gathered at longer intervals.
Salads are cut about every four days. These currently include mustards, wintercress, corn salad, rocket and radicchio together with the colourful and tasty autumn radishes.
Due to the mild weather we had to chimp* our potatoes. They were dug back in August and stored in our garage, and some had 2-3 inch shoots!

A seedy habit
Over the last month we have been inundated by the seed companies with offers of seed at £1 and 89p per packet. It’s very good value from some of the biggest seed houses – Kings, Thompson & Morgan, Suttons and Dobies. We only succumbed to buying a few packets of tomatoes and cauliflowers, as we are already well stocked up with seed for next year.
A quick stock check showed we had packets of about 70 varieties covering a range of about 30 different vegetables!

*I asked Barry, who says ‘it’s an old Dorset dialect word – to chimp is the act of removing the sprouts (chits) from the taters.’ – Ed

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