The frost took the cauliflower, says Barry Cuff – and now’s the right time to look back and see what grew, what didn’t, and what lessons can be learned
At the beginning of December about 30 per cent of our allotment still carried vegetables for winter and spring harvest. The remainder was either growing green manure (15 per cent) or was mulched with manure and homemade compost.
With hard frosts forecast we covered the most vulnerable crops with fleece and dug ourselves a good supply of carrots and parsnips. Experience tells us that both are impossible to remove from rock-hard frozen ground!
Under the fleece, the oriental mustards, Chinese cabbage, radicchio, corn salad and winter cress all survived the very low temperatures.
However, the celery and some of our caulis did not make it through the 11 days of below zero temperatures. It was not surprising that the celery died as it is not frost hardy (in previous years with little or no frost we have still been harvesting in February). What was strange was the Medallion cauliflower, which was due to be ready in March. At the end of November the plants looked healthy but every one was lost. Something to be researched; we think at the moment that it is boron deficiency combined with the very low temperatures.
A year’s round up
At the end of the year it is always good to look through the allotment diary and see how each vegetable performed through the year:
- Beetroot – we had good yields.
- Brassicas – bad infestations of whitefly, but recovered when the rain started. Main pest was Pigeons. Very few Cabbage White Butterflies.
- Butternut squash – cropped well. Variety was Butterfly.
- Carrots – better establishment than in some years, with excellent yields.
- Celeriac – good yields, survived frost
- Celery – excellent plants but those remaining were lost to frost.
- Courgette – cropped well.
- French and Runner beans – both stopped producing during the worst of the dry weather. Both put on a spurt when the rain came, giving good yields and an extended picking time.
- Leeks – these took well. No Leek Moth!
- Lettuce – did exceptionally well from successional planting from plugs.
- Mangetout peas – good yields from Carouby De Maussane and Purple Magnolia.
- Onions – good establishment from plugs. Very little White Rot. Bulbs were smaller than usual.
- Parsnip – started digging in late November. Excellent roots. The variety was Palace.
- Peas – we suffered with less weevil than previous two years but cropping was shortened by the drought.
- Peppers – both sweet and chilli gave good yields in the greenhouse.
- Potatoes – gave average yields. Our best performing varieties were Picasso, Rooster, Elfe, Sagitta and Charlotte.
- Sweetcorn – slightly below average yields due to the drought.
- Tomatoes – all varieties did exceptionally well in the greenhouse; top varieties for us were Santonio, Limoncito, Akron, Rainbow Mix, Alicante and Crokini.
- Winter salad leaves – loved the Autumn rain and survived the frosts under fleece.
- Winter squash – cropped well, though slightly smaller fruits than previous years. Variety was Crown Prince.
On the whole we were very pleased with the quality and yields of our vegetables, despite a year of unusual weather.
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