Small shoots and old stores | The Voice of the Allotment

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The last of the crops are only just harvested, but Barry Cuff is already eating fresh salad as he watches the new crop begin

Fresh salads: spicy leaf mixes and tender pea shoots from the greenhouse, lettuce and radish from under cloches. Image: Barry Cuff

We had very varied weather all through April with a blackthorn winter* setting in mid month to coincide with the flowering of the bushes. But it was not as cold as some years, despite winds from the North and East, and there were fewer frosts than usual. The coldest occurred on the 4th April, and this one killed our skulkers.** We rely on these for a few early meals of new potatoes; they are left in the ground to dig as required unless they are in the way of any new crop sowing and planting. However, within 20 days of the frost, new growth had appeared and as the ground is not required till early June we hope to have new spuds ahead of the 2023 planted crop!
Apart from a few wet days we were able to work on the plot with no damage to the soil. By the third week of April we had harvested the last of our 2022 vegetables, the leeks, parsnips and purple sprouting broccoli.
We now have to rely on stored produce; beans and peas from the freezer and squash, onions and potatoes from the garage. We still have small amounts of six potato varieties – Picasso, Elfe, Sagitta, Charlotte, Royal and Rooster – and all are still in good condition. Our onions should last to around the middle of May, but we cut into our last Crown Prince squash. Still in perfect condition, it was excellent roasted.

A new season
For salads we have spicy leaf mixes and tender pea shoots from the greenhouse and are cropping lettuce (Little Gem) and radish (French Breakfast) which are growing under cloches.
We have potted up about 60 tomatoes in the greenhouses. These were sown on the 14th and we pricked them out on the 25th March.
We have now sown celery, celeriac, chervil, parsley, leeks and Brussels sprouts in the greenhouse. The onions sown in March are ready for planting out – just as soon as the weather warms up!
On the plot, the broad beans are in flower and we have sown two lines of peas plus some carrot and beetroot. All of our potatoes apart from the earlies were planted during the month.
Hopefully May will bring warmer weather – it is one of the main months for establishing this year’s crop.

*an old English name for a spell of cold weather in spring or early summer, when the blackthorn is flowering
** skulkers are ‘volunteer’ potatoes accidentally left in the ground from the previous year.

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