Feeling the season turn | The Voice of the Allotment

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This year’s supermarket Brussels sprouts might be on the small side – but the homegrown ones are doing just fine, says Barry Cuff

Barry Cuff’s Sturminster Newton allotment getting its annual feed with 20 wheelbarrow-loads of compost

A report on Radio 4’s Farming Today programme this month warned that British-grown Brussels sprouts would be smaller this year. This is due to the majority of the plants in the muddy fields leaning at an angle due to the very wet and windy weather experienced over the last few weeks – resulting in the lower larger buttons being splattered with soil – and unusable. This year, growers will have to harvest the smaller sprouts further up the stalk to compensate.
Having a large allotment we’re able to devote a large area to brassicas, including Brussels sprouts.
For us, the brassica plot is looking exceptionally well with some very tall plants, all of which were tied to stakes in the early autumn to avoid wind damage. The whole area is also netted against pigeons! We grow the complete range of brassicas with the exception of kale:
Broccoli – we’ve grown two varieties this year. Rudolph for December to February, and Cardinal ready from March onwards.
Brussels sprouts – we have grown the variety Brendan for a few years now and we picked our first buttons recently. The plants will continue cropping until the end of February, and we’ll have a good supply for Christmas!
Calabrese – we are still cutting small side heads from Ironman, a top-selling variety that has been given the RHS award of garden merit.
Cauliflower – This year we have grown four varieties of cauli:
Cheesy – all cut in September and October.
Snow Prince – we cut the last two heads of these in mid-November.
Cendis – a wonderful variety producing large, pure white heads. These will be ready in December and January.
Medallion – still growing, will be ready to cut from February onwards.
Red cabbage – we grow Red Drumhead which produces tight heads with crisp hearts for stir fries and salads. They have been harvested from mid August and we are down to the last plant.
Romanesco – Natalino plants should be ready to harvest in December.
Savoy cabbage – Vertus is our favourite, and we planted on two different dates. One plant remains of the first sowing and more are coming on from the second. These will be ready in mid December.

Elsewhere on the plot …
During November we added 20 wheelbarrow-loads of homemade compost to one of our plots – the remaining plots will receive farmyard manure. The delivery will be stacked in heaps, ready for spreading as areas become available after cropping throughout the winter.
Our Witloof chicory was lifted on the first of the month, topped and tailed and put in a large container of moist compost in the dark. We hope to cut chicons by the beginning of December.
Carrots, parsnips, leeks, celeriac, celery, radishes and autumn salad leaves are all still being harvested when required
From our stores and freezer we have also been eating our own winter squash, potatoes, onions, peas, sweetcorn and broad beans.
As I write we have only experienced two slight frosts, but I will be keeping a close eye on the forecast over the coming weeks; if frost is predicted then the salad leaves will be protected with fleece.

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