Allotment update: Still raining

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The Voice of the Allotment

Despite the everlasting rain, there’s still some jobs and planting to do and always fresh veg and salad to harvest, says Barry Cuff

Fresh salad is still possible in March with a tray of cut-and-come-again spicy salad leaves and some pea seedlings. Image: Barry Cuff

Normally by the end of March most groundwork has been completed – but so far it has not been a normal year. Groundwork includes manuring, digging, weeding and removal of last year’s crops as they finish producing. Continued wet weather has delayed these operations, as it is not advisable to trample wet soil.
Up and down the country, farmers are behind with the drilling of their spring crops. As I write this – 27th March – the rainfall at the allotment is well over 12 inches for the year.
And it is raining as I write …
Blackthorn started flowering around the 16th and was in full flower a week later, somewhat earlier than most years. Normally ’Blackthorn Winter’ is accompanied by winds from the north and east, bringing cold weather and little rain.

On the plot
When it was possible, grass weeds were removed. These have not stopped growing over the mild winter and because of the wet conditions have a lot of soil around the roots, which has to be shaken off before adding to the compost. Edging the beds was one job that could be carried out from the paths – nothing looks better than nice straight edges.

This month’s harvest
We finally harvested the last of our parsnip, celeriac, cauliflower, savoy cabbage and Brussels sprouts. We still have leeks, carrots and purple sprouting broccoli.
Pigeons have been a major problem this year – they have perched on the net covering the brassicas and attacked them through the mesh.
The carrots are still dug as required – some are slug-damaged, but the majority are perfect.

From the store
We are now down to two varieties of potatoes: Charlotte, for salads and frying, and Picasso, a good all-rounder. Both are checked regularly and the chimps removed.
The onions are storing well (the variety is Bonus),
our last butternut was used during the month, and we now have four Crown Prince squash, a wonderful variety that stores well.
From the freezer we are now down to peas, broad beans and a last pack of runner beans!

Fresh salad
It is good to have some fresh ingredients at this time of year. We’ve now used our last Chinese Blue Moon radish, a colourful addition to the salad bowl. Chicons add a slight bitterness (we are on our third cut). For salad leaves, we have a tray of mixed spicy leaves, a cut-and-come-again vegetable, in the greenhouse. Also a tray of agricultural pea seedlings for tender sprouts – repeat sowings are made of these during the spring months.
In the greenhouse we have Red Drumhead red cabbage which will be hardened off shortly.
Our first lettuce plants are ready to be planted out in a trough in the greenhouse and a second batch sown. All our onions are now sown in plugs – a total of 400 plugs, with two seeds in each. We’ve planted two varieties, Bonus and Red Baron.
The peppers that were sown in January have been pricked out into individual pots and are in the greenhouse – but we do bring them into the kitchen overnight.
The tomatoes sown on 12th March were pricked out on the 21st and are residing in the bedroom window (about 90 plants).
The garlic planted in November looks well, as do the broad beans planted out on 7th March, after some initial slug damage.
Fingers crossed for less rain and some warm weather in April, one of the busiest months.

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