Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mid-August report

I have been wondering for some time why it was that the rampant pumpkin plant in the greenhouse (ambitions not just on the allotment site, Tupton, or even the world, but the whole known universe) was producing lots of baby pumpkins which, when they reached the size of a small chicken’s egg, would turn yellow, wither and die. There’s nothing wrong with the plant. It still has ambitions on the universe. It’s watered regularly. It gets fed seaweed meal every couple of weeks. It seems entirely happy – I’ve never seen so many baby pumpkins on a vine. You usually only get two or perhaps three. Nevertheless, they continued to rot and die despite everything that I tried.

I put the dilemma to a web garden forum I use from time to time. Sounds, they said, as if you have pollination problems. Of course. The pumpkins are in the greenhouse (there are two in the kitchen garden as well, but they are only just starting to produce pumpkins). No bees can get to them. Nor butterflies. Nothing for it but to hand pollinate. The drawback is that pumpkin flowers are wide, wide open in the mornings and gradually close as the afternoon progresses. By the time we get to the allotment after work, they are closed up tight. And there isn’t time to go up in the mornings before we leave for work at 7. So The Builder nipped up before we left on Saturday and took off the ones that are clearly not going to grow and pollinated the ones he could. There are a couple that were too small. We will do those this Saturday and hope that we are in time.

There are cucumbers growing on the cucumber plants. I don’t know about the melon plants. There weren’t any female flowers the last time I was there to look. The tomatoes and the Cape Gooseberries are fruiting nicely, though nothing is ripe yet. And the pepper/capsicum plants are starting to flower so there should even be some capsicums (or peppers, depending on where you are)

We are doing well for potatoes this year. So far no blight. And so far nothing like the slug damage we had last year. We are also doing very well for peas and onions, although the peas in the garden are now all finished. No more wandering around in the evenings and grazing from the pea vines.

The flower garden has gone completely bonkers. I’ve just left it to get on with it. I’ll sort it all out when it dies back a bit in the autumn.

The fruit is now largely finished, apart from one raspberry cane which appears to be an autumn fruiting raspberry, some blueberries which aren’t quiet ripe yet and the apples which will be along in another three or four weeks.

We are doing well for courgettes/zucchinis, runner beans, broad beans and broccoli, though that is all but finished now. Must stagger the sowing of the broccoli next year. 12 large Veronica calabrese is rather a lot for two people to deal with when it all flowers at once! The carrots are only growing slowly. I hope they are big enough to eat before the winter sets in! The beetroot, which The Builder has been despairing of, is now settling into growing apace. He had been waiting for them to form scarlet globes above ground. They were never going to do that. I planted long, underground growing beetroots this year. And very nice they are too. We are getting cucumbers from the plants in the garden (and they are LOVELY). I don't suppose you remember, but last year the sweet corn didn't grow and didn't do and didn't even fruit until the autumn. It's much better this year. The first sowings are taller than me and produced masses of flowers and now there are corn ears growing. I must remember to get you a photo.

The winter veg are growing well. All those brassicas are beginning to fill out a bit and the beans on the allotment are doing quite well – though they never recovered from that later frost that hit them after I put them out much too early in May. They are producing beans but they are only about *this* high so are struggling to produce huge quantities. I shall try and remember for next year – ne’er cast a clout till May is out is excellent advice, more so if you live North of the M25!

Oh – and most of the asparagus plants that we planted in the spring sneakily produced a second spear each. We didn’t notice because the entire bed is covered in forget me nots and we couldn’t see them. We noticed when we went down to weed a couple of weeks ago.


The Met Office keeps talking about how this has been one of the wettest summers for a long time. Can't say that that's how I see it in Tupton. It's certainly been wetter in August than last year (but then we had Ian's sunshine tethered over us). But it's been a much better growing year and we haven't had anything like the problems with blight, things rotting and things bolting. This means that we also don't have as much set aside for the winter. There has been no panic harvesting so far this year! I do, however, have five jars of onions pickling in the store cellar



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