Tag Archives: Corn

Planting Plans: Beans & Fruiting Things

For most of the country, it would seem that winter has found its second wind (so to speak), but here in London it remains mild and rainy. I really should head out there and get some final jobs done, but am struggling to get the gumption to do so.

I haven’t been totally idle, seed potatoes are chitting away in the spare room, winter pruning of the fruit shrubs is already done and the seed packets are already organised by planting month. The sun is setting later and later in the day, before I know it, I’ll be back to visiting to the allotment after work again.

I can’t wait for those longer days and the crops that can only be had with some hot summer sun. We had some great success with dwarf and climbing beans last, even if the summer wasn’t the best. This year we’ll be growing Golddukat, a yellow dwarf French and a purple climbing French, Purple Cascade. Peas were less successful last year, reaching a mere three inches in height, but I’m determined to try again. We’re trying a English heritage variety, Champion of England. Originally developed in the 1840’s and nearly went extinct, but was in part saved by a family farm in Lincolnshire in the 1940’s. I’m hoping I can do the provenance of these seeds justice and grow them successfully.

I really do have my fingers crossed for some hotter weather this year, there are a few crops that I want to attempt again this year. Their lack of success, even utter failure was not just down to the weather. The fault in part to me not being diligent enough in keeping the crops safe from weather changes or pests. We’re determined to grow sweetcorn again and put up fortifications around it to stop the foxes from getting it again. This year we’re growing a bi-coloured variety, Double Standard. With it’s yellow and white kernels, it’s what I could call a Peaches and Cream variety, which is a very popular type back home. We had some success with cucumbers last year, just a few rather wonky looking ones, but they tasted fantastic. Even the chilli plants managed to cough out a couple of Jalapeños. I’ve ordered plants for this year though, I’m hoping they’ll be more robust than the ones I started from seed last year. Also being started from plants are the tomatoes; Sungold, Chocolate Cherry & Tropical Ruby. Last year, I started everything from seeds, but the plants were knocked flat by a sudden cold spell. Thought some recovered, blight struck just as the fruits were about to ripen up. I’m hoping by ordering plants, they’ll get off to a quicker start and fruit out before the inevitable blight gets them.

Baby tomato plants, eventually lost to cold and blight.

Baby tomato plants, eventually lost to cold and blight.

The fruit cage remains more or less the same this year. The strawberries, which were planted last year, are filling out nicely and we’re hoping for more fruitful crops this year. I’ve pruned the gooseberry and current shrubs harder this year as they were getting very congested. I may have lost some fruit due to cutting back much of last year’s growth, but mildew was an issue last year. Really, I’m hoping the fruit cage will make the most difference  protecting what fruit we do get from the marauding wood pigeons. As someone said to me last year, “you don’t really realise how much you’re feeding to the birds until you put up a fruit cage.” My only addition to the fruit cage is a container grown blueberry. The container was left over from a planting job, which means I can plant it in lovely acidic ericaeous soil. It’s a novelty variety of blueberry, bright pink Pinkberry bought from Thompson & Morgan.

Novelty fruit or otherwise, I hope hot summer don’t become a novelty. The rain splattered windows today make it a little hard to imagine, but perhaps through our combined power of hopeful thinking, we can make it so!

The Pest Philosophy

It’s the peak of September and we’ve been enjoying the full flush of harvesting this month. While we’ve been enjoying the fruits and veg of our labours, we’re certainly not the only ones. While our rather brave Allotment Fox got relocated a little while back, there are new residents about. Mainly the two young fox cubs I’ve spotted several times dashing between plots.

Spot the fox!

Usually the magpies start making the most horrific racket when they’re about. I haven’t thought much about it until I arrived at the plot one morning and found our corn crop nearly gone. My parents are visiting from Canada at the moment and I was really looking forward to serving them some lovely fresh sweetcorn.

Smooshed corn stalks

As I surveyed the damage, a plot neighbour came over and commiserated at our loss. She told me she had long given up on growing corn and it always happened each year. The foxes seemed to have an uncanny knack for knowing when you were just about to pick the corn, nabbing it before you could get it. She also told me that the Old Boys at the allotment would insist that it was badgers that did it, but the delightful gift of fox poo in the corn bed told me otherwise. I still did have one Old Boy insist that it was badgers nonetheless.

Munched!

Between netting and the odd handful of slug pellets, that was one of the few major losses we’d suffered. The slugs only really started to get an upper hand on us when we fell behind on the weeding. However, keeping the beds clean and a bit of sunshine was a fantastic means of slug control, I kept finding lots of “cooked” slugs in the midst of the clear beds. Something to remember for next year.

Crispy slug

It may seem strange, but I wasn’t really that bothered about the loss of the corn and a few other things that have been eaten. I feel we’ve gotten off fairly lightly when it comes to animal pilfering. The netting over the brassicas and fruit has been doing wonders at keeping the birds off. Of course, other than the Blue Tit that somehow managed to get itself trapped inside the fruit cage the other day.

Generally, I don’t blame the various pests for eating the odd thing, I can’t really blame them for just trying to survive. I just try to take in stride and learn how to best to minimise any loss next year. I’m a bit of a softie when it comes to wildlife, which is why I’m so chuffed the sunflowers I planted have been such a hit with the bird life. Maybe next year, I’ll grow a special patch of corn just for the foxes…the rest will be protected by a ten foot high electric fence.

Happy birds

 

Tempus Fugit

Time management is usually one of my better skills. The greatest exception seems to be when I set foot on the allotment. I often pop in on my way home from work to do some “quick” weeding. Three hours later, Scott is phoning me, wanting to know when I might be coming home.

I’ve taken to limiting my time by only allowing myself only one or two tasks at a time. If I am weeding I keep my time there in check by allowing myself one bucket load of weeds. If I have more time available, then one wheelbarrow load. Sticking to this proves difficult occasionally, as I often start the “just one more bed” technique.

Early morning start

I did recently allow myself a day without any time restriction. I packed a lunch and headed over to the plot at 7am. I’m quite used to early starts, as I often have to head to the New Covent Garden Flower Market in the wee hours before work. It was glorious, just me, some playful fox cubs and the mist. By the time people started to arrive, the temperature really began to rise, so I just took it easy and dead headed the sweet peas instead.

The TO DO list

I do have a touch of the OCD when it comes to organisation, as can be seen by the To Do whiteboard we have hanging up in the shed. A bit hard to see in the above photo, but the paper tacked on the cork board is our Veg Map to remind us of what variety is planted where. Sowing and planting dates also included…

It may seem a bit much, but it is interesting to see just how quick and slow some things are coming along. Timing really is everything when it comes to veg growing. My parents are flying over from Canada in early September and I really want the plot to be in peak production when they get here. I find myself urging the sweetcorn to hurry up and attempting to cajole the French beans to slow down a bit!

Grand harvest!

I’m amazed at how much we’ve done in less than a year and I’m looking forward to showing it to my parents in person. It’s been a mere nine months, we’re still very much on the steep learning curve and I’m already think of how to better use the plot next year. Getting things started earlier definitely has got to be part of that. Also, get myself a much bigger weeding bucket.

Jumping Jubilee Weekend

Even if you’re not from the Commonwealth, I’m sure you are aware that this year is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Thus everyone here in the UK has been blessed with a four day weekend. Over a million people headed into central London to watch the Thames pageant complete with Royal Barge and Royals. As for myself and Scott, we headed over to the allotment.

In March it was unseasonally warm, then cold and wet in April, then it was warm again, now it’s gone cold and wet again. It has left us with an abundant crop of weeds, seeds that have yet to go into the ground, directly planted seeds that have failed to show up and lots of seedlings that really, really need planting out.

Thar be seedlings in there…somewhere.

I’ve been holding off on planting my tomatoes, chillies and cucumbers due to the rather topsy-turvy weather. Truthfully, that’s what I keep telling myself, but really it’s because these are my babies I grew from seed and I’m finding it hard to set them free. It’s a cruel world out there don’t you know?

Baby tomato plants

Baby chilli plants.

I did manage to suck it up and planted them out yesterday, along with the cucumbers and sprouted corn. We weeded the beds, lovingly tied the plants to stakes and diligently mulched the new plants. I woke up last night and could hear the rain pounding down. When I checked on the plants today they were looking a bit worse for wear, but I’m hoping they’ll perk up soon.

Sad tomatoes.

Flattened corn.

Sad cucumbers

While we’ve managed to get a lot done in the last two days, there’s no rest for the wicked and the Weed-a-thon will have to continue tomorrow. Thank goodness for the extra day off. Cheers your Majesty.