Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Monsoon - just like last year!

So yesterday in the south of England we had the most enormous downpour of rain, with a real, proper, old-fashioned thunderstorm (the kind that frightens the pets and small children). It even flooded London underground stations. An absolutely enormous amount of water fell, very quickly, out of the sky - it was something to behold. Dead Biblical, it was.

This morning I wondered what had been happening this time last year down at the allotment (by way of comparing how things are going this year) and, interestingly, we'd also had a massive downpour of rain, on 9 July 2008, so almost exactly a year to the day.

Anyway, yesterday I'd managed to find a gap in the clouds to shoot off down to the plopment to pick some lettuce and see what's what. I was dismayed to discover that my white netted brassica cage had collapsed in the middle but extremely annoyed, upon closer inspection, to discover unmistakable muddy fox footprints right on the top of the mesh, smack bang in the middle of the broken bamboo poles and crushed plants! Little Sods. And that's the thanks I get for treating the foxes suffering from sarcoptic mange - they've just taken a running jump and landed in the middle of the netting!!

Took me a while to reconstruct the thing and replace the broken bamboo poles by which time the heavens had opened again and I had to retreat to the shed for about 15 minutes while the deluge passed. Hopefully I may only have lost a handful of plants - most of the others have been flattened but the stems are still viable. I might get the plants growing along the ground rather than up, but at least they're still going.

We are now actively eating the lettuce, mange tout and I've just picked my first harvest of climbing french beans. I've also started digging up the new potatoes and it won't be terribly long before the onions have to be dealt with. My strawberries have now finished and I think I've had all the blueberries I'm going to get this year but it was all a good start.

Time for pictures then:
General view down the length of the plot, from the shed. Things are starting to grow, thanks to the recent sultry heat followed by lots of rain.

The repaired Fox Trampoline. Buggers.

The Lettuce Hedge. The Little Gems are bulking up quite nicely although I don't know (not having grown them before) how long they take to develop a heart, but I'm quite happy to let them take as long as they need. We're already eating the lime green Salad Bowl and the red Lollo Rossa, plus there's more elsewhere in the plot and some still in the plastic-house at home so it's not like we'll go without while waiting for the Little Gems to do their thang...

This is the (3 x) squash and (5 x) courgette (zucchini) patch. We've already had two small courgettes which, I suspect, is just the start. I'm aware that you probably only need 2 courgette plants to feed a family of four for the summer - there's only two of us and I've got 5 plants! Uh-oh....

Behold, the Butternut Squash, Crystal Lemon Cucumber and, er, Ordinary Cucumber wigwams. The two plants nearest the camera (one of which has a yellow flower on it) are my Butternut Squash plants. I bought these as large seedlings for £1.25 each from the Chiddingfold Horticultural Society's stall at Chiddingfold Festival on 14 June this year (I also had a stall) as the free seeds I'd got from the BBC's Dig In campaign had spectacularly failed to germinate, and they've settled in nicely. I've not grown these before so am going to have to find out what to do with them later on (assuming they develop fruits, that is!). Behind them is a single Crystal Lemon Cucumber plant (although there's another in the plastic-house at home which is just waiting to be planted out - keep forgetting to take it with me though...) then the wigwam behind that has four cucumber plants of either Telegraph or Marketmore (I planted both varieties). These are now growing strongly and need to be tied to the poles on a regular basis or else they sprawl across the ground.

The Sweetcorn are coming along although the one in the bottom right of the picture is having a tremendous sulk and doesn't want to play with the others. There's quite a large variation in the size of the Sweetcorn plants so far - I have absolutely no idea why this should be as they were all treated the same, as was the soil they've been planted into. Oh well, as long as I get some cobs this year I'll be happy.

Last year I was both astonished and thrilled at the sheer quantity of Climbing French Beans that were produced from about 20 plants that I'm wondering if it's too much to hope for a repeat performance this year. This is how they look at present - two wigwams of four poles each, with at least three plants around the base of each pole, so that's somewhere in the region of 24 plants (although there may be a few more) in total. We've already eaten a decent sized portion of beans so fingers crossed!

The onions and garlic are starting to yellow which means they're nearly done. Some of them have got pretty large too. Hopefully this last spell of wet weather will cause them to swell up even more before they topple over. And then I've got to decide how I'm going to dry and store 400 bulbs.

The two rows of Resistafly Carrot I sowed in the spring seem to be surviving as well. I'm persevering with growing carrots because homegrown ones taste incredible. Last year's ones were multi-limbed and tunnelled so I had to throw most of them away but what I did manage to salvage and eat was a complete revelation.

I think that's enough for now - just a quick catch up really.


  1. Wow, your veg patch looks wonderful. I liked your observation about the downpour, of course we usually do have this kind of weather sometime during Wimbledon fortnight. UK climate is not as unpredictable as daily conversation might suggest! I am delighted to find that everything you're growing or have finished eating seems to tally with my allotment at this stage in this season too! As my fellow tenants are all early birds with their planting out and getting crops in ahead, it's nice to be in the zone with you!
    Did you plant your sweetcorn direct into the ground? As mine are growing in that way too, but the ones I brought on in the greenhouse and indoors, then planted out, have been more consistent.

  2. Oh, meant to ask as well - what's the fox trampoline made of? Is it net curtain? I covered my strawbs with one a couple of years ago, and the foxes really liked it and dragged it off, played on top etc. Since then I've used green netting, and they haven't done it again.

  3. Ms Gardener - welcome! Things have grown apace since the last photos due to the lots of rain over the last 4 days. I'll do an update fairly shortly. Sweetcorn - I started them off in individual pots so I could ensure there was reasonable germination. They're about mid-thigh height at the moment. The little one that was sulking is still having a bit of a strop and I don't think it's going to do much. Fox trampoline is made of insect mesh from Harrod Horticulture - I got the mesh with the smallest holes possible in an attempt to keep whitefly out as well. We'll see if it works as it was quite pricey, about £25 if I recall...


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