While you are hardening off your young plants in the earlier part of the year, it’s a wise move to do a bit of reading up and work out what conditions each species of plant will need. How much space they will need, what sort of protection they may benefit from, what problems to look out for and good companion plants etc. This may sound like a lot of work, but once you get the growing bug it really isn’t a chore and you’ll find yourself learning everything you can about the subject… and unless kept in check… I am now that person that can bore a glass eye to sleep on many matters horticultural (sorrynotsorry).
I’d already spent time mapping out the plot and planning where the plants were going to be positioned, so armed with my new-found knowledge, I set about planting up and even taking with me a tape measure so I could follow any guidance to the millimetre. Over the top perhaps, but I was going to give these plants the best chance I could of growing to the best of their ability.
As this was my first proper year of growing, I wanted to succeed so decided against growing the more unusual varieties or rarer vegetables, instead opting purely for what we like to eat and what seemed relatively easy to grow.
All the advice, quite rightly, says wait until the last frosts have gone before planting out your carefully tended seedlings which will now be more mature and ready to face the elements. As we are in South Wales (UK) our last frosts are about the end of May, so in the last week of May and the first few weeks in June I had great fun planting out. I was a little nervous, because – for all my previous “you have two choices, you live or you die” attitude I had always given to plants – this time I had way more invested in them.
I should add here, that I planted the sweet peas at the end of April. Sweet peas are a particular favourite of mine and is also the nickname I use for my daughter. I got in a pickle misunderstanding the planting times by mixing up the information between ‘over wintering’ these plants and spring planting, so thinking I’d missed my chance I put them in and hoped for the best.
We had some glorious weather earlier in the year which I’m sure helped the plants establish, that and the regular watering in the drought periods meant lots of healthy growth and as the title of this post suggests, what a difference a few months makes!
Back in July the cauliflowers were showing no sign of growing their curds (the white bit you eat) so I asked an allotment neighbour what he thought I might be doing wrong. He told me it had taken him three years to grow a cauliflower successfully and was crossing his fingers for this year. They can be tricky to cultivate apparently, so I will admit to being a bit despondent, I really wanted to do well, and to fall at the first fence did not sit well with me. I wouldn’t say I’m a competitive person generally but it seems I compete against myself – my own eyes have turned upward this time 😉
From June onwards we harvested the fruit – with another fantastic year for raspberries, apart from the irrepressible raspberry beetle that returned again this year. Something I will address in a future post.
However, I did mange to make a few different things with the fruit this year.
Really simple recipes: Rhubarb Cordial and Rhubarb and Custard lollies. I couldn’t find a recipe I liked so I got a tin of custard, diluted it with a little milk to make it slightly more liquid, poured the moulds to half way, popped them in the freezer until solid and then poured in the rhubarb cordial. Back in the freezer until firm.
So it was at the end of July and into August we started to ‘reap what we’d sown’ and started to harvest the vegetables. The thrill of growing something properly and getting reasonable, if not good, results is really quite a feeling and I will admit to whooping out loud with delight when I saw the cauliflowers had actually grown! I just needed to be patient and not lose the piece of paper where I’d written down the planting date, because if I’d had that I’d have known I just needed to wait a little longer (face/palm emoji).
Not everything worked out though. I had an epic fail with the sweetcorn…
Those that follow me on Instagram will recognise this photo as ‘The (nearly) Good, The Bad and the downright Ugly! These were three of the 13 cobs that grew with the one on the left being the only one that was edible. I managed to salvage a couple of inches of cob and split that into four and I have to say the taste was out of this world. It isn’t called sweet corn for nothing, I cant remember tasting corn like it! I have no idea what went wrong, all indications were that there would be a good harvest, but you win some and lose some. Funnily enough I didn’t feel half as bad at losing these as I had done over the prospective loss of the cauliflowers… walks away, shrugging her shoulders…
Rather than finish on an ugly note, I have found a new love. Dahlias. When I was growing up my dad grew these flowers and I remember I didn’t like them. I thought they were boring for some reason, perhaps because there only seemed to be a few varieties. Nowadays there are so many and they are beautiful! I read a comment by someone the other day that said that if Dahlias produced scent, no one would grow anything else.
I had bought some tubers from Sarah Raven as my daughter was getting married and we thought some home-grown flowers at the reception would be a nice idea. Due to Lockdown the wedding didn’t happen as planned and with me not knowing what I was doing, they wouldn’t have flowered in time anyway, but since then we have been able to enjoy these glorious blooms. I absolutely love them and they have fast become my most favourite thing to grow on the allotment (for now anyway) and have ordered more for next year… husband’s eyes are in their usual place…