Welcome to Lesley Upton’s allotment blog, where she looks at life on her allotment in June from the veg she is growing to how people are living with the threat of coronavirus. Here she looks at beetroot, broad beans and spinach growing on her Berkshire plot
At the moment, there’s just one problem with life on the allotment in June – the heat is taking its toll on my veg! Despite watering in the morning or the evening – or sometimes both – the plants are still flagging. Usually the brassicas, in my case cabbages, Brussels sprouts and cauliflowers, need little watering. They were planted a few months ago so their roots should have grown deep enough to find water.
However, when I visited the allotment one evening last week the cabbages and cauliflowers were wilting, so I had to give them a good watering.
The beans, sweet peas, sweetcorn and beetroot are the focus of my attention for watering at the moment, because I don’t have the time – or energy, in this heat – to spend hours every day watering everything. Thankfully, though, we had some rain on Saturday so I might get a break from watering for a day or two.
I picked my second crop of beetroot last week and it seems to be thriving in the hot conditions. I have never seen so much foliage on beetroot plants, and I grow the same variety, ‘Boltardy’, every year.
While the leaves can be eaten, I never bother with them. I just remove the leaves, wash the root and boil it until it’s tender. Then I peel away the skin and store in the fridge to accompany a salad.
Sometimes I roast the beetroot – particularly towards the end of the season when the root can become ‘woody’. I mix together balsamic vinegar, olive oil and honey, then pour it over the beetroot that I’ve washed and cut into wedges, then roast for about 25 minutes at 200°C/fan 180°C/gas mark 6.
I picked the last of my broad beans this morning. They grew really well and produced enough beans for five meals for two of us – and two lots for the neighbours.
These ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ broad beans were sown in October last year and planted out on the allotment in November. I also sowed some ‘The Sutton’ beans in March, which I hoped would extend the cropping season into July.
However, as I’ve found in the past, ‘The Sutton’ broad beans were hit by blackfly – badly. The ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ beans grew well over winter and into spring, and produced some lovely early beans at the beginning of June. They did have some blackfly problems on the tips over the past couple of weeks, but I squished a lot of these and the ladybirds helped out. But the March sowings just didn’t stand a chance as the blackfly decimated the crop.
Plans for next year…
- Sow ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ in late September/early October to plant out in November this year.
- Keep the plants covered with Enviromesh over winter to provide a little protection from the elements.
- Water the plants well once the flowers form.
- Not bother with a March sowing of any broad beans. It’s not worth it, as the blackfly always get them.
Another crop that has finished is the spinach. I sowed two varieties in March with a week between sowings. The first lot was ‘Emilia’, which I grew last year, while the second lot was ‘Cello’, which I hadn’t tried before.
The ‘Emilia’ didn’t grow well, and perhaps the fact that the seed was left over from last year didn’t help. But the ‘Cello’ romped away and I picked enough to provide six spinach accompaniments for meals for two of us.
I sowed the spinach in March because it has a tendency to bolt in hot, dry weather – just like the weather at the moment. Now the spinach has gone to seed I’m wondering whether to leave it and collect the seed or dig it up.
Unfortunately, ‘Cello’ is an F1 hybrid so the chances are that the plants will ‘come true’ from any collected seed is remote. So, really, the best thing I can do is dig up the plants and compost them.
Plans for next year…
- Sow ‘Cello’ seed, as it produced a great crop and was slow to bolt.
- Sow direct into the soil in March, so there’s less chance of it bolting.
- Water it well in dry weather.
- Sow at weekly intervals, so I can harvest the leaves over a long period.
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