I’m a very simple woman in a lot of ways, which is why I was delighted to see this finally happen on the allotment:
The daft thing is I don’t even like sunflowers that much as flowers go, I think they’ve got notions, give me the more subtle sweetpeas any day (or some nice Goth lillies). But the important thing is that bees like sunflowers, and any friend of my bee comrades is a friend of mine.
Went to dig the second round of potatoes today, the Vales Sovereign. I wasn’t that delighted with the yield, if I’m honest – it wasn’t the sunniest spot on the allotment but I’ve had no issues growing salad there in past years. I’m yet to form a judgement on the taste (I need to get far better at getting round to eating the stuff I grow, I tend to forget).
NB – some of the potatoes pictured here might actually be Accord, come to think of it, as your heroic allotmenteer is bad at planning what she puts where, meaning that Accord and Vales Sovereign had a share a bit of space. Which isn’t the end of the world in the great scheme of things. Also yes, mother, I know I need new gloves, I get through them at a shocking rate and haven’t got round to getting new ones yet OK.
I did have a nice view of the flowers as I dug the potatoes, though. The wildflower patch, which I forgot to get a picture of because I had to head back inside for urgent coffee, is doing pretty well too, lots of poppies and cornflowers although the borage isn’t too happy this year. This is a pity because I use the flowers to add to salads, which has almost no practical impact on the salad itself but makes it look very Instagrammable, and as a millennial that’s literally all I care about.
My approach to soil has incredibly become less scientific over the time I’ve had the allotment – I’ve long since stopped bothering about soil pH and I like to think it’s because I now have a better idea of what grows well and what doesn’t and less to do with the fact that I’m lazy. However, I do understand that potatoes take a lot of nutrients out, so I’m growing green manure over the former potato patches during the winter, and then for the non-potato patches, I’m trying to grow as much garlic as possible. It’s not really a radical plan for the winter, but I’m OK with that – garlic’s something I’ll use, green manure’s easy enough and beneficial, and I’m apparently starting a diploma in Modern Irish in addition to doing my Actual Job, Whatever That Is, so perhaps I’m actually being realistic about how I manage my time for a change. I found last year that clover worked badly as green manure because the roots all got clumped together and it was tricky to dig back in, so I’ve stuck with mustard and a mix for the time being, and might go with broad beans for the potato patch I’m yet to dig.
I also got a load of the green lawn edging you can see in one of the pictures above for 50p each from Wilkos. I’ve been taking multiple trips to bring it all over, it’s exactly what I need, especially now that a lot of the wood from the old raised beds has rotted away. Over winter (but before the ground’s hardened) I’m planning on digging the edging in properly, it should be easier once the weeds have died back. Plus I’ve have fewer jobs overall to do by then.
I still have a couple more tasks ahead of me before the frost sets in – the third and final batch of potatoes (I think it’s Pink Fir Apple and yes believe it or not, I do use plant labels, it’s just that they usually go missing, I imagine the rabbits steal them) needs to be dug and if I actually have sense this year, I’ll start eating the ones I’ve already taken up so I don’t end up with a socially unacceptable amount of potatoes stored in my house. I’m happy I’ve managed to save an adequate amount of the Lord Leicester peas – I only ever needed to buy the original lot (back in 2014, incredibly, when I was a different person entirely) and I’ve had more than enough ever since.
Just like last year, I got to a stage where I was sick of eating artichokes, so I’ve left several of them to flower and not only does it look pretty, the bees really love it. I’ll cut them right back after the frost but for now, I’m pleased to have them as they are.
And that’s about it as far as this month’s update goes! Over the last couple of years, certainly, stuff on the allotment’s been more maintenance-focused than experimental – in a kinder, gentler and slower world, I’d love to be figuring out ways of growing sweet potatoes and grapes up here in Northumerland and building sheds and finally sorting out more permanent pathways. But lads, there’s paid work to be done and fascists to fight, and I suppose the important thing is, although I can’t do even a fraction of what I want to do on the allotment, I’m still growing things and most of all, I still love it.