Monday, 20 January 2014

Potluck harvesting and planning to plant

Cabbage January King

The allotment is no place to be on a January day.  Especially this year when rain and wind have done there worst  Boots squelch in the sodden ground and over-wintering alliums sulk in a watery grave.  Still it takes only the promise of a sunny day to feel the tug of temptation to 'just check everything is OK'.  The "everything" right now being the aforementioned onions and garlic and a row of leeks, a few brassicas and some frustratingly small parsnips.  It's a potluck visit at this time of year.

Potluck:  " take a chance that what is 
available will prove to be good "  

Fat-bellied wood pigeons heave themselves into airborne flight at my approach.  So far their efforts to strip my cabbage patch have been successfully thwarted thanks to a fiendish construction involving a wooden frame, heavy mesh and tent pegs.  These are possibly the most expensive greens ever grown but at least I'm winning, and that's what matters - right?

Leeks and chard

There's little to be done, save for checking that I tied-in all the summer-fruiting raspberry canes to avoid wind damage, but now is when there's time to think and plan.  The bed currently hosting those oh so tempting brassicas will, this year, I decide, be turned over to fruit growing.  The rhubarb crown I split has taken well, there, and a delicious crop of blackcurrants last year has convinced me you can never have too many blackcurrants.  Yes, the blackbirds love them but I've got the measure of them now.  Maybe a redcurrant bush would be good?

There's time to consider what else grew well last year - it has to be all the soft fruit and the borlotti beans; what wasn't worth the effort - peas (those blasted pea moths!); what I'd like to try this year - celeriac "Prinz", for one; and whether growing an old favourite is the 'right' thing to do.

The crop I'm agonising over is potatoes.  The very first vegetable I planted when I took on my plot - mostly because it's such a good crop for breaking up the ground.  Although I didn't have any problems with the two varieties I planted in 2013, incidents of blight seem to be increasing.  In response I lifted my maincrop "Pink Fir Apple" quicker than I would have liked.  I could grow a blight resistant variety like "Sarpo", but it's not a potato I'd choose to eat, so why would I.  I've reached a compromise.  Blight needs warm, moist conditions and usually strikes from mid-summer onwards, so this year I'll sow 2nd early Charlottes only.  I'll be digging them up in early July and they keep pretty well, so we'll see how much we miss a main crop.

I'll also be trying some comparison planting using my own saved seeds versus bought seed - Borlotti bean and pumpkin, in particular.  This year I will label diligently and not mix them up, so hope to have some conclusions for you.

Today there are signs of good things to come.  The blackcurrant bushes bear fat buds and the ever-reliable gooseberries can't wait to get going.  The spring broccoli plants are thick-stemmed and leafy, though not exactly upright.  In protecting them from marauding pigeons I failed to notice their sideways trajectory until it was too late - a novice mistake.

The fate of the over-wintering alliums is in the balance in this sodden ground.  I can live with an onion failure as I'll be planting more in spring.  Garlic is another matter as spring-sown garlic is never successful on this ground.

Six months seems a long time to wait before I'll be bringing home a varied harvest.  In the meantime, my potluck haul today is leeks, black cabbage, parsnips and a few leaves of chard. The makings of a 'potluck soup'.  A couple of shop-bought carrots and a little pearled spelt grain and I have a filling winter lunch.

Potluck soup with pearled spelt grains

Nobody needs a recipe for 'Potluck Soup'!

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed I've gradually cut down on the frequency of my postings as I've had less time to devote to it.  In 2014 I plan to post on this blog monthly unless there is something urgent I want to talk about.