Over the past couple of weeks the weather has been gloriously sunny and fairly warm for this time of year, it hasn’t felt like winter at all. Enticed by the sunshine we returned to the allotment last week after a rather long spell away. We were pleasantly surprised by what we found. We grow a few crops over the winter months, garlic, leeks, kale, parsnips and phacelia (a green manure) in the empty beds.
Here’s what we found.
The garlic that we planted at the beginning of November has shown an excellent rate of germination and has grown into healthy small plants.
Garlic planted 4 months ago.
The leeks overwintered well but they’re not quite as good as last years crop; they’re quite small this year. We’ll need to harvest the remaining leeks before the plants start to produce a flower stem, usually around May. Once the leek plant flowers it becomes pretty much inedible; the leeks get a bit woody and become slightly bitter.
Bleu De Solaise leeks
The kale survived the winter months very well.
Russian Red kale
The parsnips grew better than we expected despite the host of pest problems we experienced during the critical growing months. Firstly the foliage became infested with aphids, then slugs and snails nibbled at the crowns and finally there was the arrival of the parsnip moth caterpillar! These tiny caterpillars stripped the leaves; we were left with brown tissue paper leaves.
We went to the allotment on Christmas Eve to dig some up for Christmas lunch.
This is what we dug up
Parsnips dug up on Christmas Eve.
There were a few that hadn’t developed properly, some forking had occurred resulting in the production of a lot of roots rather than a single tap root. There were some tiny parsnips resulting from my inability to thin them out, but on the whole we had a good number of ‘proper’ shaped, good sized parsnips and they tasted great.
We still have some left to dig up. Parsnips are biennials, so if we left the parsnips in the ground they would flower in the spring and then produce seed. As one of the varieties we planted, Gladiator F1, is a hybrid any seed produced may not be true so we will dig up the remaining parsnips in the next month or so.
The phacelia has done brilliantly this year, which could be because we actually sowed it at the beginning of October.
The phacelia is now about a foot tall and has completely covered the unoccupied vegetable beds. We shall start digging the phacelia into the ground in April. This will give sufficient time for the foliage to breakdown and release it’s nutrients back into the soil before planting up this years crops
Since we’ve been back we’ve tidied up the shed ready for the new season and we had a jolly good bonfire. We got rid of all the old brambles, bindweed and couch weed roots and the old rotten timber from plot one, which had formed the surround for the raised beds.
We’ve also dug out the final ‘turf’ mound on the orchard plot. It took hours slowly sifting through the soil to remove all the bindweed and couch weed roots. There were a LOT! However, we now have a lovely new large vegetable bed.
Couch weed and bindweed roots
And finally there is a new communal water tank situated very close to plot one!