My best mate Ali lives in Bristol, and when he pops over for a visit he often jokes that he knows he’s entered Wales when he’s met by a band of rain.
And I think this is probably true.
We are used to a bit of rain here in Wales. Our weather is often cloudy and wet. So with a spring as dry as it has been followed by an early summer which has felt like a continuous Heatwave, it’s an unusual state of affairs.
If I’ve learned nothing else this month, it’s to always have a bottle of sunscreen on the allotment. I haven’t worn a white shirt to work for weeks for fear it would pronounce my scorched face.
Significant hot summer weather in the UK is as exceptional as a snow-blasted winter. It makes the headlines. The result is both positive and negative and depends on the perspective one takes.
It’s all well enjoying the beers and BBQs, just as long as you don’t mind the crunch underfoot of the parched garden lawn or local parkland.
And our allotments and gardens have struggled. The need to water every day is hard work but at least I can be proud of my biceps – a result of lugging numerous cans of water onto the plot.
However, June has provided harvests and enjoyment on the allotment. It is the month when the fruits of our labour really start to appear. I won’t resent the intensive watering chore for that.
Charlotte potatoes are a favourite
Early potatoes are a favourite treat in late June. I grew Charlotte again as it’s so reliable and tastes consistently good. I could quite easily devour a bucket load of these firm, waxy spuds with salted butter and a twist of black pepper. I’m determined to grow a different variety next year and that’s a difficult decision to make with so many from which to choose.
The roots thrived in June.
The radishes produced first and the heritage variety Giant Butter impressed with its vibrant colour, texture and taste. It can grow to golf ball proportions and still maintain a juicy quality and mild flavour. It was a hit with my daughter Ava too and so if you have young taste buds to please, I’d definitely recommend giving this one a try.
Radishes are easy to grow and mature very quickly
Radishes are incredibly easy to grow and are a great crop to keep children interested as they are often ready for harvest in 3 weeks. Sow thinly and keep the rows short – they provide a lot of bang for your buck.
If you’ve never grown your own carrots then I wholeheartedly suggest you do. The flavour when eaten as soon as possible after they are pulled from the ground is fantastic. I’ve grown successional rows of Speedo and they have produced a beautiful crop over the past few weeks. Small and sweet at first and when allowed to grow on, thick, crisp and very carroty.
I know some people have problems with growing carrots and I wish I could give you the secret to success. But I’ve done nothing other than sow directly into a no-dig bed and provide water.
Vibrant colour and incredible taste from freshly picked carrots
We’ve had turnips, beetroot, spring onions and the parsnips are growing strongly too. As I reflect on the huge yield of these vegetables it’s worth noting that I have grown them all in one bed that measures 4ft by 10ft. Successional sowings and tighter spacing between the rows has highlighted how much is possible in a small area. I had space left over too – which I really should have utilised.
I always buy my garlic from The Garlic Farm on the Isle Of Wight and as it does every year, has provided a fantastic crop. I left the bulbs to dry in the polytunnel for a week before bringing them home to cure for a few more. They look fantastic.
Good-sized garlic bulbs drying for storage
The early summer just wouldn’t be the same for me without fresh peas from the allotment. They were a huge success last year and this year has been a celebration too. First to come were bi-coloured pods of the mangetout Spring Blush. These were delicious and made many snacks fresh from the plant while I worked on the allotment. If any did make it home, we ate them raw either on their own or thrown into a salad.
Beautiful rose tinted Spring Blush peas
Then, right at the end of the month, came the towering plants of Champion of England. These grew to around 7ft and were covered in pods boasting 7-8 sweet peas in each. I’m having to consider the options of which peas I grow next season as I’m a big fan of the prolific Kelvedon Wonder too.
A full pod of sweet peas – Champion of England
It’s been a tough month in this hot weather. And it’s not over yet. Watering has been a time-consuming job and it has meant other tasks have slipped. I need to give the allotment a weed and a good tidy up.
I’ve learned a lot about my ability to plan. It’s still something I can’t quite get right. I don’t like being in that situation and it drives me to find a better way of managing this aspect of allotment gardening. If I can plan and work to plan as best a possible it provides significant benefits. I have some ideas and I’m already turning my mind towards next season.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the hot weather as much as you have cursed it. Make sure you take time to just be in the allotment garden. You’ve worked hard to make a space for enjoyment, relaxation as well as a provider of food.
Let me know how you have coped in the heatwave and what crops you’ve really enjoyed during the last month.
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