It’s the end of the school summer holidays. Having an allotment is not just about growing food. It’s certainly a place to occupy children during the six-week break. However, if you embrace your plot and the community of people that come together at your allotment site you find they offer so much more.
(Note: There are some affiliate links in this post, which means you can click on them to buy. If you do, I may get a small fee. It doesn’t affect the price you pay.)
Ava loves our plot and she isn’t always there sowing seeds, pulling weeds or watering the plants.
We pack some lunch, a few of her books, a drawing pad and pencils and her scooter. Well-run allotment sites, with people you’ve made the effort to befriend and engage with, are safe places and I’m comfortable with Ava not always being in my line of sight.
She knows the allotment neighbours by name and they always make the effort to greet her and generously listen to her tales and answer her questions. There are usually ice lollies in the small fridge freezer we have on-site and she happily wanders off to offer everyone one her sweets.
- Flowers, friendship and food bank donations: readers’ allotments – in pictures
- Keep an allotment for food, health, and lots of fun
- A lot of benefits to having an allotment
The mix of people is good for Ava too. They provide her with varied experience of what life offers us and they teach her things that can only be shared by people with different experiences of the world she is growing up in. Ava also sees everyone there has a shared passion – we are there to enjoy gardening.
In a world that tragically feels divisive, allotments and community gardens demonstrate how a varied group of people can come together to share and embrace an activity which they all feel enthusiastic and passionately about.
It’s been incredible over the last few weeks as everything seems to be offering up the goodies. We are swimming in beans and tomatoes and the end is not in sight yet.
This is a month to continue enjoying the summer harvests and savouring the fresh vegetables these wonderful little spaces can provide. It is such a treat.
What I’m sowing
It feels like the year is offering me a second spring. This one is for sowing different crops to those we sow for the bounty of summer. The harvest of the crops I sow now will arrive in the cooler months of the year and this month (the first week in fact) is for starting those plants that will provide in the autumn, over the winter and into the spring of the New Year.
I’m utilising the protection provided by the polytunnel. The tunnel will still get cold in the winter months but the benefit comes from the protection it provides from the cold winds and freezing rain.
I first read about winter vegetables in Eliot Coleman’s book Four Season Harvest. There is an important realisation made in Coleman’s book which is that what we need to do is extend the harvest season not the growing season to enjoy an abundance of fresh vegetable during the winter months.
We can extend the growing season of course, but this requires heat and insulation and adding extra light. Technology allows us to do this but at a cost. It’s far more efficient to choose the right crops and extend the harvest season.
Charles Dowding has two very helpful books on this topic. Firstly his How to Grow Winter Vegetables provides a guide to the right crops to sow through the entire year leading to availability of harvests through the winter months and into the spring.
Secondly is his book Salad Leaves for All Seasons which focuses on salad crops throughout the year and has a range of advice on when to sow and what varieties work well including during the winter.
I’m sowing these crops in the first week of September to plant into the beds in the polytunnel in a few weeks’ time:
- Asian greens (Pak Choi, Bok Choi)
- Winter Purslane
- Grenoble Red Lettuce (Huge thanks to the wonderful Stephanie Hafferty for sending her own seeds for me to try)
- Mustard leaves
Weeding and tidying up
There’s always weeding to keep on top of no matter what time of year. Using the No Dig method has significantly reduced the number of weeks I get on the plot but there is Mares Tail and some Bindweed which I must keep in check or they easily run out of control.
There is also the summer crops that are coming to an end and so they need to be cleared away and popped on the compost pile. One of the benefits of sowing some salads in August is that as the summer crops are removed I can fill the space with these new plants. Keeping the harvests going and also keeping the soil life happy too.
Note-taking and reflection
As we start to clear away the harvests of summer and the hustle and bustle slowly subside as we move into the autumn, it is an opportunity to make notes of the vegetables that worked and those that didn’t work as well. I’ve tried a few different varieties this year and I’ve tried a few different techniques and so I like to start putting my thoughts down in my journal on how these things worked, what will I do again and what will I do differently next year.
How are your gardens and allotments doing as we move into the autumn? What tasks are doing in September? Let me know in the comments below.
Follow Sharpen Your Spades! You can receive my posts by email – Subscribe here.
Follow me on BlogLovin.
You can get in touch with me here.