The Hungry Gap
We are still in the hungry gap phase on the allotment where autumn /winter vegetables are coming to an end and vegetables planted this spring are not yet ready to crop. With leek moth reducing my leeks to lace and the badger digging up and devouring my parsnips I am left with just Hungry Gap Kale, summer broccoli, lettuce, parsley, chives and spinach beet to crop. I had every intention last year to follow the brilliant and trusted advice of Charles Dowding http://www.greenbooks.co.uk/Book/383/How-to-Grow-Winter-Vegetables.html but only managed to fill the gap with the above mentioned.
However every year the allotment calendar offers a new opportunity to improve on past performances and June is an excellent month for planting several winter vegetables. Seedlings of purple sprouting broccoli, leeks, Brussel sprouts, celeriac, cauliflower and ballhead cabbages can be rounded up at garden centres and planted now. I shall need to buy various plants this year since the very wet weather followed by the glorious heat wave damaged many seeds sown direct on the allotment. But since the growers need supporting and the costs are low I am not going to fret about it. Cavola nero and spinach beet survived in a seed bed and are doing well and there’s still time to sow savoy cabbage, kale and the humble swede from seed all of which will fill the gap next year.
I lifted some radishes this morning and using a hand hoe weeded the bed ready for two rows of dwarf French beans to be sown direct. I spread cupfuls of fertiliser over the surface since vegetables take a lot of nutrients from the soil and using all the beds in quick succession means re-fueling is essential. The ground is rock hard but using the hand hoe on all the planted beds was easy and fast and left it looking rather organised and wonderful. Shallots and garlic have benefited from the rain followed by the sunshine and should be cropping in a few weeks which will leave me room for any of the seedling vegetables mentioned above. Any spare rows will be planted with borlotta beans for drying in autumn. Beetroot and more radishes are looking good as is Swiss chard, ruby chard and gooseberries. Lettuce, spinach, parsley, chives, radishes, kale, summer broccoli and six spears of asparagus every five days are the sum of my pickings at the moment but that will be improved on soon.
This week I learned to make sourdough bread and pastries from a wonderful teacher Laura Hart who with either two or three other pupils teaches you at home. http://www.hartsbakery.co.uk/about.html It was a birthday treat for a friend and two of us joined in and at the last minute it ended up taking place in my kitchen. I didn’t mind because we then shared in the birthday tea with the results of our day.
And last night with no one holding my hand I cooked my first sourdough loaf ready for breakfast today. It was eaten with a pot of raspberry jam that was also made on the course.
The cut flowers this week are a mixture of white Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Nivea’, a lone white foxglove of which I want many more, an unidentified plant similar to cow parsley but with plum coloured leaves, Lamium maculatum ‘Beacon Silver’ for the variegated leaves and Saxifraga variegata with its pale pink flowers.
And for a guest bedroom perennial sweetpeas Lathyrus odorata, vinca and purple aquilegia which has almost finished flowering.