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The Hungry Gap

June 1, 2012

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  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.  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.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2012 10:51 am

    Hi Sue, It’s a slightly frustrating time on the allotment with so little to pick. My salad is all doing well and the first pea pods and broad beans are appearing. We’re certainly not going to go short of fruit this year. I’m probably going to buy in some veg plants for winter too. Some of my plants have succumbed to the weather and slugs. Oh those tasty treats look so good. I can only eat sourdough bread for health reasons but have never managed to make it successfully. My husband tried it once and the resulting bread could have been used as a weapon. I really should give it a another try. Love the flower arrangements and that cream jug is gorgeous.

  2. June 1, 2012 11:13 am

    Hi WW
    It helped having the teacher demonstrate the process since there’s no kneading. It’s more that you lift and pull and fold the dough until it forms a smooth ball. Watch this space it may have been beginner’s luck. I’ll make another tomorrow after feeding the culture tonight !!!

    Yes I was pleased with the pale flowers in the cream jug which belonged to my late mother.


  3. June 1, 2012 2:27 pm

    Hi Sue, Both vases of flowers are just gorgeous!
    Just eating leaves from the garden at the moment. Lots of lettuces and need to finish off mustard leaves-‘red giant’ and ‘green in snow’ as with all the hot weather, they’re all going to seed. Mibuna flowers delicious and cabbagey too.Tons of Rhubarb and hopefully strawberries in the next 2 or 3 weeks, depending how hot it is.
    Even thinned out ‘Paris Market’ carrots in a window box today and mini carrots already an inch big and sweet and juicy. Was delighted!
    Bread making also v. impressive, you domestic goddess!

    • June 1, 2012 3:12 pm

      Hi Naomi

      Yes I felt like Martha Stewart just before I pressed publish on the draft.


  4. June 2, 2012 6:08 pm

    Beautiful flowers Sue! I’ve been watching in horror over the last few weeks as various seedlings have just given up (or been dug up by next door’s cat!) Hopefully the turn in the weather will spur them all on (not the cats the new seedlings!)

    • June 2, 2012 7:54 pm

      Hi Naomi

      Let’s hope for a turn in the weather for sudden germination or a rapid growth spurt on seedlings (in your case before the cats get their paws on them). It has been far from straightforward horticulturally speaking but that’s life!!


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