One Man and his organic plot: Bumper summer harvest
August always feels like a serene month, not just in a gardening sense but also in the city and our urban areas. The children are off school, and everybody rushes to get a holiday. Due to the strange nature of recent times, the likes of Cornwall and Dorset are probably bracing themselves for an invasion. I only holiday in the winter, cheaper, fewer people, and I don't miss out on any growing time.
At the risk of blowing my own trumpet, it's looking good this year, but the reality is the more time and graft you spend, the more success follows. It's now bursting with both crops and flowers, and as per usual, every year proves a different one for the vegetable crops involved. I seem to have a non-stop glut of courgettes; they are coming fast, and thick, and in numbers more than I know what to do with. Inventive ways are being used to eat them, grated, and lightly cooked in butter, various types of courgette salad, courgette curries; I'll even be putting them on toast soon!
Another plant that I seem to have in abundance is beetroot, a root vegetable I absolutely love, and now I have also recently fallen for its tasty foliage. Again, lightly cooked in butter or soya sauce with a few garlic slices, beetroot leaves have been a revelation this year. I cannot mention the delights of this year's bounty without mentioning the potato crop.
I have read on social media that many people’s tatties have been lacking this year. Mine, however, has been a revelation, 'Charlotte', 'Rocket', 'Pink Firs' has been fantastic, and they taste incredible. The difference between these and shop-bought is palpable.
It's not all good news; last year’s most successful crop is having a bad year in 2021. My tomatoes, both on the balcony and allotment, unripe and green sit and refuse to turn red. A cool spring and overcast summer has not suited them this year, and I would guess that glasshouse tomatoes will be the order of the day this year. And, to add to this slightly sad tale, I have clocked the first signs of blight on the allotment, and considering the overcast, humid conditions here in London, I was not surprised. You have to take the rough with the smooth in this business. It's not all bad news on the tomato front as I have a small heritage variety called Stripe and it looks as though it is going to come through.
One area, in particular, on my allotment this year that has given me real pleasure has been my hardy annual corridors and summer border. The bright colours of cornflowers, poppies, sunflowers, dahlias burst with colour alongside my edible crops, not just making me happy but a lot of bees, hoverflies and butterflies too. It really is a rich, diverse space embracing all the organic practices that make for a vibrant, dare I say, happy plot.
Of course, though the work never stops and as gaps begin to appear due to potatoes maturing and salad leaves expiring, I am busily re-sowing the soil with turnips, swedes and even Christmas potatoes.
My mind is already ticking over plans that I will develop as the season moves forward, and this brings a smile to my face.