I always feel that I've sailed into calmer waters once July arrives. I'm not saying that there still isn't plenty to do on the allotment but that intense period of caring for and establishing many young plants through the spring and early days of summer feels like a distant memory. I'd be lying if I said I do not feel a slight chest swelling of pride now that the allotment is really filling out, the days of reward are upon me, and I have a healthy mixed planted site for both myself and pollinators, which is shaping up to release its bounty.
Of course, one cannot sit on one's laurels; the need to weed is ever constant and on my allotment particularly so. I try to keep off the soil as much as possible, so my hoe gently works between the crops. The weeds are smallish enough to be left to expire on the soil surface and thus contribute in their own way. Some though are far more adept, and sprays of Horsetail spring up through the crowns of my potatoes and strawberries. These I pull at from the base, taking as much root as I can. The open crumbly soil usually gives up a good portion of the bootlace-type roots of horsetail, and the rest goes into an old water butt to rot down to later be used as a liquid feed on perennial plants. After pulling so much out over the years, I take solace in the fact that I'm making use of it and that its presence is not purely an inconvenience.
Let us not dwell though on the graft alone as this is the time of strawberry love; these plants have been giving me so much pleasure over the last few weeks. Fresh organic strawberries are the food of the gods, and my plants are in their third year since planting, and they have really come through this year. A few horticultural practices help make sure I get the most out of the crop. As it's been quite wet, I've placed straw around the base of the plants, keeping them dry and making it more challenging work for the slugs. I find cutting away an excess new growth and allowing the sun to reach the fruits makes them ripen quicker and taste sweeter. Removing the slugs and snails with a pair of tongs and walking them off-site is also a practice that I'm sure I've mentioned before.
It is also the time to be twisting my courgettes. I've quite a few plants this year, and they are already producing plenty of fruit. I'm now deep in cookbooks that concentrate on salads as I look to improvise on methods to eat them. The big rule is to twist the fruit to the right when picking; this reduces damage to the plant and encourages further production. The Courgette is another example of how much better something tastes when grown organically on your own plot. The supermarket version is just nowhere near as tasty.
My final piece of advice is to keep sowing to keep on the growing, make sure as crops finish that fresh ones are put in. My Onions have just been pulled up, and Swedes and Turnips are now going to fill that space. Fresh salad crops, spinach, and spring onions are also being sown. Just make sure you net these, as the pigeons seem to be prevalent this year. I feel they have discovered the allotment during lockdown and seem to be making the most of it, ho-hum it's a battle that will go on but one I'm happy to fight.
In the meantime, happy gardening, people.