Welcome to Lesley Upton’s allotment blog, where she looks at life on her Berkshire allotment, from the veg she is growing to how people are living with the threat of coronavirus. Here she looks at broad beans, strawberries, leeks and figs
When will it rain? I am visiting the allotment every day to water – using watering cans. My arms and shoulders ache and I’ve got sunburn. And because I spend so much time watering, I don’t have much time for other things such as digging the rock-hard ground, pulling weeds and planting out more crops.
This week our local paper reported an increase in thefts from allotments. And the thieves aren’t targeting tools and machinery – they’re after plants. Fruit trees seem to be the main target, so if you have an allotment, watch out for people casing the area. Fly-tipping has been a problem, too, so keep your allotments secure.
The ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ broad beans are producing lots of pods, so I’m having to keep them well watered. I picked my first batch two days ago, and although the beans were small they were lovely.
The plants are about 5ft (1.5m) tall and are starting to attract blackfly on the tips. I have been removing these by squashing them between my fingers and have removed the tops of a couple of plants completely, hoping to deter the aphids. Most of my broad bean plants are ‘Aquadulce Claudia’, but I did plant a few later ‘Sutton’ plants. These are still quite small and not producing any pods yet, so I think they may be ravaged by blackfly before they mature.
The strawberries are ready to pick! I’ve had to keep these plants very well watered over the past few weeks, hoping they will produce a good crop. And two days ago I got my first small punnet.
This is the earliest I have picked strawberries, as most of mine are usually ready about the second week of June. I presume it’s the hot sunny weather we’ve been having over the past month that has brought the plants on.
I read in one newspaper that the warm weather has produced a bumper crop of strawberries this year and farmers are on track ‘to produce one of Britain’s biggest-ever hauls.’ I hope they keep on producing fruit as they are lovely and sweet.
I am not happy with my dog! My cocker spaniel Harvey has dug up the leeks I planted out in an old tin bath. I had pricked out the young plants and put them in the tin bath so they could grow on, before I put them in their final growing positions on the allotment.
However, I didn’t know that my dog had previously buried a chew in the tin bath and he decided to ‘retrieve’ it last week – destroying my leeks in the process. I managed to salvage a few, and I had a few more planted elsewhere, so I hope I’ll have enough to plant out and grow on for later in the year.
I have had a fig tree for about ten years now and the most it has ever produced is four figs. This year it may break all records as there are 26 large figs on the plant.
I grew it in a pot for about six years until it got too big for any of the pots I have. I also used to overwinter it in the greenhouse to protect it from frost. Then, when it got too big, I thought it would have to take its chances in the garden – even though I’d read that fig trees produce most fruit when their roots are restricted in a pot.
This year, though, because of the warm weather, it seems to have found a new lease of life. I hope all the figs ripen as I love eating them fresh from the tree.
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