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 horseradish, potatoes, lettuces and sweet peas

Thank goodness we’ve had some rain, which makes life on the allotment a little easier. I’m still watering all the plants, but now I don’t have to water them every day. We still need a lot more rain, but it’s a start!

In this blog I’m looking at flowering horseradish, salad potatoes, lettuces and sweet peas.

Horseradish
I planted some horseradish about 10 years and have probably used just three pieces to make horseradish sauce. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I wish I hadn’t planted it as it’s a bit invasive – and almost impossible to remove. Still, we all learn from our mistakes!

Horseradish in flower

The horseradish is flowering for the first time.

This year, for the first time, the horseradish has produced flowers. I planted it under a plum tree, so it was out of the way, and I’m now hoping it doesn’t seed itself around the allotment.

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Potatoes
The ‘Charlotte’ salad potatoes will soon be ready to dig up. Flower buds have started to appear, so next week I’ll dig up one plant and see what’s underneath.

'Charlotte' potatoes (left) and 'Foremost' (right).

The ‘Charlotte’ salad potatoes (left) and first early ‘Foremost’ (right) are just starting to flower.

I love digging up potatoes because you never know what’s in the soil. There could be a great crop – or there could be nothing.

I’ve been watering the ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Foremost’ potatoes as much as I can using watering cans during this very dry period. Unfortunately, though, other things, such as beans, strawberries and peas – have taken priority.

The ‘Foremost’ first early potatoes should be ready a few weeks later.

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Lettuces
I’ve been picking the loose-leaf lettuce for a couple of weeks. I pick one or two of the larger outer leaves from each plant and it’s still growing well. The red leaves are particularly peppery.

Green and red loose-leaf lettuce

Green and red loose-leaf lettuce.

The lettuce is Salad Bowl Red and Green from Mr Fothergill’s and the leaves are shaped like an oak leaf. It has good bolt resistance, so I hope it will last a few more weeks.

The ‘Iceberg’ lettuce is also growing well in among the Brussels sprouts. The plants will need a few more weeks to produce the typical crunchy ‘Iceberg’ heads, but they’re looking good so far.

Unfortunately, I have a lot of horsetail (also known as mare’s tail) at the top end of the allotment, as you can see in the picture. I’ve tried weedkiller but it just comes up somewhere else, so now I just pull it out. That’s my next job – to weed among the Brussels, cauliflowers and cabbages.

'Iceberg' lettuces growing among Brussels sprouts.

The ‘Iceberg’ lettuces growing among Brussels sprouts.

I have never grown ‘Iceberg’ lettuces before and, so far, I’m really pleased with the results. I’ve watered them regularly and the slugs and snails have kept away – so far.

When I was planting these lettuces out on the allotment, I had a few spare plants so I gave them to an allotment neighbour. He grew them on in his polytunnel and they are now massive. They must measure about 2ft (60cm) across, outer leaves to outer leaves. I must find out what he’s feeding them.

I’ve also sown some more lettuces – this time ‘All The Year Round’. This is a butterhead variety that I’ve grown before, which is also slow to bolt. Hopefully, this will keep us in lettuces until the end of summer, when I’ll sow some winter lettuces.

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Sweet peas
This year the sweet peas have bloomed early, but the perfume doesn’t seem to be as strong as it was last year.

Sweet peas from the allotment.

Sweet peas from the allotment.

I planted some new varieties, such as ‘Erewhon’, ‘Heathcliff’ and ‘Fire & Ice’ that are strongly scented, plus some seed I’d saved from last year. Maybe it’s just a bit early in the season and the scent will improve as the plants grow. Still, this is the fourth bunch I’ve picked so they are flowering well.

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