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 potatoes, strawberries, beans and courgettes

At last we’ve had some rain! And I’d like some more of it, please. I still have to water the allotment every few days because the rain we’ve had has barely touched the surface. Still, it’s better than nothing. The veg looked refreshed – and now I await the emergence of loads of weeds that have been lying dormant, waiting for rain to get them going.

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Potatoes
I couldn’t wait any longer, so I dug up some potatoes. The ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Foremost’ potatoes are flowering now and I was pleased to see quite a few potatoes from the one ‘Charlotte’ plant (see picture above). They tasted fantastic – as the first ‘new’ potatoes always do – and I can’t wait to see what’s under the other plants.

'Charlotte' salad potatoes

The first crop of ‘Charlotte’ salad potatoes.

I mentioned in my blog of 29 March that I was adding some Dalefoot Lakeland Gold compost to one half of the row of ‘Charlotte’ potatoes. I’ll be counting the number of potatoes from each plant as best I can (considering that I always manage to leave some in the ground), and weighing them, to find out whether the added compost makes a lot of difference.

I tried to water these early potatoes as much as I could over the past few weeks and I’m delighted with the results. I’m also pleased we’ve had some rain as this will help as the ‘Desiree’ and ‘Picasso’ main crop tubers to form.

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Strawberries
I have picked lots of strawberries and last week I had just over 1kg – enough to make some jam. I have tried various recipes over the years, but the one that seems to work for me involves using 1kg of washed strawberries, 1kg of jam sugar and the juice of one lemon. Before I begin, I put a small plate in the freezer. I use this to try out the ‘wrinkle test’ when I think the jam is ready.

Home-made strawberry jam

Home-made strawberry jam.

To make the jam, put the strawberries and lemon juice in a large pan over a low heat and mash them using a potato masher. Then add the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and boil for about 8 minutes or until you think the setting point has been reached. I remove some of the ‘scum’ from the top of the jam as it boils, although I believe this is just trapped air and can be stirred into the jam when the setting point has been reached.

Remove the plate from the freezer and test to see if the jam is at setting point by adding a little to the plate and seeing if it wrinkles when pushed with your finger. If it wrinkles and stays ‘wrinkled’ I take it off the heat and leave it for about 10 minutes before adding to sterilised jars.

The 1kg of strawberries made enough jam for two 500ml and two 70ml jars – at least, I think those are the sizes. I’ve never actually checked…

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Beans
The dwarf French beans given to me by a friend are growing well and I’ve planted out what I believe to be climbing French beans next to the runner beans.

Dwarf French beans

Dwarf French beans.

My first crop of French dwarf and climbing beans didn’t germinate, so I sowed some seeds I found in the bottom of my allotment bag – and most of them germinated!

However, I didn’t know whether they were dwarf or climbing, so I’ve had to guess which is which. If they’re climbers, they can climb up the canes. If they’re dwarf, they can grow next to the canes!

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Courgettes
My courgettes aren’t very big, but they’ve started to flower. This year I’ve planted out four ‘Endurance’ courgettes, which is an early compact variety that produces good yields of dark-green fruits.

Courgette 'Endurance' in flower

Courgette ‘Endurance’ in flower.

Once I start picking courgettes – and trying to pick them at the correct size without them growing into marrows – I know that summer has really arrived.

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Although lockdown is easing, many people are still confined to their homes or concerned about going out because they are vulnerable to catching C19.

Here at AG we appreciate that and are doing our best to keep connected with our readers though the magazine, this website and also through social media.

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