One of my many allotment books describes August as ‘the month of plenty’. I can definitely agree with that, each visit has had me leaving with bags literally bursting with produce. It’s essential to keep harvesting the beans and courgettes to encourage further growth and it never ceases to amaze me the difference a day makes. I am harvesting beans by the kilo, which made me think about what sort of a return on my investment I’m now getting from the allotment.
Pondering this for a while I first realized you can’t put a price on the wonderful taste of freshly picked produce and the fact you are not ingesting chemicals along with the vitamins. Secondly I, and the allotment, have a long term plan, we are going to be together for years to come, rain and shine. So, trying to quantify things in pounds sterling is slightly difficult but I’ll throw a few figures at you. As I said, I literally harvest beans by the kilo, the varieties we are growing provide a nice mix and, looking at the prices in our local market, beans were priced at around £6 a kilo. Considering that last weekend I walked away with 3 kilos of beans, leaving plenty more to ripen for next time, the calculation revealed I had a bag containing £18 worth of beans alone. Taking into account a packet of seeds is around £3, some compost to sow them into, water, light and tender loving care, I think I may well be quids in regarding the bean investment. The same thing can be said for the potatoes, courgettes, cauliflowers, beetroot, cabbages, peas, leeks, celery, carrots, onions, broccoli, and sprouts that are all happily growing away in the ground and will furnish my dinner table over the coming weeks and months.
The whole plot- 1 cabbages 2 sprouts 3 brocolli 4 cauliflower 5 cabbages 6 kale 7 courgettes 8 bean and peas 9,10 potatoes onions 11 onions/leeks/carrots/parsnips
Of course, you can ask the question would I normally buy £18 worth of green beans every week? The answer would have to be no, not usually but with produce like the beans and courgettes it is (a) amazing the recipes you can conjure up and (b) what you don’t eat immediately can be stored or frozen for future use. Blanching and freezing has been the order of the day, beans are fine but courgettes (which have been prolific) need to be frozen for use in things like pasta sauces and soups. (Courgettes are a very versatile crop, look up ‘courgette recipes’, you’ll be amazed). A batch of piccalilli will need to be made as the raw ingredients are there ready and waiting. This just goes to show the future benefits of the produce are there and nothing will be wasted. It’s not just the initial soil to plate that appeals but also the future benefits which are ongoing.
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The allotment brings home the seasonality of produce and how we have got use to varieties being available around the year although, on the down side, from around the world.
Absent from the allotment are tomatoes, salads, peppers and cucumber which we grow at home in our ‘kitchen garden’ and greenhouse. This was a conscious decision, as some produce needs more attention than others, and the allotment gives us the luxury of choice.
Already I am thinking ahead because, as things are harvested, there are gaps left that will be filled for next year. This means I have to be aware of what will replace them and what I need to do to the soil to prepare it (and stop the weeds taking over). I am also learning from the yields I have had from crops this year. As I had no real chance to prepare the ground other than dig it over, I am really pleased with how thing have turned out. I have learned from mistakes and now I have the opportunity to plan ahead and organize for future years.
Since I started, each month has been different and I have enjoyed the challenges and the rewards in equal measure, constantly surprising myself in what has been achieved.
This month I have been taking out, now I need to begin the process of putting back in. Autumn (and then winter) will be with us sooner than we realize and there is a lot to do. Not just maintaining the ground and planting. I still haven’t constructed my ‘rustic’ composter and I need to expand my storage options. A chair and some shelter are also on my list. These tasks and keeping the pests (plus weeds) under control are going to keep me occupied but, as I nibble on a freshly picked runner bean, I don’t have much of a problem with it.