Harvesting the allotment in October

This may sound strange but I think harvesting potatoes is like digging for gold. The old foliage has died back and the plants look very sorry for themselves, but when the fork goes in the soil gives up these wonderful ‘nuggets’. I particularly recommend doing this on a sunny autumn day to enhance the feeling of well being. I’ve only just got round to digging up my second ‘earlies’ crop, leaving my main crop still in the ground, but they will be coming up in the next week and stored in paper sacks in the garage. The final few rows of second ‘earlies’ provided two 10 kilo bags of spuds literally bursting at the seams.

They have not just produced a good yield but have also done a good job of improving the soil, which I will build on in the coming weeks with digging and liberal application of manure .

As well as the potatoes, the last of the beans are being picked, when they are removed the foliage will go to compost and the roots will be left to nourish the soil.

I am also harvesting cabbages now and storing them away- rather than leave them as a slug feast. Apparently they keep well in a frost free store (cabbages not slugs) so I shall see how they do in the garage ( the car has no chance of being under cover this year).

The prolific courgettes are still producing but not so vigorously, which is a relief as we were running out of ways to store and eat them (my courgette beer/champagne is bubbling away and samples taken have not caused me to gag so it’s looking good so far)

Leeks are harvested on an as-we-need basis and the carrots and parsnips are still growing in their respective beds. Brocolli, brussel sprouts, kale and savoy cabbges continue to grow and add a nice splash of green in what is becoming a slightly barren landscape as the ground is dug over and prepared for new planting in the Spring. I intend to clear as much of the weed roots as possible so their impact will (hopefully) be lessened next year. I hope that effort put in now will make life a little easier next year.

One thing I’ve learned is not to go for the cheaper option. I did just that with the weed suppressant sheet, thinking I could reuse next year. No such luck. It has done a fantastic job keeping the weeds at bay- saving me time- but now is in tatters, so I will be investing in a more heavy duty version for next time. I have been able to keep major outlays down, ‘making do’ and ‘recycle/reuse’ being my mantras so I think useful investment is allowed.

I’ve not been able to get down to the allotment for two weeks and was pleasantly surprised that the weeds had not strangled everything. Even so, I still needed to do a major weedathon – it’s extremely satisfying when you see the pile of evicted weeds and vegetables freed up and given a new lease of life. I am keeping the weeds separate from the rest of the compost material, immersing them in water to allow them to rot down; the resulting liquid will provide a nourishing feed. After they have been leeched of their nutrients I can put them with the conventional compost to safely rot down and not come back to haunt me when returned to the soil as compost next year.

Now that areas are being cleared I am thinking about what will go where for next year and will prepare the ground accordingly. Lots of lessons have been learned In this, my first year of allotmenteering and, as I now have the luxury of time to plan I will be putting that knowledge to good use. When I first took on the allotment it was a frantic ‘dig over and plant’ regime. Despite this, I have been amazed at what the ground has yielded without the benefit of preparation and I take my hat off to the previous owner for his work (and to the fact that the plot was where they used to house the manure pile over years).

I will also be using the time to re-site things like the composter and tool store, these have been temporary this year but need a proper ‘home’. Plus, I think it is time for some form of shelter and a chair to sit and admire my efforts. Not sure if I’ll manage a shed but at least somewhere to keep dry when the weather changes.

After the sometimes frantic efforts of the last few months it will be good to slow the pace down, which the allotment seems to be doing, consider next year and look forward building on what has been achieved in 2010.