The forecast is set for rain all weekend with thunder and lightning, then some more rain for pretty much the whole of next week. With this in mind I made the decision to pull the garlic yesterday while the soil is still dry.
I grow my garlic from saved seed garlic that I have kept going for many years, it’s a big strapping hardneck variety called Red Duke and it’s one of the best I’ve ever grown. I’m very pleased with the harvest, nice looking bulbs with no sign of rot. Leek rust on garlic leaves has been present on other plots for a few weeks now, it only really took hold of my garlic this week and there’s still plenty of green on the leaves. There’s a touch of allium leaf minor action on some of the garlic stems, I picked off the little cocoons and set the bulbs aside to be used first in the kitchen. As usual, I will keep the biggest and healthiest bulbs back for replanting in November.
The raised beds on Plot 11w are taking some time to completely fill up, I’m getting there slowly, just concentrating on one bed at a time. Homemade compost has been set aside to mulch the larger beds on Plot 5 as I clear them, so I’m having to buy in compost to top the raised beds up. Next year I should have access to free homemade compost/mulch from the pallet bins.
Yesterday I planted 60 garlic cloves from bulbs harvested in summer, into one of the raised beds. I like to set the cloves out before planting, once satisfied with spacing (approximately 6 inches apart) I plant each one into the soil around 1 – 2 inches deep, pointy end facing up. The green shoots should appear in January, something to look forward to in what can be a long and dreary month.
My favourite garlic to grow is Red Duke, a hard neck variety with a hot spicy flavour. This variety has not let me down so far, even when covered in leek rust. Being a hard neck variety, Red Duke produces a curly flower stalk carried high above the leaves in summer which is known as a scape, snap them off to help the development of the bulbs but don’t just throw them on the compost heap! They’re edible and have a lovely pungent garlic flavour.
I always feel like I’m on top of autumn jobs when the garlic goes in, does anyone else feel like that? There’s still a bit of clearing and mulching to do on Plot 5 but an enjoyable amount of work for a sunny dry day.
Before I left for home I pulled up a sprout tree (it was already on the floor thanks to the August storms) and a big celeriac to go with our Sunday dinner. Believe it or not the sprouts are meant to be a short variety growing to only 2ft, I think I’m feeding them too well!
It’s so satisfying preparing the veg for our Sunday dinner knowing it came from the allotment and garden, carrots, parsnip, stored potatoes, sprouts and celeriac. All utterly delicious.
As I sit writing this blog from my warm bed storm Dennis lashes the front of my house, the sound of the wind and rain is rather scary and I’m thankful I’m not outside. This is the second named storm this month to batter the UK, just last weekend storm Ciara arrived bringing gales and heavy rain causing chaos across the country, the already saturated ground and rising river levels will surely cause flooding, as it did for many last week.
Allotment sheds were blown over on our site last weekend and other sites across the UK too with damage to polytunnels and greenhouses, some beyond repair. My shed survived storm Ciara and I will know if it laughed in the face of storm Dennis too after I make a brief visit to the plot tomorrow to check things over.
My allotment(s) are flooded, my new plot at the end of my current plot badly needs organic matter incorporated into it, the soil is pure clay and doesn’t drain well at all, as you can imagine it’s just not coping with the rain and everything is running directly onto my other plot. Both plots will recover and I refuse to stress over things out of my control. I have all of this year to improve my new plot and lots to look forward to when the bad weather finally breaks.
There were signs of new growth at the allotment last time I checked which really made me happy, little green garlic shoots looking very healthy indeed. Hopefully not under water now but if they are I shall remain positive that all will be well once it all drains off.
Last Sunday I managed to get the garlic planted, even though it was cold the sun was shining which was a pleasant break from the rain! This month has been very wet making working on the plot difficult, however it’s really nothing to grumble about when homes and land are being affected by floods when I switch on the evening news. It’s just grim.
I’m growing my favourite variety again this year, ‘Red Duke’, using saved bulbs from this years crop. I’ve grown this hardy variety for many years now, the plants grow strong with lovely thick leaves and the bulbs store well into the following year. After harvesting in summer I select the biggest bulbs and put them aside for growing on in autumn, this works well for me and prevents the need for buying seed garlic every year which is so expensive.
I had a little friend join me as I planted, the chance of a worm simply irresistible.
Do you have a favourite variety of garlic to grow?
Oh I do love July on the allotment, everything is in full swing bursting with growth and colour. Harvests are coming thick and fast and once again the seed packets are out of the box, hopefully just in time for a late crop of early maturing peas and more beetroot, also quick cropping radish and I’m trying my luck again with pak choi which I adore stir fried, slathered in soy sauce.
Rouge Vif D’ Etampes pumpkins planted out at the beginning of June are romping away in the pumpkin patch, it appears I have a couple of eager beavers!
I’m really pleased with the height of the sweetcorn this year, and they look super healthy too.
Just over half a year on Plot 5 and I’m proud of what I have managed to achieve and the food it is now producing, but it’s only fair that I share the downs too. I lost half of my strawberry plants to nests of red ants, they also took a fancy to the roots of a couple of sunflowers and cosmos plants. Not a disaster, just annoying really.
My garlic got leek rust which is a fungal problem, small orange pustules appear on the leaves which eventually spread out to cause complete yellowing, the plants stop growing so bulbs can be on the small side. Although leek rust can make the leaves look very sickly the bulbs are completely edible. I started removing affected leaves as soon as I spotted them but this method of control only serves to slow down the inevitable ever so slightly, it just made me feel better looking after my garlic even though in reality there’s bugger all I could do about it. Leek rust seems to have been a problem for many garlic growers this year, I made the decision to lift my garlic earlier than I would have liked and was pleasantly surprised to find most of the bulbs to be a good size. I use my own strain of seed garlic and have done for years, a hardneck variety called Red Duke. My homegrown garlic were unaffected so it just goes to show how easily it can spread on allotments.
More worryingly around 5 of the garlic bulbs had evidence of white rot. Because I lifted my garlic earlier than usual I think I stopped the rot reaching the inner cloves so they’re still useable, the outer papery skins are gone so they won’t store. I already knew white rot to be a problem for some of the plots on our allotment site but it’s a case of suck it and see with my new plot as to if or where it is exactly and how bad. I planted young leeks last week in a different location on the plot for overwintering, fingers crossed they escape both of the problems mentioned and the dreaded allium leaf miner which can devastate a crop of leeks, again I have to grow it to know it.
Back to the ups and I’m not doing badly with flowers on the allotment although the sweet pea have been very slow to get going, now in flower they’re going to seed quicker than usual.
I’m growing different varieties of sunflower, tall singles because I think they’re just gorgeous and very ‘allotmenty’, rusty red Earthwalker and Velvet Queen, Autumn Beauty and Teddy Bear. Lavender is pulling in the bees and I’ve already mentioned cosmos, they’re just starting to bloom and it won’t be long before gloriosa daisies bring a pop of colour to the plot too.
All the second early potatoes have been lifted, variety Charlotte, the harvest filled a potato sack just over halfway which is great from just 20 seed potatoes. I picked just enough gooseberries to make jam and entering a jam made with my garden strawberries into our village show in September, my jam won second place last year. Speaking of the show I’m hoping to enter the longest runner bean class, I don’t know why I’m so fixated with this class it’s actually turning into a bit of an obsession, I’m walking around the plot with my measuring tape tying in potential beans to prevent stems snapping. I think I’ve lost it!