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June & July - damp squibs...

Posted: Friday 17th June 2016 by My-Wild-Garden

So much for ‘flaming’ June – the sixth month of the year turned out to be a real damp squib and this has contributed to a poor showing from some of my vegetable sowings.

I’ve lost count of the number of years I’ve been growing runner beans, but this year’s crop has been a bit of a non-starter. Maybe I planted out my young plants onto my somewhat exposed allotment while it was still a little bit too chilly, or, more likely, the tender stalks were too much of a temptation for the relentless slugs that have been out in force during the many damp days that we’ve had. 

Whatever the reason, those much-nibbled plants that have survived aren’t much to write about and I’ll be looking to learn lessons for next year. I think a few more beer traps will be in order to reduce the numbers of slugs, and I definitely need to take extra care to ensure that every potato is removed from the ground during harvesting to reduce the risk of ‘volunteers’ providing cover for molluscs.

Nevertheless for every failure there are a few successes and one thing that’s worked particularly well is my courgette ‘hot bed’. Earlier this year I piled up layers of old weeds, sheets of cardboard and manure and topped them all off with a deep covering of soil and community compost.

The warmth generated by the decomposing plants and manure has given my courgettes a real head start and they’ve performed much better than the ones I planted into mounds of soil at ground level. I’ve been careful to bury the necks of bottles near the roots of the plants and water directly into them so that any moisture goes where it’s needed and does not dampen the top of the soil and make life easier for slugs!

My army of slug slayers continues to grow: one or two toads have joined the slow worms and hedgehogs frequenting the allotment and I’m hoping they’re helping me to keep the enemy at bay. Hopefully numbers will increase over time – especially with the areas of cover I’m trying to provide for them around the pond - and prove a force to be reckoned with.

I’m also seeing lots of different insects flying around the colourful flowers I’ve been encouraging and I’m hoping they will assist in the pollination of crops.
This year’s raspberry and strawberry harvests are going particularly well, especially as the strawberries were only planted as bare roots in February, but I’m having to step in quick to get them before the slugs do.

Raspberries have been ripening beautifully in spite of the damp weather, but I’ve not allowed them to hang around too long as they don’t tend to keep so well if they’re not dry. I already have seven jars of jam to show for my efforts and I hope there will be more to come in the coming weeks.

Another crop that’s doing well is the broad beans, the perfumed flowers of which attracted plenty of interest from the bees. Hopefully they will make up for the poor showing from the runners and are certainly proving to be a delicious accompaniment to my first new potato harvests. 

Honey and bumble bees have been in abundance during warmer days and I’ve also spotted tortoiseshell butterflies and cinnabar moths, which have distinctive red dots on their fore wings and are particularly attracted to ragwort and groundsels.

The allotment shed always attracts its fair share of wildlife – albeit mice, spiders and wasps – but this year we’ve also been joined by a family of robins. I had noticed a little bird flying in and out of the structure with insects in its beak but wasn’t expecting to be greeted by four little speckled fledglings when I reached for a spade the other day. 

One new area of cover that they’ll soon be able to use is the ‘fedge’ created from the branches of our goat willow earlier in the year. Over recent weeks it’s started to disappear under a mass of rapidly-growing grasses, wild flowers and nettles.

Meanwhile it’s heartening to see the somewhat sad looking coppiced stump of the goat willow coming back to life. I’ll be keeping a careful eye on its progress to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.

July is a busy month for picking and pulling – the blackcurrants will soon be ready and the carrots and Cheltenham Green Top beetroot are looking promising, while all the wet weather we’ve been having and associated inactivity has really aided the weed population.

Fortunately the days are still long and there is little to beat being up on the allotment on a fine evening. The appearance of ghost-like white plume moths is my signal that it’s time to pack up my tools, pick up the evening’s harvest, grab Rita the dog and wander home.


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