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Happy Hols leads to a bind!

Posted: Wednesday 14th September 2016 by My-Wild-Garden

Sue’s back from her summer holidays and finds there is plenty to do on the allotment.

Some gardeners don’t go away during the summer, preferring to wait until the end of the year when there’s not much to do on their plots.

My family, on the other hand, generally head off for sunnier climes in August, which means the allotment has a two week break from my never-ending battle to keep it looking reasonably tidy.

This year the weeds have used my absence, and the rain that fell while we were away, as the signal to romp away.

Among the worst offenders is hedge bindweed, the large white trumpet-like flowers of which seem to have appeared between my raspberry canes like magic.

When it comes to cashing in on opportunities to flourish, this is a plant with few equals, and there’s a part of me that almost admires its ability to withstand my fervent efforts to pull it up.

This plant is a survivor if ever there was one, with the ability to grow anew from even the tiniest piece of root.

It’s a master at weaving itself around the roots of perennial bushes so that it’s virtually impossible to eradicate and it’s resistant to drought due to its ability to send its own fleshy roots deep into the ground in search of sources of moisture.

Every spring I check the ground assiduously for signs of this pernicious plant, and pull up any emerging shoots I see, but once again it’s managed to outwit me. On the plus side, its flowers provide pollen for insects and extra cover for birds, but this has to be weighed against the moisture and nutrients it robs from the soil.

Come winter, when deciduous bushes are dormant, I will have to start thinking about moving my fruit patch to a clean part of the allotment as it’s obviously managed to get a toe hold around my raspberries. While doing so I’ll be making sure that each bush and cane is not harbouring a sinister white root ready to start afresh elsewhere.

Pulling up bindweed is one job that’s keeping me busy this month, but even more pressing is the abundance of food that needs to be picked and dug up.
Despite inviting friends to help themselves while we were away, we returned from our holiday to find courgettes the size of marrows, pounds of runner beans and bunches of sweet peas, all of which have been picked to encourage the plants to produce more over the coming weeks.

Chutney and pickles will be on my agenda in the days to come as I strive to use the crops I had to work so hard to get established earlier in the year.
At the same time, the blackberry growing on the shed is in full fruit and the autumn raspberries are shining like large red rubies. Picking and eating them is one of the pleasures of the season, especially when combined with the windfall apples left on the doorstep by kindly neighbours.

All in all the allotment is proving to be both a fruitful and buzzy place this month, with honeybees and other insects making the most of flowering borage and green manures – which really should have been dug in long before they started to bloom.

The need for bees to collect nectar ahead of their long winter rest is stopping me from giving them the chop straightway, however, although they will need to be incorporated into the soil soon so that they rot down before I start sowing in spring.

Meanwhile I’ll be making the most of the warm soil to start off some annual flowers ready for an earlier display next summer.

Signs of autumn can be seen everywhere: every day the swallows gather on the telegraph wires ready for their long flight south, while in the garden at home the cotoneaster is laden with berries ready to feed hungry birds that remain in the UK.

The nights are gradually drawing in and I’ve already started collecting fallen leaves from the school playground ready to make leaf mould for the years ahead.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be working to dig over the thick clay on my allotment, breaking up the lumps, removing weeds and covering the surface with one-year-old leaf mould to protect it from the ravages of winter.

Going on holiday has given me a new burst of energy but by golly I’ll need it if the allotment is going to be in good shape for next year.





Recipe - Courgette and Dill Pickle

  • 6 courgettes
  • 2 large onions
  • Coarse sea salt (enough to sprinkle over courgettes)
  • 1 pint (20 fl oz) cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) sugar
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) mustard seeds
  • Large handful dill leaves

Slice courgettes as thinly as possible – potato peelers or mandolins give good results.

Layer the courgette slices and thinly sliced onions in a bowl and sprinkle salt in between each layer.

Place a small plate on top of the courgette and onion slices and place a weight on top in order to sweat the water from the courgette. Leave overnight.

Drain off excess moisture and wash off salt.

Gently heat the vinegar, sugar and mustard until the sugar has dissolved.
Add courgettes, onions and dill and bring to the boil.

Take off heat and bottle in sterilized jars, making sure courgettes are covered with liquid. Seal jars.

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