Monday, 7 July 2014

Blame the strawberries!

What a busy month! The sunshine is here and the schools will soon be out for the summer(Leicestershire are normally the first and break up on Friday).

The last few weeks are always packed with sports days, drama performances, musical soirees, summer fairs, prize-giving, induction days and leaving parties. Whilst keeping up with all the kids activities, I have also been desperately trying to get ahead with work, so that I have more free time in the holidays. So by 9pm I am then left deciding whether to go to the allotment and water the plants or write my blog. Sorry, but the allotment won - mainly because of all the ripe strawberries that needed picking :-)

I inherited a strawberry patch on my allotment, which is the area enclosed with netting supported by plastic bottles and canes. The plastic bottles for the frame were a good idea from one of notsogreenfingers posts. There were so many strawberries to pick at once that I couldn't keep up. The problem is that there are no rows or paths in the patch, so picking them feels like playing a game of twister, bent over double, trying to carefully place my feet so that I don't squash them!

The strawberries only lasted a few weeks, in which time we had strawberries and cream or Eton mess most days.


For the first time ever I made 5 jars of strawberry jam (thanks to a really simple recipe from notjustgreenfingers again). It looked so amazing as I cooked it that I had to take photos! I also had enough strawberries to freeze 4 punnets and gave another 6 punnets to friends and neighbours.

Now the raspberries in my garden are in full swing, and there are a few at the allotment too, along with redcurrants, blueberries and blackcurrants that are just ripening. They are not great at the allotment, because I have neglected the fruit bushes which are now competing with the weeds, but hopefully I will get on top of the weeds over the summer.

Above is as far as I got with weeding the raspberry canes in the spring. The picture below gives an idea of how overgrown they are now, just on the right of the photo.

I have realised that I need a completely different approach to the allotment than I do with my garden. I have a small, sheltered growing space in my garden, so I only need to grow a few plants to fill it. If I sow just a few seeds most of them will grow and mature, so that I have plenty. Plus I am out there several times a day and it is easy to spot if something needs attention or to pull the odd weed as it grows. On the other hand the allotment plot gives me 4 times the space in a big, open allotment area, where pests, diseases and weeds spread easily. Young plants don't stand much of a chance. Even if you try to protect them from the pigeons and slugs that will devour any fresh green shoots.

I need to change my way of thinking from just sowing a few, to planting double of everything. Where I would sow 2 runner beans to a pole, I need to sow 4, just to ensure something survives, and then have backups growing at home in pots just in case. I still have too many bare spaces, so I need to become better at planning so that all my soil is covered in plants, leaving less opportunities for weeds to take over. And I need more propagating space at home as I haven't grown enough. I am kind of working these things out the hard way.

There have been so many things to write about over the last month, and no time. I spotted this article back in June which is worth a discussion. I have another Eco-house to write about, books to discuss and news on my PV panels. Hopefully I will catch up soon. In the meantime I hope you are enjoying a summer of strawberries ;-)