So much for this year’s growing. I am now starting to think actively about next year’s allotment plan. I will certainly put in another crop of “Charlotte” salad potatoes. These have excellent flavour and are absolutely delicious boiled and eaten hot with butter or cold as part of a salad. For main crop I am thinking seriously about a new variety “Sarpo Axona”, which comes highly recommended for flavour and texture by no less than top River Cottage chef Gelf Anderson.The Sarpo family of varieties have been developed specifically to resist potato blight and other fungal diseases. I am also thinking about a 1st early Casablanca for new potatoes in May/June.
Next year I will again be using the Polestar runner bean variety. These cropped well, taste good, and are virtually stringless. Apart from that I shall try planting some of the beans I saved from this year’s crop. It will be interesting to see how they do compared to left over commercial seed from this year. For climbing french beans I will be planting Isabel, which also did well this year. Another good reason for sticking to the same varieties is I still have enough seeds left over from this year. Waste not want not is the motto of every allotment gardener.
I was invited to help myself from a heap of surplus rhubarb roots thrown out by one of my neighbours. These I heeled in to see whether any would survive, as they had been out of the ground for at least six weeks. In the event all did, so they will be replanted in well-manured ground once the leaves have died down. I am expecting a good crop for next year.
During the summer I started to put a soft fruit bed together. These included two gooseberry varieties, Red Whinham’s Industry and Hinnomaki Green. Not surprisingly, the first yields red berries, and the second green berries. Both come recommended to be eaten raw or in pies. Gooseberries are not everybody’s cup of tea, so you don’t see them very often in the shops. They are still favourites of mine, especially in pies. Both should come in to fruit next year.
I also planted two blackcurrant bushes. I’m not sure what we will use them for but they were a favorite of my mother’s and will bring back memories of childhood.
I am a great fan of blackberry and apple pie, but am getting tired of being scratched by their thorns and stung by the nettles which always seem to grow alongside them when in the wild. After much consideration, I have decided to put in a boysenberry plant. The boysenberry was developed in California, and is a genetic hybrid of raspberries, loganberries and North American blackberries. I will be following James Wong’s advice “With its great balance of sweet and tart, this 1920’s heirloom makes probably the best pie known to man”. His excellent book “Grow for Flavour” is an essential guide for any allotment holder, and is available on the RHS website for £20, or from Amazon for a lot less! Not every grower supplies boysenberries, but Fothergills has them on offer at £13.95. Not cheap, but it should be easy to propagate some more.
Finally, no allotment should be without raspberries, pound for pound the most cost-effective fruit crop you can grow. Raspberries come in two types – those that bear fruit on the previous year’s canes (known as floricanes), and those that bear fruit on the current year’s canes (primocanes). Floricanes fruit earlier than primocanes, and produce larger quantities of raspberries, and primocanes are useful for extending the season, but are less prolific.
I shall again follow James Wong’s advice and have chosen a variety “Joan J”, selected for taste, yield, size and length of cropping season. You can’t ask for more than that. Joan J bears fruit on the current year’s new canes, so should be producing fruit next summer. It is also suitable for double cropping, so the same variety will produce fruit throughout the summer with careful pruning. (See RHS website for information about pruning,etc).
I have to think seriously about the layout of the plot. This year was very much a catch up, so I had very little time to put together a location plan for each type of vegetable. It is absolutely essential to follow a plan of crop rotation, and certain crops such as potatoes should bever be grown on the same ground two years in succession.
You should avoid planting potatoes where grass has been growing recently, so they will follow on from this year’s runner beans and leeks. For general information about crop rotation the grow veg site is as good as any. A good rule is not to grow root vegetables (apart from potatoes) in ground that has been heavily manured.
Equally important I have to work out a plan for siting the compost heap, which will have to be moved every year, and a raised bed that I have in mind for growing spring onions and carrots. For soft fruits I have more or less worked out where they should go. Obviously you can’t move fruit bushes or canes too often.