Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
Under Valued Plants.
As we went through June I
started sowing a few replacement Crops like Beetroot that were to go in,
after things like the Broad Beans and Early Potatoes, came out. Beetroot
is one of my favourite vegetables as I have a cooked, cold, Beetroot
sliced up in my Tea Time Sandwich, nearly every day. It is one of those
extremely healthy and underrated crops that we should all be making more
of, as it need have no travel miles unlike so many other vegetables.
This is because it grows perfectly well here in England and our farmers
can grow huge quantities of it so easily. The only thing going against
it is that it is a dirty vegetable for shops to handle as fresh Beetroot
can’t be scrubbed clean because it “Bleads,” so it doesn’t display
nicely for sale. Consequently, I grow much of my own, but when I can’t
harvest my own, I have found that instead of buying Pickled Beetroot in
a jar, the traditional way of selling it, you can often see it
pre-cooked in plastic pouches. Perhaps not the most environmentally
friendly type of packaging, but the beetroot prepared like this tastes
better to me than pickled.
Other things that I’ve got to plant include some more Swiss Chard that I
also think is undervalued and I will sow some Radish Mooli directly in
the ground, after it has been cleared properly and I can see what space
I have. I favour Chard over Kale, ( both Spinach like alternatives) as
the Pigeons seem to go mad for young Kale plants, but they leave the
Chard alone more, and you do get two vegetables in one with Chard,
because the thick stalks make an unusual additional serving if trimmed
tidily and lightly Steamed.
Asparagus should already be resting and it won’t be long until it is
time to let the Rhubarb grow so that the Crown can re-energise ready for
next season. For the first time my Globe Artichokes did not do very well
at all and I can only put it down to the late cold snap and dry spell
that together more or less stopped their growth. They may come on with a
late harvest, but the plants are still small at the time of writing
this. The Black Currants and Gooseberries are coming on nicely and the
couple of wet days that we had in late June did them a world of good. It
also plumped up the Early Raspberries that would otherwise have been
useless and the Strawberries appreciated it as well.
My Broad Bean harvest was a little later than normal and here again the
wet spell helped fill the pods better giving me a good harvest. Most
Allotmenteers grow Runner Beans, but not so many seem to grow Broad
Beans and I think this is another case of a vegetable getting bad press.
They can grow throughout the Winter and harvest early giving room for an
additional, later crop, so helping you to make good use of the space
available. Broad Beans are Legumes so they do beneficially put Nitrogen
into the Soil, but they do have a problem in that they are plagued by
Black Fly. However, pinching out the young and tender tips, or making an
early sowing in the Late Autumn of the season before, both help prevent
this problem. Many people have the idea that they are bitter to eat
which can be true if you let the beans over develop inside the pods
before picking. But, here again, the bitterness of large Beans can be
removed by peeling the tougher skin off the individual beans. It is a
little bit fiddly, but improves the taste no end.
After my Beans came out I also planted some Leek seedlings that I had
germinated much earlier and had been holding back.
One job that I finally got round to doing was to remove the Glass Shower
Door that made the lid for my Cold Frame. The screws had rusted in
tight, but I managed to lever them out with a Claw Hammer. I never liked
the idea of having a glass lid, but my friend installed it for me when
he built the Cold Frame. After removing the lid, I transferred all of
the Fig cuttings into the Cold Frame hoping that the sides will shelter
them from the winds and give them slightly warmer conditions that they
will like. Before winter comes they should have rooted so they can be
potted and I will then have the option of putting my Chrysanthemum
Stools in the Cold Frame for protection, or else I can use it to root my
fruit bush cuttings that I regularly take. As it gets colder I will make
a new lid for it though out of wood and polythene.
A few weeks ago I planted up some flowering plants including
Chrysanthemums to produce cut flowers. Many of last years Stools that I
saved weren’t shooting very well, so I discarded the worst of the old
plants and planted a few of the better ones before adding more rooted
cuttings, that had been taken earlier.
Each year I always get a bit concerned as to whether my Alstroemerias
are going to shoot because they are always a bit late coming into
growth, but they are as tough as old boots and don’t let me down. I
think they are much underrated as a cut flower because they do produce
an abundance of beautiful blooms in big easily cut sprays. However, they
do have a tendency to “Drop,” and shed masses of petals daily, but as
long as you remember to tidy them away regularly they make a lovely show
in a vase.
Some flowers that I really didn’t want to grow were those on the Sea
Kale. They are sometimes grown in flower Borders because of their frothy
flower heads, but I grow them as a vegetable so producing flowers drains
energy from the plants. I had removed most of them earlier, but there
were a few I had missed. At the same time as trimming them, I gave the
beds a good weed and will now let the plants leaf up until they finally
die off for the Winter. Then their large Cabbage like leaves will need
clearing up and composting, leaving small crowns a little bit like
Sisyrinchium Striatum is another much underrated, easy to grow, plant,
although I don’t know if it is any use as a cut flower. The well known
and popular, Sisyrinchium Californicum, is a very small Alpine or
rockery plant, but this variety is as tall as an Iris and although the
flowers don’t look anything like an Iris, the plant could easily be
mistaken for one. They put on quite a show and multiply up readily –
perhaps a little too readily as this plant will rapidly seed down and
spread if not kept in check.
Several Plot Holders grow Gladiola and I normally grow a little patch
for cut flowers because I think they are rather spectacular, but the
corms, that I saved from last year and over wintered in my greenhouse,
don’t seem to be shooting very well, so I will have to buy some
replacements next Spring when they are on sale again in Garden Centres.
One spectacular, but largely unknown flowering bulb that readily
naturalises, is the Dragon Lily. To be honest I have never seen it on
sale in any Garden Centre, but one of my Brothers friends gave me a
little clump a few years ago and now I have them everywhere as they
readily divide. The flower doesn’t last very long, but is quite
spectacular often reaching nearly a foot in length. However, it does
have a rather unfortunate smell ! ! !
After my Wallflowers had gone over, back in the middle of June, I did
the “Chelsea Chop,” on them, in the hopes that they would flower again
next year, but got a surprise when they started flowering again this.
They are normally classed as short lived Perennials, so I always expect
them to die after flowering each year.
In fact it is a good time generally to start “Dead Heading,” early
flowering things like Irises, Day Lilies and Calendulas, although the
Calendulas should go on flowering for quite a while yet with young
seedlings still coming up in the borders. Some of the early flowering
shrubs in my garden at home have also been cut back. This keeps things
like Kerrias and Brooms in shape stopping them from sprawling and it
also rejuvenates them. As long as you remember to cut the stems back
soon after flowering the plant has a chance to re-grow and produce new
shoots that will carry flowers next year. If you do it too late, you
won’t get any flowers next year.
When some of my Herbaceous plants had finished flowering I dug them up
and divided them taking a number to work for the Team Members to pot up
individually. One of my clumps of Day Lilies, or Hemerocallis, was
getting very large so that was one candidate. Another included several
different colours of Irises, and one of my Cowslips had produced a very
large clump as well. This might be a native Primula, but I think it is
underrated as it puts on a lovely show after it has got established. My
lovely variegated Hosta hasn’t flowered yet and it really is the wrong
time to divide it, but I did so anyway. The best time to divide Hostas
is in the Spring before they start to shoot. This has always been true
of a lot of Herbaceous plants, but these days some gardeners advocate
that when they are in full growth can also be a good time to split them
as long as they are kept watered afterwards to help them settle back in
after being disturbed.
On the subject of Propagation – I have also been sowing some seeds of
Herbaceous Perennials for the Charity where I work. People often think
that you can only sow Seeds in the Spring, but many plants will
germinate throughout the Summer months and into the Autumn. I have been
sowing things like, Agastache, Anchusa, Astilbe, Campanula, Centranthus,
Erigeron, Helenium, Heuchera and others, along with biennials such as
Bellis, Sweet Williams and Wallflowers. All of these will make very
cheap plants for later planting with some staying in pots until next