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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.

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Autumn Has Come.

At last the Dwarf French Beans have started to flower and set, but it is so late I donít know if they will really do anything. Both the French and Haricot beans had to be re-sown as the first sowing didnít germinate at all in the wet Spring soil. However, the Haricot did start to set beans some weeks ago and although the plants are very short, they have some nice, big fat pods on them. Hopefully the Autumn wonít be as wet as last year when a lot of the pods rotted as they ripened and dried.

The Runner beans picked very well, but are now getting a bit tough as their growth has slowed down and some of the leaves have been caught by the cold nights we have started to get occasionally. On another site that I go to, only a few miles away, the Runners have pretty much been taken altogether by the cold with the plants looking very sad. Both my Climbing Blue Beans and Yellow climbing Goldfield, did well, but even now, the Yellow donít seem to be getting tough. One problem everybody has had with their beans this year, is the strong winds. Where the rows of Beans have been put up East/West, people havenít had such a problem, but like my Climbing Beans, some rows were put up North/South and the canes have been pushed over badly by the winds. The Soya Beans, that I experimented with, have grown well and are developing nice little pods, although the leaves on the plants look lice lace curtains, because the caterpillars have been at them. The pods are quite short and fairly hairy, but otherwise look just like any other bean pod. The question I am faced with now, is when will they be ready for picking and what do I do with them when they are picked? Not surprisingly, I suppose, I havenít been able to find a single reference in any old gardening books to give me any advice!

Weather people and TV gardeners are talking about an early/long Winter this year, so late developing crops such as my Cape Gooseberries are questionable as to whether they will do anything at all before the frosts get them. The plants are in flower now, but the berries will take weeks to develop and ripen before they are ready to pick. Last year I was still picking at Christmas and it was in the New Year before I finally cleared the last of the plants!

With the approaching cold, I have covered my Oca, or New Zealand Yam plants with a homemade Hazel Cloche to extend the growing season for a few weeks in the hopes that it will provide enough extra, late warmth for them to develop their tubers. The Sweet Potatoes have been under a fleece cloche most of the season, but they must be a little more delicate as when I looked, some of the younger leaves were already suffering from the cold. 

Autumn is the time to pick nuts and the Hazels are ripening on the trees, although I actually picked the nuts from my tree at home some weeks ago, when they were still green and only just starting to turn. We found out some years ago that if they are left to ripen on the tree, many nuts will fall as you pick them and then canít be found amongst the leaves. It is so much easier to pick them while they are still in their husks and finish ripening them in the house, but you do have to remember to pick up the box holding them every day and shake your nuts around a bit to get the air round them, or else they will go mouldy. From our single tree we get just over one pound of nuts each year. I have a number of small Hazel trees that I was hoping to plant on my allotment, but I donít know now as a Squirrel has been seen on the allotments. Having said that, the squirrels only like ripe nuts and if the nuts are picked before they ripen, the theory is that you get them before they do!




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