I'm finally beginning to understand why farmers always seem to be talking about the weather.
If we're going to get serious about producing enough fruit and vegetables to sustain a small household - weather, sunshine, daylight hours, watering and timing are important factors.
Most gardeners I know have already planted out their courgettes, squash, tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers and melons. These are all heat-loving plants. And here in the North West of England we've hit a chilly patch - with lots and lots of rain. When this happens growth seems to slow down or stop...and you start wondering if it will ever start again...
Lettuces and salad plants are alright for a few days in these cooler temperatures as they don't like things too hot. Of course if it rains a lot you don't need to water so often. Wielding a watering can is quite a chore when you have a largish space. I'll have to find a more workable solution for this one. Mulching helps enormously - and I've ordered a long hosepipe today(50 metres).
We started to harvest the new potatoes last week. This variety is a first early potato called 'Lady Christl' and they're really delicious. It is such a simple meal too. Last night we had new potatoes with butter and one organic beefburger each (they were on special offer). A small bag of organically grown new potatoes costs around £2.50.
Our home grown harvest will probably give us about fifty meals for two adults and a toddler. So if we'd bought potatoes at the shops this would have set us back £125. Here is what my order from the Organic Gardening Catalogue looked like:
1 x seed potatoes LADY CHRISTL 3 kg (cost: £6.25)
2 x potato GOLDEN WONDER
1.5kg1 x CARROT Chanteney
1 x PARSNIP Cobham Improved Marrow
1 x LETTUCE Little Gem
1 x CUCUMBER Long White Paris
1 x LEEK Monstruso de Carentan
1 x MELON Sweetheart F11 x Rocket Wild
Total: £25.22 with a ten per cent 'Garden Organic' membership discount delivered to my door:
http://www.organicgardeningcatalogue.co.uk/ (postage free for orders over £25)
Home-grown gooseberries for dessert. It was the first time we'd been able to harvest gooseberries from the allotment. The variety we chose was 'Greenfinch' and they were grown in the partial shade of our large Newton Wonder apple tree. I didn't think they would do so well in partial shade, but they are fine now.
I could have staked the bushes, but I just didn't get around to it in time, so when the rains came I decided to harvest all the fruit, small and large - so the slugs wouldn't get them. I gathered a decent bowlful. If we'd bought the equivalent amount of organic gooseberries (which are difficult to get hold of round here anyway) - this would have probably cost us around £20.00. So that's more or less how much I paid for the two bushes. It's taken two years to get fruit from these. They weren't difficult to maintain - and if anything I neglected them as there was so much else going on around the plot.
So the past three years of sometimes heavy (unpleasant) and often dirty work converting our derelict allotment is finally starting to pay off. But there are some things you just can't buy with money: my daughter's squeals of delight as she unearths her little potatoes and places them carefully in a pot - watching her 'wolf' them down at tea time - no questions asked - her face buttered and smiling...