August 2012 Allotment Diary

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“All beings on earth depend on one another for survival. If the engine of a plane is damaged it cannot fly. But even if a single vital screw is damaged, the plane also cannot fly. Similarly, even the tiniest living being plays an important role. All living creatures need our help as well in order to survive. They are also our responsibility.”

Amma, from “The Timeless Path”

Om Amriteshwaryai

Plant Names

This is Kaivalya next to an enormous fungus we found growing out of a tree. It is called dryad’s saddle, dryad meaning a tree spirit for those who don’t know. We like this name as it is quite poetic and you can just imagine a dryad sitting comfortably on it.  Actually a lot of fungi and plants have very poetic names. Some other interesting mushroom names are lawyer’s wig, Caesar’s mushroom and chicken-of-the-woods, and some of our favourite plant names are Queen Anne’s lace, lady’s smock, old man’s beard, lords and ladies and lady’s bed-straw. The names are sometimes an attempt to try and describe something of the appearance of the plant. Old man’s beard for example is a climber with shaggy looking seeds. Or the name may be referring to a quality of the plant. The fungus name “chicken-of–the-woods” describes the texture of this edible fungus when cooked. When I was a child we called dandelion wet-the-bed, which is interesting because in herbal medicine it is used as a diuretic! Some plants have many names just in English, never mind other languages.

Slug Control

We have been so overwhelmed with slug damage this year, that we have been collecting as many as we can find, and then taking them to a nearby area of woodland over a stream, so that they can’t come back! We figure we have shifted well over a 1000 and still they come.  What we need are some hedgehogs, thrushes, blackbirds, toads and large frogs.  At the moment some of the slugs are well over twice as big as our baby frogs! Transportation may seem unnecessary, but people have experimented before with marking snails that they found in their garden, and then taking them elsewhere. Some of the snails did actually find their way back! What is interesting is the number of people who collect their slugs and shift them rather them killing them.  We are not alone.

Animal migration and movement is a miracle beyond human understanding. Not only do bigger animals like birds and mammals undertake major journeys which cannot really be explained, but a lot of smaller animals like butterflies also do.  There are also amazing stories of pets travelling 100s or 1000s of miles to find their way home. So we are not taking any chances with slugs and snails!!!!

This weather has really had an impact on much of our land, not just on humans.  Butterflies, some wild flowers, insects and some birds have all been hard bit by all this rain and cold.  One group of plants that seem to have actually benefitted are trees and shrubs. They have shot up this year and look so happy and green. Our water table is up, so the hose pipe ban has been lifted and reservoirs are full.  And grass and wetland plants have also benefitted. And you know many people’s prayers were answered this year by supplying us with rain, we did after all need it.  It would however be good to have a bit of a break in the rain clouds.

Allotment Diary

It really has been a hard year for vegetable growing. We hear many stories of other people struggling as much as we are to get everything going. Our allotment looks about 5 to 6 weeks behind, an early June rather then a mid to late July allotment. We are desperate for some warm weather.

Our garlic crop thankfully was not damaged by the wet weather. It is currently drying in the greenhouse, see the photo below.

The onion crop is one of the few crops that, like garlic, is doing OK, but really they are smaller than usual and need heat to get a final burst of growth. Here is a photo of them.

The potatoes are much smaller than they generally are at this time of year. This photo shows the plants looking OK, just about half the size that they were last year. Who knows what is going on underground. Last year we had such an amazing crop which lasted us 7 months. We are hoping for this again but will have to wait and see what harvest brings.

The beetroot is looking quite sorry for itself, and we have had to re-sow about 1/3 of the crop due to slug attack. A similar fate has befallen the swede, and we have had to re-sow almost the whole crop. Our gourds, courgette, squash and pumpkin have been very hard hit by slugs and snails. We have a total of about 10 mostly small but healthy gourd plants all over the allotment, having planted out at least 24 over the last few months. One by one they succumbed to slugs.

The plants in the greenhouse are also having an unusual year. Our tomato plants have had twisted leaves for months. The leaves flatten out eventually, but they look very strange. However, there are plenty of flowers on them. The sweet peppers are doing something similar. The aubergines are doing OK, but are infested with aphids, which we are trying to discourage with a spray of garlic, liquid made of crushed rhubarb leaves and washing up liquid. It is not working very well, and we are going to look into alternatives. On the plus side, our cucumber plants are very healthy. The healthiest they have ever been!

This seems to be a very good year for soft fruit, which on the whole on our allotment appear to be mostly unaffected by the weather. We are not sure if this is because plants like raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, gooseberries, red currants and black currants have been bred from species that grow wild in this country, and so have retained the toughness of their wild ancestors. Apart from the gooseberries, which had their blossom destroyed by a late frost, and so have produced no fruit, all of our soft fruit looks amazing. We have had a bumper crop of strawberries, and this is despite the enormous numbers of slugs that are around, that have taken at least 1/3 of the fruit. We have eaten them, shared them, dried them and have made some strawberry jam as well.  Yum yum! The blackberries and raspberries, although not fruiting yet, look ready to do the same! We are still eating our berries from last year which we bottled so hopefully we will have the same again this year, we will also try to dry them as well.  The dried fruit we will use in muesli over winter. We were given some red currant bushes last year, which have fruited the first year after transplanting. We are freezing these until we have enough to make a red onion and currant relish which we made a few years ago and was very good.

Om Amriteshwaryai Namaha

Richard and Kaivalya

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