So the statistics have confirmed what we’ve known all along. That was the wettest April to June period since records began in 1910, and for who knows how many years before that.
We, my fellow allotmenteers, are the pioneer generation. We have slugged and slogged our way through slugs, mud, and rain like no one ever before us. Even germinating the darned seeds has been hard. No previous generation of allotmenteers has suffered this. We are the history makers. Put another way: if you can survive this year, you can survive anything.
The amazing thing is that despite all that, some plants continue not just to survive but to thrive. The strawberries, since the discovery of the “sacrificial strawberry” principle, have been the gift that keeps on giving.
I’ve eaten my own body weight in them, made 15 jars of jam and counting, shared them with friends, neighbours and colleagues. Next to try: strawberry smoothies, strawberry upside down cake, strawberry milk shake, and of course, the allotmenteer’s best friend, the freezer.
Beetroots and swedes are also growing merrily, more so since a sprinkling of organic slug pellets was added to the recipe. The leeks are reaching for the skies and the spinach is at least having a go.
The rhubarb has provided generously for me and at least four other allotmenteers, and the first batch of home-brew rhubarb wine is doing its thing in the kitchen (more on that in another blog soon!).
The surviving runner beans (approx six hardy souls) are finally starting to stagger up the willow poles, and I think I spotted a bit of blossom the other day, but may have been hallucinating. Despite the wet weather, the garlic has survived and the harvest isn’t bad. The whole cottage is filled with its sweet scent as it dries off in the utility room.
The potatoes – second earlies and maincrop – are slowly putting on growth. The onions are a triumph, red and white bulbs fattening beautifully in their weed-strewn rows. The first raspberries are ripening, and are surprisingly sweet given the stop-start sunshine.
But the casualty list is high. Melons: disaster (eaten/dead). Peppers: disaster (eaten). French beans: disaster (most never came up, those that did mostly got eaten). Chick peas disaster (never came up ; Alys Fowler of The Guardian clearly has magic powers that I do not possess). Carrots, disaster (I’ll enjoy eating the nine survivors from three rows planted). Tropical thingies: (clinging to life but hardly thriving).
If nothing else, this year reinforces the principle that planting for all seasons is a good one: don’t believe anyone who tells you it’ll be a barbecue summer, a drought, or a monsoon. Plant a few things that will thrive in different conditions, and that way at least SOMETHING should be happy.
We fight on, we fight to win. Come rain or shine, something will grow. And if all else fails, we’ll eat the slugs. A colleague and I were debating the other day whether if you eat the slug that ate the lettuce, that counts as one of your five a day. Either way, I’ve got the garlic to go with them.