Allotment: Hungry Gap

Apparently, according to some folk, we are now in the hungry gap. And for us, the hungry gap has been big indeed! Because we only got ‘our’ allotment (which isn’t, strictly speaking even ours) in October, we had no winter crops at all. There was a row of spinach and a couple of purple sprouting broccoli on 235, where we’re co-workers, but not enough to keep two vegetable hungry couples going for very long. Anyway, although I shouldn’t say it, I’m not a great spinach fan.

So this year, while we’re merrily greenhouse planting, transplanting, hardening off and outdoor planting all kinds of summer crops, I am intoning, at every opportunity, ‘Don’t forget the hungry gap’. At which himself gives me a funny look and goes and gets a sandwich. Not quite what I had in mind.

Anyway, for the bit between late February and Mid April which is what many people consider to be the hungry gap, the crops that you can overwinter and hope to have ready are the purple-sprouting broccoli (Rudolph appears to be the favourite), the kales, elderly (and whiskery) swedes, carrots and parsnips and onions and leeks.

We’ve got 74 leeks in degradable pots – as I’ve never grown leeks before I can’t tell if this is too many or not enough. Why did it never occur to me to keep a list of all my weekly shopping so that I could work out how many leeks or whatever I use in a year? Well, quite possibly because that would have been a bonkers thing to do! But it’s very annoying not to have some idea if I’m planting enough and to spare, or whether our hungry gap next year will have to be filled with expensive trips to the supermarket.

Smart folk will also have had all-year-round lettuce growing in greenhouses or cold-frames. No, we’re not that smart, but we will be next year, and if we’d thought ahead enough, we’d have done the same with deep trays of radishes, because they grow so fast that I reckon you could sow them in February and have a harvest easily by now, if you can control light and heat a bit, and there’s nothing like a peppery radish to make you feel that spring is on its way.

Other people, by the way, say the hungry gap is in late May and early June, when the broad beans are ready but nothing else is. Given the way we get through all forms of fresh fruit and vegetables, I would happily say that the hungry gap could be almost any time of year, for us.

I said I would mention himself's runner bean frame. Isn't it a thing of beauty and a joy forever? Well, not a joy forever in the same place, as it's sort of portable, having two long stakes that anchor it to the ground so we can rotate the beans around the plot. It was also the cause of much swearing in the allotment blogger household. Swearing is the natural accompaniment of woodwork, I gather, as green fingernails are the natural accompaniment of harvesting pea pods. The clever among you will have noted that the poles lean outwards - according to Andi Clevely, this makes it easier to harvest the beans. We'll see ...

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Thursday, April 16, 2009


Blogger pickleandpreserve said...

When your hungry gap arrives next year I think you'll be glad of as many leeks as you can get! I finished off the last of ours about a month ago (mostly the small and skinny ones I'd hoped would grow a bit more), but would be still happily eating them if I had planted more. In my (limited) experience veg gardening is a balance between coping with gluts and being tight on yourself because you want to eek out a crop.
As to how many leeks you'll eat in relation to how many you bought, one of the nicest things I've found is that you tend to eat more of what is in season, and become more aware of how expensive stuff is in the supermarket when it's not in season. I've got rhubarb coming out of my ears at the moment, I've just picked about 10 stalks for a crumble, which would of probably cost me £5 in the supermarket. I would never even consider buying something at that price.

April 18, 2009 at 2:36 AM  
Blogger Lindab said...

I don't think you'll regret the number of leeks you've sown. We're just coming to the end of ours now - only 6 left - and I would have used many more if I hadn't been conscious of wanting to make them last.

April 20, 2009 at 4:28 AM  

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