Preparing allotments for bad weather

Hurricane Katia is doing her worst with coastal Sussex. The last two days have been peculiar, meteorologically speaking: brilliant hot sunshine, followed by heavy rain accompanied by gales, followed by just the gales, then some more sunshine that swiftly dries up the surface water and makes the day seem like late June again. Last night though, the tip-over into proper hurricane fringe weather began – low temperatures, high winds and driving rain that really harms crops. I'm not sure any of our baby butternut squash will make it, but there's nothing we can do to protect them.

We’d spent a lot of the day at the plot, in two different stages, early morning and early evening. We went up in the morning and decided what we needed to do to stop the approaching bad weather from damaging our plot and then went back later to do the necessary work.

I harvested all the borlotti beans that were ripe or nearly ripe, while OH put up posts around the raspberry bed and then together we fed the wire through the posts to support the raspberries, which were already whipping around in quite a lively fashion. That made it an interesting task – there’s nothing like being menaced by a lively young raspberry cane to make you value a good pair of gloves and sensible jacket. I did fail to avoid all the lunges though, and took a glancing blow across the back of my neck as I was kneeling to tighten the lowest wire. I now have half a dozen little puncture marks that look like I’ve been tackled by a particularly inept baby vampire! Then it was the faffy job of tying the raspberry canes into the wires – and by the time we’d finished, it was too dark to get a decent photo!

We grabbed as many pears as we could, and I cut down any low-growing herbs that might be flattened by the wind: it’s better to crop a perennial herb before a storm and dry the leaves, than to let them get plastered to the ground by wind and rain because then the leaves are worthless. Also it stops them being pushed open by the weather so that the tender inner stems get chilled and blown around – that can cause clump forming herbs to die out from the middle in the following year. So I sheared our golden oregano, French tarragon and chives and then staked and tied up the lovage which is tall and stately, but also brittle stemmed and will cope better by being trussed to a good post than it will without that kind of support. I hung most of the herbs to dry in the celestial potting shed because I didn't need them at home but the tarragon came back with us for dinner!

I took down nearly all the sweetcorn, removing most of the roots and getting them into the compost, but cutting back any stems that I didn’t have time to dig up. We didn’t want sweetcorn ‘lances’ taking off and hurling themselves into the brassica cage – it’s unlikely they’d do any harm at all, but for the sake of ten minutes work, that worry was removed from our minds. This year’s sweetcorn beds will host onions next year, so it’s none too soon to start digging them over anyway.

And then we rested from our labours. Although I am itching to get up to the plot and see how things are, there’s no point until tomorrow. By the time OH gets home this evening, I shall have gone out, and anything that needs tackling requires daylight and probably two of us, so in this case, ignorance is bliss and I shall curb my impatience until tomorrow morning and then go and find out the best … or worst!

Today's allotment haul: the first mini-cauliflower, borlotti beans to dry, golden raspberries, tomatoes, half-blind corn cobs (to make relish) and chillies that are about to drop seed and needed to be lifted or the seed would be lost.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Monday, September 12, 2011


Anonymous Mark Hubbard said...

Damn. I've never heard of a mini-cauliflower, golden raspberries (which sound divine), or half blind corn cobs.

What is that last one?

[I'm slowly gearing up for vege gardening again ...]

September 12, 2011 at 2:54 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Mark, I've just posted about mini-cauliflowers. Corn cobs that don't set a full ear of corn, but have the husk without any corn kernels are called 'blind' and here in the UK, by September, wind starts to damage corn stalks so you either harvest the cobs before they have completely filled or risk losing the whole plant in a gale ...

Golden raspberries are divine!

September 14, 2011 at 7:03 AM  

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