Newbury allotment holder celebrates success during a challenging summer season
David Cole shares his tips on finally cracking the secret to growing aubergines.
Summer has provided another challenging season, as we all suffered from the lack of rain and very hot conditions. Perhaps we are heading for a time when the vegetables will come out of the ground ready cooked!
Towards the end of the summer Thames Water imposed a hosepipe ban – a shame they don’t practice what they preach with the amount of water leaks appearing in our roads locally.
However, it is what it is, at least we are now able to grow crops that 30 years ago would either fail or be very fragile, but others more traditional to our country may go by the wayside.
Fruit trees this year seem to be providing a bumper harvest and some two to three weeks earlier than normal.
We didn’t get a late frost so the blooms survived well, which I think is one of the main reasons it’s been so successful – however, not so many strawberries.
I took a chance and planted out runner beans (from the greenhouse) early in May, again, as we had no late frost we started harvesting beans nearly a month early.
Potato crops are looking good, but I think they are spreading out more in the ground than normal so it will be more difficult when digging that they don’t get the fork prong stuck into them.
I try to dig from the side of the plant rather than down the row, it seems to keep the ‘spiking’ of potatoes to a minimum.
My big success this year has been aubergines.
I’ve tried for a number of years to grow them in the greenhouse with limited success, then this year, talking to the chairman of Newbury Gardeners Association at his open day in Bartlemy Road, he said aubergines are not self-pollinating.
So I quickly scrounged an artist's paintbrush off my wife and have continually pollinated the flowers as they form, the change is amazing.
I now have four or five good sized aubergines on each plant. Having said that I am not particularly keen on them, but the wife, daughter and grandson make up for my lack of enthusiasm.
I suppose we have all get used to everything in the greenhouse being self-pollinating so I didn’t realise some things still need a hand.
I remember my father going round the tomato plants as soon as a new truss came into flower, back then, both tomatoes and cucumbers needed the brush treatment.
The pigeons continue to be a menace, it seems there is very little now they won’t eat having added beetroot and carrot leaves, spinach, chard, runner and dwarf beans to their menu.
Unfortunately the old fashioned way of control and ending up with something on the table is frowned upon in many quarters. Indeed, even the control of pigeons by farmers has been made more difficult with the red tape associated with it so as I’ve said before I think we may have to net every vegetable patch in years to come. No doubt they will then start on the flowers.
Amazingly, they have stripped all the young shoots on a lilac tree and a laburnum in a couple of gardens abutting the allotments. What effect the laburnum has on their digestive system I don’t know.
I have always been led to believe laburnum is poisonous, but there are not a lot of pigeon carcasses about so I guess they are immune to it.
As I said before, farmyard manure wasn’t available this year so I’ve tried the artificial fertilizer, namely Growmore and Vitax Q4, both of which seem to be an acceptable alternative, although I don’t think it cut down on the weeding.
Mixed with this I use normal garden compost arising from grass mowings, vegetable peelings etc. Most anything will compost, but I try not to use weeds especially those with a long root system as they will grow again unless the compost heap gets hot enough to destroy them, which seldom happens.
We will soon be apple picking and putting them into storage for the winter, making cider and getting ready for snow – who knows.
The Association of One Tree Park continues to be a strong community, the shop is now shut but did well when plants were available, the latest project is bee’s which we hope can be organised in the not to distant future, the composting wc is complete apart from a small amount of landscaping and external decoration.
Everyone is making a big effort in weed segregation so that we can recycle even more of the vegetation the allotments inevitably produce, here we throw out the Dandelions, couch grass, docks and the like but everything else goes into bays and turned back into soil.
There is a difference piling up weeds to rot down and true composting but both have a place in the gardening cycle.