Finally, a cold snap appears to be upon us, but I can’t really let the last few weeks pass without making comment on this mild weather.
Amazingly, we’re in credit on our heating bills at the moment, and I can count the times that we’ve lit the wood burner comfortably on one hand. The winter coat is still in the cupboard and there are daffodils flowering at the side of the road.
This has affected the veggies too.
On Tuesday, we had the first of the purple sprouting broccoli with our dinner. This wasn’t one of those harvests you get that are a little ahead of the rest of the plant either. There is loads of PSB ready at the allotment, weeks and weeks ahead of previous years.
The variety is Rudolph, which is a particularly early one, but still, I have never tucked into PSB this early before.
At this rate, I’ll be tucking into rhubarb for afters before long too. I’ve got 6 inches high rhubarb poking (pictured) through my dunking of horse manure – normally, if I’m lucky, I might see the crowns poking up during February, but January is unheard of in my experience. I’m suddenly tempted to throw a bucket over a crown and see if I can force it even quicker.
There are also weeds growing in my beds! This isn’t meant to happen. I accept weeding in summer, but not in winter! Weeds growing in the soil are supposed to signify warm enough weather in spring to sow seeds.
So where does this leave us?
Truth be told, I haven’t the foggiest. What happens if and when the cold snap hits? Will the rhubarb flop back down or will be okay? Will the PSB die off?
And as my farmer friend Sarah said, what will be left during the hungry gap if veg like purple sprouting subsequently finishes early?
Learning All Over Again?
The last couple of years have been odd ones for me, and it feels like I’m regularly dealing with strange, climatic, and pest-related situations that I haven’t come across before. Just recently, my brassicas got mauled by cabbage white caterpillars in November.
I’m also experiencing irregularities with crops that are normally nailed on winners every year. Last summer, my squash harvest count went from 33 to 4, and my French beans barely made a handful before dying off. Both these crops have never, ever given me any problems.
In some ways, I feel like the allotment and the weather has schooled me. Just when you think you’ve got this grow your own thing down to a tee, you have a couple of ropey periods, and suddenly you’re reviewing everything you do.
So, 2016 could well be a year of relearning, but I’m not sad about it. I’m not sure you ever completely master this art we call allotmenteering.