3 October – the magic of green manure

Work is slowing down on our Chipping Norton allotment.  The weeds are under control and the last of the summer veg is being picked.  it will only take a couple of frosts though before the runner beans and courgettes finally give up the ghost.  I know I’ve said it before, but I won’t be sorry to see the end of the courgettes … 190 are enough for 2 people and their dog!

Alfalfa as a green manure

Alfalfa as a green manure

Alfalfa as a green manure

One of the jobs this weekend was to dig in some alfalfa, grown as a green manure.  As a rookie to the world of alfalfa, I’ll admit this has been a bit of a hit or miss experiment.  But with a whole bed nearly empty, it seemed a shame to let it go to waste.  We’d bought some alfalfa seeds last year from ‘Oats’, Chipping Norton’s health food shop, and never got round to using them. By the time we came to ‘broadcast’ (technical gardening term for sprinkling them on the ground) them, it was much too late in the season.  However, the alfalfa made it into the ground this year and fared well, reaching a respectable 6 inches in height.  Digging it in and leaving it to rot, will  provide the soil with some additional nutrients to benefit next year’s plants.

Retail therapy – allotment style!

One of the really exciting jobs at this time of the year is poring over seed catalogues.  Now I’m not one of life’s shoppers, but there isn’t a doubt … seed catalogues are irresistible!  There are more than a few impulse buys when I get my hands on a seed merchant’s brochure.  It’s hard to tell if it is the pictures or the names which have the most appeal … Chantenay Royal carrots must be good … don’t you think?

What a whopper – the 1st 2009 swede

First swede of 2009 - approx 4½ lbs!

First swede of 2009 - approx 4½ lbs!

One of the weekend’s highlights was the uprooting of the first of the season’s swede.  Although it is a bit early yet and took a while to cook,  even in the pressure cooker, it tasted really good.  But I think we’ll leave the rest in the ground until we’ve had some frost … and look forward to them with anticipation.

We had many anxious moments last year with our swede crop.  After a very wet summer, our swede had reached championship proportions.  Many of them weighed in at around 6lb each – and that’s a lot of swede!  Ambitiously, we lifted the first one at the end of July.  While we knew it was much too early, we decided to sample our wares.  And what a let-down.  Instead of a delicious golden vegetable, we ended up with a tasteless white mush!  Yes we knew it was too soon, but the big question was would they improve?  Did we have a poor variety, or had the swede simply not had time to ripen?

Even after hours of online research and posting questions on allotment forums, we were none the wiser … and this bears out my complaint about only getting half the story when looking for advice.  Every article we read, told us swede was ready to harvest when it reached a certain size.  By this reckoning, our swede should have been more than ready in June.  For all the wealth of information available online, nobody was able to tell us if our precious swede would improve!

Well … if you are in the same predicament, I can tell you, when it comes to swede, size doesn’t matter!  There was nothing wrong with our swede that a couple more months in the ground didn’t cure.  After some cold weather, our swede was as golden and delicious as we had anticipated.  So if your swede lack taste … be patient … they probably just need a little longer!

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