What a climate change there has been in one week! The rains continued to fall but temperatures rose significantly. It lent a balmy tropical feel to the weather and the allotments was positively steamy. This is the weather gardeners refer to as 'growing weather' but it is a little late in the season to have any serious impact on the emptying plot. However there is a downside to these high temperatures and associated high humidity and I like to refer to it as 'fungus and mould conditions'.
This combination of conditions is the perfect breeding ground for blight and nowhere is this more evident than on my outdoor tomatoes. They enjoyed the dry, sunny conditions of June and July and contributed to my salad bowl, but last week suddenly they were no more. Blight had eliminated them completely. Their charred remains were hurriedly bagged up and removed from anywhere near my allotment. Blight spores can spread so easily and remain for a long time.
The blight conditions also challenged my Sarpo main crop potatoes. These have a higher tolerance than normal main crop potatoes, but even they are exhibiting the black spots on their leaves, which is a sure sign that blight has attacked them. Again it is off with their 'heads' and the blighted tops are bagged up for disposal. Bang goes useful compost bin filler! I guess I am not going to get a high yield of late potatoes as they have been curtailed early in their growing cycle. All I need now is a break in the rainfall so that I can lift these potatoes and dry them for winter storage. When will that be?
The members of the squash family, who normally like a good drink, are fed up with the frequent showers and are losing their leafy sheen. They are on the verge of getting downey mildew and I can only hope that the sun shines again soon.
When there's a pause in the rain, it's an opportunity for me to forage the hedgerows that border my allotment. There are lots of huge blackberries and, armed with a curved stick, I am able to reach the best high-hanging fruit. This is a prickly occupation, but a few scratches on my hands are a small price to pay for a tart of apple and blackberry with hot custard!
These damp conditions are apparently good for the mushrooms in the nearby fields. Despite being a gardener of many years I don’t have the confidence to harvest wild mushrooms. I fear I might eat some wrong fungi that will give me hallucinations. So I leave the gathering of these to someone who knows what they are doing and I will happily swap some of the produce of my plot for a bag of these delicious fungi.
It only goes to show that although you don’t have an allotment or large garden it is possible to experience the fruits of nature in the surrounding fields and hedgerows.
All experienced allotmenteers realise the benefits to their health of growing their own food. There are the side benefits of gentle exercise, fresh open air, and the social aspects of being on the plot. It is a great physiological benefit as you can relax in congenial surroundings with like-minded people. But beyond the obvious benefits mentioned above I was reading a book last week on the many medical benefits that plants have. I did not realise that so many drugs manufactured to cure illnesses are extract from plant life. So plants not only give pleasure to the mind they cure the ills of the body as well.
There are many homemade remedies that can be prepared from garden plants but, like my fear of gathering mushrooms, I will leave the preparation of drugs to scientists and the local chemist.
My Life On A Hillside Allotment
Terry Walton is a regular contributor to The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and has written a book called, My Life on a Hillside Allotment, published by Bantam Press. Buy this book at a discount from the Saga Bookshop.