The allotment diary: autumn’s bounty

As the days shorten the plot is continuing to yield new crops, discovers our urban allotment gardener Rosee Woodland

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Autumn is such a beautiful time of year on the allotment. The leaves are turning, there are great fat spiders everywhere and the light has a particularly beautiful quality.

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I’ve been struggling to get on site, due to a combination of my workload, and an annoying cold, but the visits I have managed have been glorious.

I’m starting to collect fallen leaves, to store for leaf mold. I feel a bit torn about picking them up, as they have been doing quite a good job of mulching my beds and keeping the weeds off, but they will help lighten the clay soil, once they’ve spent a couple of years breaking down in a wire basket.

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Fallen leaves can be composted to create leaf mold. It’s low in nutrients, but great for improving soil texture

My black French beans have produced a fairly scant harvest, but given how much they’ve been munched by the local slug population I’m pretty happy with the handfuls I’ve been able to gather on each visit. Once cooked they turn green but I love their rich purple black colour when freshly picked.

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The first leek I pulled from my plot tasted absolutely delicious!

I planted my leek seedlings a bit late, so it’s been wonderful to be able to pull up a few to have, sauted in an omelette.

I’m excited about my over-wintering carrot crop too, which I think is Nantes 2 Frubund, developed to give a spring harvest.

I feel like every time I turn my back it shoots up a bit more. I’m dreading thinning the seedlings out, as that will attract carrot root fly, so I may erect a mesh barrier around the bed first, as carrot root fly can’t fly above about 60cm. The alternative is to cover them with horticultural fleece, but our site is so windy I’m not confident anything I use will end up flying away.

I had planned to plant marigolds, which help mask the carrot smell, but it was too late to grow them from seed and I couldn’t find any plug plants in my local garden centre – I think my fellow allotmenteers had got there before me!

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Weeding between carrots or thinning them will attract carrot root fly – watering first can reduce the smell that attracts them 

I have grown some cauliflower plugs from seed, but have struggled to get them in the ground as I need to dig over a bed first, and haven’t felt up to it. They are notoriously hard to grow anyway, so I may have to write off that idea until next year.

Still, the main thing is to be out in the fresh air, enjoying being surrounded by nature – of a cultivated fashion. I have always gardened organically and working the soil makes me feel totally connected to the earth

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The harvest seems secondary to the experience of working the allotment, and that’s probably a good thing, given how easy it is to lose a crop. For now, I’m happy to be there as often as I can, dreaming of next summer’s fruits and enjoying autumn’s bounty.