Allotmenteering wouldn't be much fun if you did all the same things every year, and this year, with things on the plot really starting to settle into a pattern, part of me has obviously felt the need for a new challenge. Two, actually.
Cut flowers, and cauliflowers.
I know that I've sown cauliflower seeds before, but I don't remember what happened. I expect they met an untimely end at the beaks of pigeons or the jaws of slugs (okay, not really jaws...), or drowned in couchgrass and nettles. I've tried those perennial cauliflowers too, but never had much luck.
Cauliflowers are tricky to grow; they're fussy about their soil, they have a lot of potential pests, and they sulk if anything at all goes wrong. But we eat loads of them at home and it only makes sense to start trying to grow them, even if it takes me a while to master the art... They also take up a huge amount of room; just six or eight cauliflowers on the plot will use the same amount of space as four rows of parsnips, beetroots or carrots, which hardly seems economical... but I've just got to give it a try.
They can be grown all year round, so I've picked an autumn
variety to sow this spring, and a spring variety to sow later on in the
summer for next year.
Wish me luck, because I'm going to need it...
Now to cut flowers... Cut flowers! I never, ever thought I'd find myself growing cut flowers. I've grown edible flowers, and medicinal flowers, and flowers to attract predatory insects, and flowers to help pollinators, and flowers to deter soil pests - marigolds, borage, nasturtiums and sunflowers are all regulars on my plot - but never flowers for fun and frivolity. But there's a movement going on... British florists are popping up all over the place, The Big Allotment Challenge has got bouquets on my brain, more allotment-holders and home-growers seem to be embracing the benefits of growing flowers, and it's swept me right up. And as I spend more and more time out there growing and being with plants, the more all kinds of plants appeal to me. And I had to buy flowers a couple of times last year, and they were expensive, and it kind of hurt to know that they were flown in from Columbia or wherever and drenched with pesticides and treated with chemicals to keep them 'alive'. And I bet they'd bring looooads more insects to the plot. And I'm always impressed and a bit envious of the few vases of flowers on display at the allotment association summer show. And anyway, wouldn't it be really nice to have flowers in the house more and some to give away whenever the occasion arose, or just to put a few smiles on faces?
I'd sown a few foxglove and echinacea plants last year anyway, for the bees and just because I think foxgloves would love the shady spot behind my neighbours' shed. I also picked up some little wallflower plants in the autumn. For one reason and another I wasn't able to plant them out before winter came, but I'm hoping to get them in early enough this spring for them to still do okay. I also sowed some scabiosa last spring which got planted out late and are yet to flower, but overwintering well... I was obviously leaning slightly flowerwards even last spring!
I got some early seed-sowing done in October too, and now have healthy calendula, corncockle, clary sage and sweet pea seedlings safe in the plastic greenhouse at home until the weather's good enough to plant them out.
And I've bought a load more seeds to sow this spring and summer, mostly from the lovely Higgledy Garden, whose fabulous blog and website (and twitter feed) is enough to tempt anyone to take up flower-growing!
The full list is vipers bugloss, cosmos, cerinthe, rudbeckia, calendula, corncockle, ammi majus, achillea, bupleurum, cornflower, clary sage, snapdragons, scabiosa, sweet pea, sunflower, and to summer-sow for early next year, more wallflowers, sweet Williams, and hesperis or sweet rocket. I don't think I have room for them all... The old strawberry patch is set aside for them but it's only about three metres square. The sunflowers will go among the perennials as usual, calendula will be dotted about, and I'm sure there's room for a strip of something next to where we'll put the greenhouse - and I haven't exactly decided what to do with the old asparagus patch yet, either, though I really shouldn't give up too much of the plot to non-edibles... We'll see what happens!