‘Raindrops are falling on my allotment’

What a treat it was to wake up this morning and see rain falling. We must have had one of the driest springs on record.

Despite the weather forecasters predicting rain on several occasions, for some reason it always seems to miss Sussex. Even today when heavy thundery showers were forecast looking out of the window the rain has now stopped.

My wife has just gone down to the allotment to pick the sweet peas. This has been a daily job for the last couple of weeks. I have got a double row across my allotment and they have been magnificent this year.

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I planted the seed in early January in the cold frame and after pinching out the tops in mid March and planting them out at the end of April, they have now reached the tops of the hazel pea sticks. It is important to pick them each day as once you let the flowers die off and make seed pods the plant will stop producing new flowers.

Sweet peas SUS-200619-161502001

At the end of my plot I grow a few “Alchemilla mollis” or more commonly known as “ladies mantle”. This is a very easy to grow herbaceous perennial with lovely frothy lime green flowers and apple green fan shaped leaves.

The fascinating thing about this plant is how the water collects in its leaves and forms shiny little droplets which resemble tiny drops of mercury.

In olden times the water was collected from its leaves which was said to have healing properties, hence the name Alchemilla after the original name of the chemist. The flowers look lovely mixed with the sweet peas to make a pretty summer posy.

The other perennial I grow to be mixed in with the sweet peas when picked is “Gypsophila” (baby breath). Like the Alchemilla mollis it has very small flowers. The gypsophila is a very pretty white flower and like most perennials it is very easy to grow.

I dug up my broad beans this week, you may remember I planted them on Halloween and they had produced a very good crop. I must say I am glad I planted them early as I have noticed people who planted theirs later in the spring are now paying the price and their beans are covered with blackfly.

After forking over the ground where the beans were and raking it to a fine tilth, I planted a row of parsnips. The variety I grow is “Tender and True”. It is a bit late to sow them but they should catch up in this good growing weather.

Make a drill about an inch deep with the back of your hoe. Sow your parsnip seeds reasonably thick as they are quite tricky to germinate. They will take two or three weeks before they start showing through the ground. Leave the plants until they have grown between one and two inches, then thin them out, leaving one plant every six inches.

Apart from keeping them free from weeds just leave them until the autumn when they should be big enough to dig. However I find they become sweeter after a good frost.

Good Luck.