Waste not, want not

And so the year comes round to Lammas, the festival of harvest, the time of abundance and the realisation of plans and seeds sown and grown (on your land, in your life…). Hopefully, a time for gathering with friends and feasting on all your bounty. But if you’re going away on holiday, make sure none of your lovely crops go to waste: maybe a neighbour could pick for you, so you don’t come home to massive courgettes and huge stringy beans. Both need to be regularly picked in order to keep producing.

We’ve had a lot of rain this last month for sure. It’s such a valuable resource and one we really shouldn’t be wasting. Even if you haven’t time to get organised just now, make sure you resolve to put some effective rainwater harvesting measures in place on your plot come the autumn. Collect it via guttering and a down pipe from shed or green house rooves, or even install an open walled shelter that can serve that same purpose. Remember how dry it was in June!

If you really have big gluts of fruit or vegetables and you’ve made enough chutneys, jams, pickles, fermentations and cordials to fill your pantry and give away as midwinter presents, then there are many places around the city which will welcome your surplus. Food banks and community cafes and no-waste projects will be glad to see you coming with big bags and baskets of goodies. Some streets have an informal system of putting out unwanted fruit and vegetables (and even books and household things too) on front walls for anyone to help themselves. If that doesn’t happen where you live, maybe you could be the catalyst to get something started. Make sure your produce is enjoyed and appreciated, not going to waste.

Although of course nothing really goes to waste that ends up on your compost heap anyway! It’s always time to be thinking about how to improve your soil and its biome. If you have got any beds coming empty as you harvest, and you’ve nothing more to plant out for later in the season, try sowing some green manures. At this time of year, crimson clover, mustards and phacelia can establish quickly and protect your soil while providing a food source for insects. Another good way to protect your soil from winter erosion, while keeping weeds down too, is to lay down cardboard sheets, so this might be a good time to start collecting and saving boxes from your neighbourhood.

The wet weather tends to encourage fungal problems on fruit so pick plums and gages as they ripen, quickly removing any with brown rot before that can spread to the rest of the crop. Tie in the growth of autumn raspberries against wind and weather, if you haven’t already. And keep picking up fallen apples and pears, eating what is ripe, composting what isn’t. And if you haven’t got fruit trees on your plot, start looking around and asking for samples to taste from neighbours, so you can choose what to plant in the winter. If all else fails, most of our local sites are rich with brambles – don’t let them go to waste either!

Plotlines, written by one of our York allotmenteers, is a twice monthly blog aimed at anyone who would like some guidance about growing on an allotment.