Saturday, 3 June 2017

An allottee's tale

n. allottee' someone to whom something is allotted.

No, not I; Chris is really the allotment holder. I am but a tiller of the soil, an under-gardener doing his best. And progress is being made, thanks to lots of warm sunshine and a couple of recent hefty showers.
We are growing quite a lot of taters; they are a good crop to put into rough ground. Next year, when the soil has been cultivated to produce a better tilth, we can be more adventurous.
The potatoes are off to a good start. 1 June, 2017

Runner Beans are doing well too; the seeds germinated readily and the plants are looking strong. So we have started off with two crops from the New World, and as if that wasn't enough we have also sown seeds of French Beans - which, despite their name, are also from the Americas - and squashes, Cucurbita pepo. It is estimated that squashes have been cultivated by the indigenous Americans for something like four thousand years.
Runner Beans are also doing well. 1 June, 2017
The squashes are ornamental varieties - edible of course but we are unlikely to eat them.
The non-American crops we are likely to harvest this year are peas, lettuces and onions.
Our adjoining plot has been long abandoned and is overgrown with False Oat Grass, Twitch and Docks.
The adjoining plot is ideal for an insect safari. 1 June, 2017
I am monitoring the plot to try to ensure that our allotment is not invaded by these weeds but I also keep an eye on it for insects and other invertebrates. Docks support a surprisingly large number of creatures but their identification is not always straightforward. Take this reddened leaf: is it damage by insects, bacteria or viruses - or is it a soil deficiency?
This reddening of dock leaves seems to be just a process of death and decay.
1 June, 2017
Buttercups are frequent and  the beetle Oedemera lurida is very common, feeding on pollen.  In my last blog re the allotment I mentioned Oedemera nobilis with grotesquely swollen thighs on the male. This is a much smaller species and care is needed in identification, having other similar relatives.
Oedemera lurida on buttercup. 1 June, 2017
Two-winged flies - diptera - are inevitably common, and important too, for many are leaf miners in their larval stage and some, notably the hoverflies, are important pollinators with some of their larvae feeding on aphids. The common hoverfly Eristalis tenax, shown here, is known as the Drone Fly. We have several species of Eristalis in Britain; this is one of the larger hoverflies and has stripes on its eyes formed by lines of hairs.
A female Drone Fly in deep contemplation. 3 June, 2017
From a quite different family is the Broad Centurion, Chloromyia formosa. All the British species have military names such as Silver Colonel, Pygmy Soldier, Banded General and so on and the whole family is known as Soldier Flies. Its bright green thorax (Chloromyia simply means 'green fly') and very hairy eyes makes this common fly quite unmistakeable and is frequent on hogweed flowers.
A male Broad Centurion on grass. 3 June, 2017
Meanwhile, despite carefully pegging down netting, wood pigeons have worked their way in and cleared out all the peas. I'll have to think again.

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