Allotment Advice for Late Winter/Early Spring

Allotment update

Now we are into April, hopefully you will have your allotment plot all up to scratch having utilised recent months to repair fences and sheds; add compost/manure to appropriate beds; plan your planting and sowing schedule; buy your seeds/potatoes and plant new fruit bushes/canes.

In February I usually cover an area of my plot with fleece to warm the ground where, in March, I will make my earliest sowing of vegetables such as beetroot, carrot and parsnip and plant my broad beans that I sowed earlier inside. Remember, with beetroot, each nobbly seed capsule contains several seeds so give them approximately 5cm spacing.

March was also a good time to prune your blackcurrants and gooseberries and feed the former with a nitrogen fertiliser and the latter with potash fertiliser. Potash is also good for your cane fruits.

If you have a large enough plot to do so, try to help stop a build up of pests and diseases by planning a crop rotation. A 3 year rotation would be something like potatoes – brassicas eg cabbage and kale – root crops eg onions and beetroot. It is also important to deal with pests and diseases in other ways, such as protecting from carrot, onion and cabbage fly, possibly by using a product like enviromesh. This will also double up as protection from butterflies and pigeons on brassicas. If you use the very fine mesh, aphids can also be excluded. Caterpillars of various kinds, along with slugs and snails, can be removed by hand (please use gloves) and disposed of appropriately. Aphids can be squashed. I always prefer these methods rather than the use of chemicals.

All of my weed control within the plot is done by hand or, in appropriate weather, by hoe.

Finally, watering will generally need to be considered sometime within the coming months. Please do try to ensure water is not wasted, this can be helped by watering early or late in the day to avoid excessive evaporation and using mulches to slow down the drying process. Newly planted or sown crops often require watering in and until established, after which it will depend on the crop and your soil type as to how much water is subsequently needed. Early potatoes, lettuce, radish, beans, peas and berrying soft fruit should be given priority, along with anything in pots or under glass. Crops such as beetroot, brassicas, onions, parsnips and carrots, once established, would be second priority. I always find it better to water less frequently and give enough water to soak in well, rather than giving frequent light waterings that may bring crop roots to the surface where they will dry out more quickly.

Good luck with your endeavours and have an enjoyable and productive growing season

Mike Beckwith

Guildford in Bloom Judge