Summer Allotment Growing Advice

Allotment Update for Summer Cultivation

What an interesting couple of months we have had. Some fairly harsh frosts in May which did quite a lot of damage for those who were trying to get an early start. I lost some of the early flowers on my strawberries and potato growth left uncovered got cut back. We then got some fairly heavy rain that was very welcome, followed by a hot spell that we haven’t experienced for some time. This latter spell has made everything grow so well and has given me some of the best soft fruit for several years. The heat has however hampered the setting of flowers on my runner beans, even after giving plenty of water and spraying water over the whole plant which often helps the setting process.

With regard to watering, it is obvious you need to be taking great care to ensure your plants are given sufficient water to keep them growing and healthy, especially during this exceptionally hot weather. As always, water either early morning or in the evening where possible, as this will allow maximum uptake and minimum evaporation. Also, I find it best to water well, more infrequently, than little and often, as this can bring roots to the surface rather than encouraging them to go deeper and stay moist for longer. If it is sunny when you are watering, try not to get water on the plant leaves as this can lead to scorch.

I have heard from others that onion fly has been a particular problem this year. To endeavour to stop this, I always cover onions and leeks with micromesh. Similarly, this can be used to help prevent carrot fly infesting your crop. There are different mesh sizes, so ensure, when you are buying the mesh, that you buy the appropriate one to protect your specific crop. You can even get a mesh that is fine enough to exclude aphids but this is very expensive. All of the meshes cost quite a lot of money but they should last several years if  treated well. It is also usually cheaper if you buy in larger quantities so you may want to share a roll with others on your allotment site.

Broad bean crops should be finishing shortly. Remember, broad bean plants fix nitrogen in their roots, so when you cut down the plants after cropping, leave the roots in the ground to provide added nitrogen for future crops.

Even if you have added compost or manure to your plot, don’t forget to give additional fertiliser to aid plant growth. For most crops, I just add a general fertiliser such as Growmore, but if you grow organically, blood, fish and bone would suffice. Brassicas will benefit from a high nitrogen fertiliser to aid leaf growth. Please use gloves when applying fertiliser by hand.

Pigeons can be a problem on many crops, so cover leaf crops (and soft fruits) with netting, especially brassicas. I even had to cover my beetroot this year as the dry weather seemed to encourage the pigeons to extend their diet!

Don’t forget to make the best use of you plot and as crops finish, sow those gaps with plants that will mature quickly, such as spinach, carrots, radish, beetroot, peas, French beans and turnips. During July and August shops/garden centres will often start selling off their seeds at a discount, so take the opportunity to get a bargain to make the sowings. Make sure you get varieties that can be sown late season.

If sown in hot weather, lettuce can be slow to germinate. It can therefore be useful to keep the compost/ground cool by watering with cold water to aid germination.

You should be picking your early fruiting raspberries now. When the old fruiting canes have completely finished fruiting, cut them off at ground level and tie in the new canes as they grow for next year’s crop. The later fruiting varieties fruit on the current year’s growth, so please don’t cut these down yet!

Early potatoes should be ready to lift now, I know some have been lifting for a while now. I normally judge when they are ready by waiting for the flowers to open on the plants. However, my early potato plants have not flowered this year, I can only assume this was due to the tops of the plants being caught by the late frost that we had.

Watch out for potato blight disease, a rapid browning and dying back of the foliage. The affected leaves must be removed as quickly as possible and disposed of away from the allotment site to avoid spread of the fungus. If not done quickly the disease can spread into the potato tubers. It can also spread to tomato plants which must be treated in the same way as your potatoes.

 If you are having to help your runner beans climb up their supports, don’t forget that they will only climb in an anticlockwise direction. This is a northern hemisphere thing, as in the southern hemisphere they climb clockwise.

If, like me, you have a greenhouse on your plot and cannot visit to water too many times in a week, try planting melons. I find these work really well if given plenty of water at least a couple of times a week.

Hopefully you have all entered your plots for the Guildford in Bloom competition. All those that have will be judged anytime between 3-21 July, so keep up the good work and good luck.

Enjoy your gardening.

Kindly written for GAS by Mike Beckwith Guildford in Bloom Judge