Gardening Tips

Spring Tips

Getting the best from your plot

This is an exciting and busy time at the allotments. We hope that you have not been badly affected by the late frosts and that the crops you have already planted are growing well. As the soil has warmed up now a wide range of seeds can be sown outside in prepared beds including: beetroot, brassicas, carrots, french and runner beans, peas, salad vegetables and spinach. Many seedlings which have been grown indoors can also be planted out now but for more delicate plants, such as courgettes, squashes and tomatoes, it is best to wait until June.

Here are some tips for getting the best from your plot this growing season.

  • Keep an eye on the weather. Hopefully the risk of frost is past but be ready to protect tender plants with cloches and/or fleece just in case.
  • Water regularly. There was little rain in April and the soil is very dry. Young plants and seedlings are particularly vulnerable to dry conditions. Early morning and evening are the best times for watering.
  • Keep on top of the weeds. Weed frequently throughout the growing season to prevent your crops being crowded out and starved of resources. Weeds that have developed seed heads and pernicious weeds, such as horsetail, bindweed and couch grass, should be removed from the allotment site for disposal.
  • Protect your crops from pests. Slugs, snails, aphids and saw flies can cause devastation at this time of year. Inspect crops regularly so pests can be dealt with before they become too numerous and too much damage is done. Net fruit bushes to protect them from birds. Cover carrots with insect proof mesh to prevent carrot root fly.
  • Improve your fruit crop by thinning. Reduce the number of raspberry canes to let in light and air by pruning out less vigorous shoots. Thin gooseberries if you want large fruit.
  • Try succession planting. This involves sowing a small batch of seeds every two or three weeks rather the whole packet in one go. It will maximise your chance of success and spread out your harvest.
  • Maximise your growing space by intercropping. Planting fast and slow growing crops together, for example, radishes with parsnips or lettuces with leeks will increase the yield from your plot.

Autumn Tips

Crops to Grow Now

There is still time to sow carrots, turnips, spinach and Swiss chard. Spring cabbage plants can be planted now but it is a little too late to raise them from seed. A last batch of salad vegetables including lettuces, rocket and radishes can also be sown now.

October is a good month to plant overwintering varieties of onion and garlic sets as well as broad beans. It is also a good time to plant bare root fruit bushes, such as currants and gooseberries, and rhubarb plants.

Growing Strawberries 

July to September is the best time to plant new strawberry plants or your own runners as soon as they have rooted. If you are thinking of establishing a strawberry bed you may find that one of your allotment neighbours has more rooted runners than they know what do to with!

Strawberries grow best in full sun, on light, well-drained, fertile soil with a slightly acid pH of 6-6.5. They should be planted in a bed where strawberries have not been grown for at least three years. Only let the plants fruit lightly in the first year after planting. Early in the season cut off runners to encourage the production of more fruit.

In spring, and again after cropping, remove any dead, diseased, or damaged leaves from established plants. After three seasons a new bed should be established.

Starting the Autumn Clear Up 

It is so much nicer to do as much as possible of the autumn clear up in September and October than to find yourself in a rush to prepare for spring when the weather is cold and wet and miserable!

  • Clear away dead foliage and spent plants as soon as crops have finished and add everything you can to your compost heap provided there are no signs of disease.
  • Take down supports used for climbing beans, peas and tomatoes when they are no longer needed.
  • Cut down summer raspberry canes and support the new canes which will provide next year’s fruit and start pruning your fruit bushes.

Tomato Blight

Tomato blight has arrived on the allotment site early this year.

It is already widespread on tomato plants growing outside (plants in greenhouses and polytunnels are more protected).

If caught in the early stages, remove infected leaves, stems and fruit. DO NOT COMPOST. 

When the blight is covering more than 25% of the plant, it is recommended to take out the whole plant. Please remove from the site, either for green wheelie bin collection or to the council dump.

Please refer to the RHS website for more information.

Potato plants can be affected by the same blight. Please check the stem and leaves and remove if infected.

  • As soon as your beds become clear begin digging them over and removing all the weed roots.