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  • Allotment things to do at the end of summer

    Guy Barter on 11 Sep 2010 at 09:16 AM

    Rain has wetted the top soil enough for good growth while nights remain warm and days sunny.  It won’t last of course, and very soon growth will fall away to very low levels.  Already the flood of summer veg has slowed and it is now or never for many crops.



  • What to do on the allotment in early September

    Guy Barter on 02 Sep 2010 at 02:12 PM

    Colder and dewy nights have led to reduced watering need and pest problems.  It is even too cold at night for blight, although once mild moist nights return disease could break out afresh.



  • What to do on the allotment for August Bank Holiday

    Guy Barter on 27 Aug 2010 at 02:34 PM

    The season is running out fast and little remains to do but gather the crops, and protect those maturing now and to be gathered in autumn and winter from pests and diseases.  There is certainly no need to water for a fortnight at least.



  • Is there anything to do in the allotment this weekend except harvesting?

    Guy Barter on 21 Aug 2010 at 06:42 PM

    Recent showery weather and associated watering have given the plot new life, with stalled growth suddenly resuming often with rather lush foliage as the crops can suddenly access plant nutrients that have been beyond their reach for weeks. Whether this will translate into higher yields remains to be seen, but the signs are good.


  • What to do in the allotment while summer lasts

    Guy Barter on 13 Aug 2010 at 09:39 AM

    We are back to normal summer weather with showers and cool nights. Suddenly frogs, toads and slow worms are present. The slow worms shelter beneath perforated black plastic weed control sheets taken off early crops and laid over the daffodil bed at the end of the plot to clear it of weeds. No doubt warmth and dryness appeal to reptiles. Frogs live under the well-watered climbing bean wigwams and are on the move at dusk when watering is now being done, as the evenings shorten. Toads lived beneath the onion mulching sheets and crawled off into the brassicas as the onions were lifted.



  • Late summer things to do on the allotment:

    Guy Barter on 05 Aug 2010 at 05:39 PM

    Rain, at last.  Not enough to do much good, but by rushing round the plot with watering cans to top-up the dampened soil many crops have been well watered.  With few weeks of growing weather left with the sun getting lower, nights lengthening and lower night temperatures likely, crops are best kept growing - in September I can rest.



  • Finding something to do on the allotment this weekend

    Guy Barter on 31 Jul 2010 at 04:20 PM
    There is nothing much to do now but wait. It is that funny interim period when the early summer crops of peas, broad beans and salads have been used up and the late summer aubergines, melons, tomatoes and peppers, are not quite ready. However oodles of soft fruit are being picked and processed. In the meantime calabrese, courgettes cucumbers and French beans fill the gap. Autumn and winter crops are growing fast. But the whole lot depends on water and rain, and there is no rain.

    Most of the soil moisture left over from winter has been used up by plants now and no really significant rain has fallen since early June and very little since April. Rain that falls in summer evaporates before it can soak in. This means watering is the main task plodding round the plot with two cans carefully wetting the soil at the base of each plant to a depth of about 25cm.

    As crops finish planting out goes on. Cell trays full of basil, chicories, dwarf French beans, kohl rabi, lettuce and parsley wait for space - the last of the onions have fallen over and are nearly ready to be lifted, dried and stored. As soon as these are safely in, the ground will be spread with fertiliser and raked over before planting out in shallow, easy-to-water, trenches. With success dependant on watering only the bare minimum is planted to ease the watering task.

    These last onions are the red ones grown on the best soil on the plot and unlike the disappointing preceding crops are almost satisfactory because they were generously watered in June.

    Early potatoes too were watered (as a rule neither onions nor potatoes are watered in my garden) in June just as the tubers were swelling, but even this has not hastened bulking up. In the last few years the earlies have been so abundant that they have been left to become maincrops for storage, but not this year. They are petering out as intended and the second earlies, mostly Charlotte, are beginning to mature. Only Anya, a salad spud, has actually matured and now needs to be lifted and stored.

    Leeks have followed the early potatoes and these have established remarkably quickly. It is unclear why this has been so successful. Trimming of roots and leaves in the traditional way is omitted as being senseless, no dibbing is done and no holes are made and they are watered in with liquid fertiliser solution after planting in the conventional way in the bottom of an 8cm deep easy-to-water trench. There is still time to set out a few more for April, and given the inadequate onion crop another row might be welcome. Happily the seedbed is still well-populated with strong ‘Toledo’ seedlings.

    Sowing is real last minute stuff now, and although some winter mooli radish, lettuce for autumn and herbs have been sown this week, sowing is almost over for this year with the exception of salad onions in mid August for next April, spring cabbage to be sown next week and again in mid-August and lettuces and spinach for over-wintering in early September. The seed box is back in an old fridge safe from vermin. At this season bulb and soft fruit catalogues begin to arrive. I am overstocked with red currants, but lack a white currant - some editing of the currant plot is required. My blackberries have done quite well, but expansion of the row is inhibited by a poorly performing gooseberry. This will be for the chop and two more blackberries will be ordered.

    A plot has been manured and rigorous weed control undertaken for a strawberry planting this autumn and plants need ordering now.

    The shaded area under the trees at the end of the plot is not of great use, and it is usually planted with bulbs for cut flowers. A 10kg bag of mixed narcissi went in last year and some other bulbs need to be chosen and ordered for planting from September.

    Weeds come up abundantly where watering is undertaken (but hardly at all elsewhere). Hand weeding around the base of tomatoes, courgettes and other plants is becoming necessary. The ponds at the base of the plants that are filled with water when watering are renewed at the same time and fertiliser spread at the base of plants.

    Most pests and diseases have been dealt with after a week of spraying, and the next duty is to apply fertiliser (top-dress) all crops that might benefit. With only six weeks of really good growing weather left this summer, plants should not run short of nutrients. The main top dressing method this year is to add sulphate of ammonia to the watering cans (a couple of teaspoons worth per can) when watering. This way the fertiliser goes only where it is needed, the minimum amount of this expensive and rather questionable material from the point of view of sustainability used to replace nutrients that are readily washed out when watering such sandy soil and it is quickly available to the plants. Crops treated include; cabbages, celery, celeriac, courgettes, cucumber, beetroot, Brussels sprouts, French beans, leeks, lettuce, melons, ornamental gourds, peppers, turnips, runner beans and swedes. Over wintered broccoli is left unfed and barely watered as robust plants are wanted, ditto over-wintered cauliflowers and it is folly to top-dress pumpkins and squash as mass of leaves and shoot soon take over, with no great increase in cropping.


  • What to do in the allotment this weekend?

    Guy Barter on 23 Jul 2010 at 01:24 PM

    What to do in the allotment this weekend?  Very, very little with any luck!  The plants are in the ground, they have been watered, there is plenty of light and warmth and anything ready has been gathered for the weekend meals – I am looking forward to relaxing with a juicy pork steak on a pile of buttered new potatoes accompanied by courgettes, French and broad beans and calabrese.



  • Allotment this weekend in mid-July

    Guy Barter on 16 Jul 2010 at 11:43 AM

    At last some rain – not enough to replenish the soil but enough to take some stress off plants and make sowing and planting easier.  However the damp conditions pose a real threat of fungus diseases. 

    • Preventing potato and tomato blight by protecting plants with copper fungicide is vital as on any allotment discarded potatoes from last year carry disease over and are beginning to pose a threat to this year’s crops


  • Drought stricken allotment this weekend

    Guy Barter on 09 Jul 2010 at 02:33 PM

    When you work for the RHS, summers are a tad frantic.  I am finally getting back on top of the plot (in both senses) after Chelsea and subsequent flower shows.   However I should be able to snatch a few minutes this weekend for a holding action to get past Tatton and then hopefully normal service can be resumed.  The very dry weather has had a devastating effect on crops – watering cans only do so much on sandy soil, even though manuring has been done liberally.  In many cases a third of the yield potential of crops will be lost.



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