This weekend transplanting began in earnest. Sweetcorn raised in modules was planted out in a square pattern marked out last month. In
the intervening period the weeds have grown, but the area was treated
with glyphosate weedkiller last weekend and the weeds are clearly on
the way out. As this weedkiller is inactivated by the soil it is quite safe to plant.
French bean plants were set out between the sweetcorn plants.
were placed in holes that had been twice filled with water and allowed
to drain, and then, after the plant has been set in the hole, watered
again to wash soil around the plant before the plant is firmed in place
with both hands. This is called ‘puddling-in'
and means the plants sit in a ‘splodge' of wet soil and won't need
watering for at least a month even if no rain falls.
next sowing of sweetcorn seemed to be gaining on the first and both
lots might mature together leading to a glut in July. To ensure
continuity action was needed. The first, newly
planted, sowing was covered in fleece to accelerate its growth and the
follow-on sowing thriving in the cold frame was placed outdoors to
retard its development. With luck the required separation in maturity will be restored and crops will be gathered from late July into August.
French beans sown outdoors have emerged, despite the earliness of sowing. In
most seasons I would not dare sow outdoors until mid-May, but this year
the soil is so warm that sowing was brought forward by three weeks.
was so encouraging that I have abandoned caution and sowed courgettes
where they are to grow - two seed per ‘station' at 70cm intervals. Again I would normally wait until early June to attempt this. They have, however, been covered with fleece. This not so much to keep them warm, as to exclude the bean seed fly. This pest normally feasts on rotting organic matter in the soil and seems abundant in the Thames valley, although I have rarely encountered them elsewhere. As I have added abundant manure and compost this spring bean seed fly is likely to be numerous. Unfortunately it often extends its interests to include germinating bean and courgette seeds.
The next transplanting job was the Brussels sprouts. These
have been raised in 7cm pots and each one was ‘puddled' into a hole
that has been dressed with a handful of lime (ground limestone AKA
Calcium carbonate - not hydrated lime). The holes are set in a trench previously limed and treated with calcium cyanamide to make the soil very alkaline. There
are now no fungicides offered to gardeners to control clubroot disease,
but intense alkalinity should greatly reduce its infectivity. All brassicas are puddled in with a weak solution of liquid general fertiliser rich in phosphorus. Not only will they be in the ‘splodge' of wet soil but the wet soil will be well supplied with nutrients. They should need neither feeding nor watering until June at the earliest. It
is very important that brassicas should grow plenty of foliage and
roots as soon as possible to smother weeds and they should need no
watering if their root system is extensive enough.
Again the planting trenches were treated with glyphosate a week ago so the brassicas are weed free - for now.
Unfortunately they are also very vulnerable to cabbage root fly and again no chemical controls are offered to gardeners. However
card and felt collars were used to exclude these pests from their prime
egg laying site around the base of the plants stems. They are usually 90 percent effective. I have reserve plants in case of casualties.
Brussels sprouts are set in rows 90cm apart with 60cm between the
plants there is plenty of room to ‘intercrop' between the Brussels with
quick-growing cabbages, calabrese and kohl-rabi. Plants
of these were planted out in the same way as Brussels sprouts, and
should mature in June before the sprouts meet across the rows in July.
All cabbage family crops are grown in a single block of land. Not
only does this simplify soil treatment it also allows easy netting,
with one big sheet of netting suspended on 1.2m stakes that hold the
net clear of the crop and exclude even the most determined pigeon.
rain forecast, slugs can be expected to be active, so pellets were very
lightly applied beneath the netting, using the new ferrous phosphate
based ones - cabbages in wet weather will be a real test of their
Unfortunately cabbages set out last month were infested with cabbage aphid. They had been covered with fleece to keep them free of this and other pests, but somehow the aphids got to the cabbages. These were treated with an organic insecticide based on plant oil. Only
two of the much more effective synthetic insecticides have official
approval for cabbages and one is only allowed for seedling cabbages
with no more than eight leaves and the other is only allowed to be used
once per crop. I want to save this in case of caterpillar attacks in
The source of the problem was probably the purple sprouting broccoli plants. As these are spent, the heavily infested plants were uprooted, chopped up and consigned to the compost pit.
Again a small amount of lettuce (three different cultivars) and radish were sown for succession. They will mature before July.
peas and broad beans was begun; with wet windy weather forecast the
plants are vulnerable to falling over or ‘lodging' as it is officially
called. Wet weather also promotes weed growth so
any weeds not already controlled have been vigorously hoed or covered
with black landscape fabric, and where neither of these can be done
treated with glyphosate weedkiller. Once the ground is wet, weed control becomes a very slow ‘hands and knees' task. An allotment cannot be productive, or indeed much fun, if the gardener has to spend hours hand-weeding.
Finally to harvesting: This year is the first that I have gathered mange-tout peas in early May and the broad beans will be ready next week. Asparagus is still cropping fairly well, and globe artichokes are beginning to shoot up flowers. I love to boil golf ball sized artichoke flower heads and eat these with some mayonnaise. As this can be a messy process it is best done in the garden. Salads are easy now with ‘Little Gem' lettuces hearting up while there are plenty of salad onions and radishes. Spinach and spinach beet are also ready. A friend recently served me nettles as greens; although interesting I don't think I will stop growing spinach just yet.