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What to do in the allotment this weekend(being a week behind because of Cardiff Flower Show)

Posted by Guy Barter on 23 Apr 2010 at 12:28 PM

A change in the weather is predicted for this weekend with an end to the anxiety about cold nights, with potential frosts burning the emerging spuds and flowering fruit bushes.  The cold nights have held growth back and unless protected by fleece growth has been slow. Although there has been no rain for a while the soil is moist and no watering is required yet, except for certain newly planted transplants.  All the same, some April showers would be nice – none are forecast however.


• The transplant raising area needs attention.  Pots of seedlings of aubergines, peppers and tomatoes and ready to be set into individual pots and grown on for planting out in June.


• The clear polythene used to warm the soil for carrots and parsnips is now redeployed to warm soil for later sweetcorn sowings that will be made in situ in May and early June.


• It is high time to sow the main lot of tender crops in pots for early cropping  – one tray of French beans is on its way, but large numbers of courgettes, cucumbers, French beans (I prefer to sow runner beans in situ) melons, pumpkins, squash, sweetcorn, and gourds need to be sown as soon as possible.


• The winter cabbages have emerged, but Savoy ‘Medee’, a most rewarding plant, has failed and needs to be replaced.  More calabrese, summer cabbage and kohl rabi will be sown.  My soil is too dry for summer cauliflowers so these are omitted.


• Sufficient room must be left to sow next month, the autumn cauliflowers and next year’s broccoli.


• All the other early sown transplants, cabbages, cauliflowers, celery, celeriac, Brussels sprouts, leeks and lettuces are growing very well and are being liquid fed every week or even every three days to keep them growing fast.


• Any day now, hordes of aphids will appear on the transplants – but so far the sprayer remains on the shelf.


• Aphids are also expected on the soft fruit – but not a sign of one has been seen yet.  The bushes are checked twice a week – timely intervention can save much fruit for minimal cost in insecticide.


• Peas and broad beans, the mainstay of early summer allotment crops are growing fairly well, but pea and bean weevil damage is appearing as severely notched leaves.  Most gardening books suggest that this damage can be ignored.  I am not so sure about that, but with luck the warming weather will allow the crop to grow away from the pest.


• It is time to sow the next lot of sugar snap peas using the outstanding cultivar ‘Cascade’, which is now the mainstay of my pea crops.  The ‘Jaguar’ ordinary pea sown recently has emerged rather poorly, and bringing forward the next sowing to make up for any shortfall seems prudent; ‘Oasis’, a favourite of commercial producers is being tried this year.


• The dry soil is in perfect condition for making seed-beds and the next batch of beetroot, lettuces, rocket, radish, spinach and turnips can be sown – little and often is key to avoiding gluts, and if I have to resort to the supermarket, well better that than discarding hard grown produce from the allotment; 1.5m rows are sufficient in our household.


• Spent crops are now being hurried away to the compost pits, so the soil can be readied for the next crops.  As crops are finally over, more land is being lightly loosened with the fork and tilled with a three-prong cultivator and rake to make a seedbed and incorporate the base dressing of fertiliser, usually 200g per square metre of chicken manure pellets.


• There are still a few palatable leeks left, but abundant sprouting broccoli and asparagus.  The over-wintered cauliflowers are heading, but the quality is so low that they might be a resigning matter – enough said.


• Slugs are being harried by raking down cultivated soil to expose them to the birds and sun.  This also polishes off tiny, vulnerable weed seedlings.  The weeds have been much delayed by the colder soil this spring.


• All the same, it is time to start the main work of the allotment in summer – hoeing, hoeing and hoeing.  The more weeds that can be killed when young the fewer to laboriously remove by hand later.


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