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What to do on the allotment - first weekend in May

Posted by Guy Barter on 01 May 2010 at 08:21 AM

Rain is forecast at last and very welcome it will be, although the amount forecast decreases hour by hour. 


Sowing was done in two ways last weekend; one was top open the groove in the soil, called a drill, and apply water to the base of the groove - this was done for small seeds such as beetroot and lettuce.  The other was to rake the dry soil into the paths and sow into deeper moister soil, as was done for the peas.  It is a bit early to say for the small seeds, but the pea seedbed has dried out faster than expected and will now have to be watered so it would have been better to have watered the seed drill.  Unless seeds show by next weekend the sowing will be resown after watering.


Temperatures are very good for now with most crops making significant growth.  More sowing will be done bit by bit, but two thirds of the plot is now sown or planted and once the brussels sprouts go in ( they are hardening off on the patio under fleece) there will be little left to do but feed, weed, water and wait.


• The sprout bed needs cultivating to kill weeds and incorporate fertiliser and lime to suppress clubroot.  However this year I am trying out the new clubroot resistant cultivars.


• The ground for the late-sown and planted crops such as pumkins and squashes is now being lightly tilled to get it ready for planting and if we get a good soak this weekend , will be covered by black plastic sheets to keep it moist and weed-free until June.

• The courgette, French and runner bean and also sweet corn beds will be marked-out ready for planting and sowing by placing sticks and grooves in the soil to guide where to sow and plant.  The early plants are already growing in pots ready to be put out under fleece. 

• Potting up of aubergines and peppers remains to be done with the aim of planting these out in June under cloches.


• Once the rain has wetted the surface, carrots will be sown - the last sowing of the year.  These will be autumn king types for winter use.   While the insect proof mesh is off, the early sown carrots and parsnips will be thinned to one every 5cm.  Another thinning later will thin out the 'nips to one very 15cm.  And of course the rows will be carefully hoed.


• Carrot fly is on the wing but egg-laying is not expected until the end of next week according to the forecasting service, so it is safe to briefly lift the nets.

• The spuds are up and the three-prong cultivator will be taken round these, stirring the soil lightly, to kill weeds, mix in fertiliser and begin earthing-up.  Earthing-up means drawing soil bit by bit around the stems as the plants grow to make a low (20cm) ridge of soil that will prevent the tubers going green later.  Gradual earthing-up presents a great opportunity to kill weeds, especially horsetail.  This weed was rife but now leads a hunted existence, although eradication is unlikely to ever be achieved. 


• Transplants are all potted up and being fed and watered generously, and as they move from the greenhouse and coldframes to the hardening-off area more crops of cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, squash, sweet corn  and watermelons (a forlorn hope unless we get an unseasonably hot summer) are being sown in pots.  Once these are up and growing autumn cauliflowers and calabrese will be sown and also over-wintered sprouting and heading brocolli with the aim to plant out in July.


• The sweet potato transplants are growing well on a windowsill ready to go out in June - in fact they are growing so well I can take a few more cuttings and raise some extra plants.


• The fleece must come off the leeks, salad onions and early lettuce now, so that weeding and for the lettuces, thinning, can take place.  Emergence looks good enough - not great, the chilly spring saw to that, but sufficient.  A top dressing of nitrogen-rich fertiliser will be needed to boost their growth.


• Slugs are deep in the soil during this spring dry spell but with rain they will surface so slug controls must be applied to all young, vulnerable seedlings. Raking to kill the weeds has blocked their return routes so with luck some will die below ground.


• Peas and beans are in full flower now and very vulnerable to drought - on this very dry soil it is worthwhile watering these whenever they are in flower (every seven days) unless we have a really torrential rain this weekend.


• The allotment soft fruit is no longer vulnerable to frost and the set of gooseberries fruitlets is looking very promising.


• The very first currant aphids have appeared – these cause severe distortion of the growing tips of the shoots of redcurrants – they have been treated with insecticide in the evening using a fine directed spray to the vulnerable tips only to limit risk to beneficial insects.


• Rhubarb is growing well and fast, but numerous seedheads have to be cut out as soon as they can be seen.


• Harvesting of asparagus, sprouting and heading broccoli is in full swing.  The spring cabbage got too proud last autumn and has been largely killed by cold.  I am not that keen on it anyway.  The over-wintered lettuces on the other hand are hearting up and have already been top-dressed and only some rain and /or watering is needed.


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