Frosts this week scorched emerging potatoes around the plots. Experienced gardeners covered vulnerable foliage with straw or a little earth to protect their plants. However the damage is not very serious and there will be few crop failures. By mid-May the risk if frost will be very slight and no cold nights appear to be forecast. Some rain is expected, but it seems unlikely to be up to the useful downpour of last weekend. Watering will be needed of vulnerable transplants and seedbeds this weekend.
Temperatures are the critical factor and growth is still rather poor unless plants are covered by fleece. With night temperatures of less than 5C, it will be worthwhile using more fleece to try and bring crops along, even though nights are now rather brief.
• Early potatoes are covered with fleece and unscarred by frost. With this help they should be in crop by mid June.
• Early peas are also fleeced and again mid June is the target date although exclusion of birds and pea and bean weevil are also important functions.
• Salads, peas and broad bean sowings are up to date, with the next batch not due to go in until the latest sowings are 5cm above ground.
• Over wintered lettuces are hearting after generous watering and rain last weekend. I was not clever here; had I fleeced half of them I would have had lettuces ready to use last weekend rather than a surfeit of lettuce next week.
• Early peas and beans are in full flower and another watering this weekend will help ensure a good crop. With the help of the expected light rain it should be a relatively easy task.
• Brussels sprouts and red and green storing cabbages are nearly ready to be planted. Their eventual rows have been marked out and treated against clubroot ready for planting.
• Other transplants will soon be ready; savoys, autumn and winter cabbage, calabrese, kohl rabi and cauliflowers.
• Tender transplants, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, sweet corn, courgettes, squash and pumpkins, are being grown as fast as possible for planting in early June.
• Peppers and aubergines can make good cloche crops, but the soil, like most allotment soils, is riddled with verticillium wilt to which aubergines are very vulnerable. I have bought some grafted aubergine plants, despite their high cost, to see if these can yield a useful crop.
• Another batch of tender transplants will be raised this weekend to join the first lot – more squash for the most part. Squash area crucial winter vegetable as they store well.
• Before the brassica transplants can be set out, the residue of the old crops will be destroyed, but with the delayed season much purple sprouting hangs on.
• The few leeks left have run to seed and will be cleared this weekend.
• As the last bits of land fall free, fertiliser is spread and the soil loosened with a fork, and turned into a tilth with three prong cultivator and rake.
• Wigwams for climbing beans need to go up.
• Other construction work includes setting stakes to support netting required to defend the cabbage and bean patches from deer, jays and pigeons.