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July Top Allotment Tips

July Top Allotment Tips

The allotment season reaches a new exciting level this month and fittingly we have plenty of luscious fresh food to harvest.

My overwintering broad beans “Aquadulce Claudia” are still cropping in early July, with the first having batch being ready to pick on June 16th.  The overwintering varieties such as this tend to be ready around three weeks ahead of the spring sown types. They are well worth the effort and the flavour can only be described as truly delicious!

At the end of June I also lifted a few garlic “in the green” for immediate use. I intend to leave the remaining crop in the ground until early August to mature. I harvested a handful of my overwintering onions before they were fully ripe too, to extend the season. This is not necessarily the text book way to do it, but I’ve done it for a good number of years. Allotments are individual spaces and we should be willing to have a go and try new techniques and experiment and sometimes there are no rules!

My Globe Artichokes “Purple Globe” are in their second year this year. July is traditionally when they are harvested but only from two years old plants or older. Choosing exactly the right time to harvest can be tricky. Pick the tallest head, around golf ball size first, when it is plump but critically before the scales start to open and begin to flower. Cut the head with a short bit of stem still attached. Smaller side buds can also be harvested when big enough. The globe artichoke is a fine addition to any plot, the attractive flowers are popular with insects and the plants are striking and make a fine feature in their own right. They also look great at the back of an ornamental flower border and can reach a height of up to five feet!

To make the most of our allotment plots we should try and use as much land as possible. Right now around mid-summer space is often at a premium. Sometimes we can be over ambitious and have no room now for any successional sowings. There are matters such as soil conditions and rotations to consider too as we plan for next year.
I’m pretty full up at the moment as we head into July. However, when I’ve harvested all my early potatoes, I’ll have a sizeable gap that needs filling. With this in mind it makes sense to grow something in pots or pocket of land somewhere, on standby, ready to move. This means no loss of vital growing time. I always sow a few broad beans and french beans and fast maturing peas to plug gaps such as this. Plug plants can be handy too with this, saving the need to sow extra seed.

Recently I’ve been tying the tall ferns of my asparagus plants to canes. The ferns can be quite brittle and are easily snapped by any gusty breezes, thus weakening the crowns.
Another job for the next week or two is the planting out of over wintering purple sprouting Broccoli. This crop is one of the delights of the allotment year and a must have on all plots.

Meanwhile spring cabbage and kale seeds  “Black Magic” should be sown during preferably outdoors, during July. Thin out the rows and transplant any spare plants into permanent positions during August. It is vital to keep all young brassica plants covered with protective netting to stop the cabbage white butterfly from laying eggs on the foliage and pigeons from attacking the foliage.

Thinking about all of this work makes me want to just go and harvest some more strawberries now in the sun.. I wonder what the chances are of getting hold of some cream on my allotment……?

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About Lee Senior

Lee Senior is an experienced horticultural writer, RHS Yorkshire in Bloom judge and horticultural consultant. He has also had an allotment for over 25 years. After initially spurning horticulture as a career option, to pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a train driver, Lee soon realised he couldn't resist getting his hands dirty to make a living. Horticultural College training led, to getting an allotment at the tender age of 18 (in the days when you could actually get a plot quickly). My gardening hero, is Geoff Hamilton" says Lee. "It was Geoff who convinced me that you didn't have to spray everything that moved in the garden. Watching him on Gardeners’ World in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was a revelation. I was lucky enough to meet Geoff and I’ve also more recently had the pleasure of meeting Joe Swift. Now over two decades of practical experience has taught me to work with mother nature, not to fight against her and don't try to tame her, as so many gardeners seem to be on a mission to do. Small-scale food growing is my passion and I can't wait for my two daughters, one who is 8 years old and the other who is 5 to hopefully pick up the baton in the future. Nothing beats the flavour and satisfaction of growing your own food. You simply cannot buy the same quality and freshness. Everyone can have a go at growing something says Lee, no matter where they live. Lee has also written his two books; 'Pennine Way, The Highs and Lows' which is a humorous, personal account of walking this momentous iconic walk. His second book 'Walking in the Aire', features 14 short walks in Yorkshire.

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