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August Allotment Tips

The allotment provides as much food for the family as we can handle at this time of year. And more besides!

The summer harvest is the culmination of the hard work of spring. And this year what a tremendous harvest it is. Many plot holders are calling this a record year so far. Certainly almost all the produce has been on top of its game.

It is years like this that make up for the less perfect seasons we get. Nature balances out in the end more than we give it credit for.

I’ve spent much of the time on my plot over the last three weeks, sunbathing, harvesting, hoeing and spot watering in that order! It is important to spend some relaxing time there while we can. Many of the other periods of the calendar can be quite full on.

Thankfully for now the allotment workload has eased somewhat, though as ever there is still plenty to do if we look hard enough.

The biggest challenge recently for many has been getting enough moisture to the roots of thirsty crops such as runner beans, leeks and courgettes. Water butts have proved invaluable, though they have nearly run out at times. Beginners generally tend to overwater. It is mainly newly transplanted crops that need the most water. The watering can is often good enough for small-scale watering, with the hosepipe coming out as a last resort. Sometimes less is more when it comes to applying water.

Looking ahead-our next focus is the Autumn planting season. There is still time to order your garlic bulbs and winter onion sets.My favourite over wintering onion is the variety “Radar” It is particularly hardy and is reliably ready to pick by early June. Of the red onions I much prefer the variety “Electric” which I’ve also had success with as a spring sown onion set too.

One thing to keep an eye on this month is an outbreak of caterpillars on our brassicas. Plant foliage can be stripped in a matter of twenty four hours during bad attacks.

I use the finger and thumb method to control small amounts though admittedly it is not one for the squeamish. Often clusters of green eggs can be spotted on the host plant and destroyed before they hatch.

Fine netting over the top of the beds resting on hoops or supports remains the best organic control. Prevention as ever is better than cure.

Quite a number of allotmenteers are on holiday at this time of year. This is one reason why it really does pay to make friends with your neighbouring plot holders. They may help to water for you and even help with harvesting.

You could then perhaps return the favour for them! Allotments are unique in British culture for the sense of togetherness and community spirit that still exists even today.

Some of the many crops in season this month include: Beetroot, blueberry, cabbage, calabrese, cauliflower, carrot, courgette, french beans, lettuce, peas, second early potatoes, radish, runner beans, spring onion, tomatoes.

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Lee Senior

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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