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June Allotment tips

The allotment is such a friendly and inviting spot at this time of year. Indeed allotment plots are a hive of activity now more any other time. There is so much going on at every turn!

Our early potatoes are ready to pick, our early broad beans are producing tasty young pods and overwintered onions are not far from being ready to harvest. And there is more; lettuce and radish have been cropping now for a few weeks, while asparagus can be still harvested until the middle of June. Soon overwintered garlic will join the party and be ready to pick when the leaves turn yellow.

I like to pick the occasional overwintered onion and garlic bulb while they are still in the green. This is a much more palatable option to buying some in; a useful way to bridge that gap while our summer onion sets mature.

I tend to harvest just a few tubers at a time from my early potatoes. Just gently scrape away the soil from the surface and you should soon see the first joyous sign of your first crop of potatoes. This way, I retain the “new” potato taste, while leaving some other smaller tubers still attached to the plant to grow a little larger.

The traditional advice regarding broad beans is to pinch out the tips at this time of year to negate potential blackfly infestation. I find that organically grown plants, not overfed with nitrogen, don’t succumb to blackfly as readily. Broad beans prefer cooler summer temperatures. Plants that are under stress become more vulnerable to attack. This is by far the easiest vegetable for the beginner, along with radish. Any blackfly attack that does strike is often mopped up and devoured by one of the allotment gardener’s greatest allies, the ladybird. Consider siting some bug boxes on your plot to attract friends such as hoverflies, lacewings and hoverflies. They really will do a good job for you, if you are brave enough to leave them alone to get on with it. And that is the hardest thing to do; looking the other way when something such as that is not quite right.

This year in some ways has been close to almost perfect so far. The temperatures have been generally consistent and we have had a good mix of sunshine and rain showers. Our plants have responded accordingly by putting on lots of growth and that includes the weeds!

One of the mistakes that beginners make when they take on a new allotment is underestimating the amount of time it takes to cut grass paths or edges around their plot. This is time diverting us away from our routine summer chores such as hoeing. I think the time is better spent sitting and relaxing! For that reason I have covered my grass paths with strong weed fabric and covered it with bark chippings free of charge, courtesy of a dead tree that was felled on the allotment site by a tree surgeon.

Any remaining Brussels sprout plants you may have, should be planted out now as soon as they are large enough. It is important to firmly plant them in to prevent the wind rocking them around and any subsequent sprouts becoming “blown”. Cover the young sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage plants with very fine netting to keep the cabbage white butterfly out. It is also worth placing protective cabbage collars around the stem to combat the threat of the cabbage root fly.

Other jobs this month include: continuing to sow, turnip, swede, French beans, and radish.

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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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