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May Allotment Tips


My allotment has moved on apace since last month. Spring certainly sprung in April and our plots have responded and look great for it!

winter covering fleece for frost protection from suttons seedsBoth second early and maincrop potatoes should now be close to emerging if they are not already through. A key focus of the month is therefore the need to keep an eye out for frost for those of us who grow potatoes. Frost severely blackens and destroys the foliage of potatoes. Though the plants often recover, it can severely set them back.Two days after my early potatoes came through on April 21st we had a ground frost on two of the next three nights. At the end of April we had another fairly keen frost. Fortunately a combination of

earthing up and covering with fleece has thus far saved the day. We certainly can’t relax this month as the threat of frost remains as real as ever.

parsnip seeds from Suttons Seeds

The often slow to germinate parsnip seed has started off well this year- the best I can remember for a number of years. Parsnip seeds really should be newly purchased each year as the seed does not have a long shelf life. Old seed is often one cause of failure. Over the next few weeks thin out any crowded seedlings by hand as they develop.




Summer onion sets should be in the ground now and establishing well. Do keep them well watered if the weather is dry, when you planted them out.

During any quiet moments on the allotment it is a good idea to use the time to erect either a wigwam or posts and wire or netting for climbing french and runner beans. This is in readiness for when they are planted out towards the end of this month. View Plant Supports available from Suttons.

We should begin to harden off our half-hardy vegetables around the middle of May; runner beans, french beans, courgettes, pumpkin, squash, outdoor cucumbers all fall into that category. The hardening off of your half-hardy plants usually takes around two weeks. This is a key job of May. The plants should be increasingly exposed to outdoor conditions towards the end of the hardening off period.

crimson crush tomato plants from Suttons SeedsIf you have a sheltered and sunny spot on your allotment then outdoor tomatoes may also be viable. These should be hardened off this month too. Tomato “Crimson Crush” – the new blight resistant variety is suitable for outdoor conditions as well as greenhouse cultivation. I am currently growing this variety for the first time. So far the plants, which started off as plugs are romping away on my windowsill and look very promising indeed.



We are of course now in the classic “hungry gap” period for those of us who like to grow as much food as possible all year round. Most of our overwintering produce has finished cropping; while our supplies in store have just about run out too. Meanwhile many of our summer staple crops are only just going in the ground.

Asparagus is one of the few naturally cropping vegetables of May. They are a delicacy and are perfect to help bridge that gap. The ever dependable radish is ready this month of course too.

Spring cabbage, overwintered lettuce and spring onions, are also normally harvested around now in good years. And this is certainly one of those, thus far!

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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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