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May Top Allotment Tips

Seed Tapes

The allotment isn’t meant to be covered in white stuff at the end of April! However this is the situation we faced here in parts of the north as a cold snap threatened to derail our early season work. A light covering of snow really isn’t necessarily a great problem. The frost that came with it is potentially far more damaging. Indeed it was a surreal experience going into my frosted greenhouse containing the likes of tomato, aubergines, peppers and cucumbers with temperatures as low as minus three inside.

Several layers of fleece along with keeping the plants purposely on the dry side, saved the day. There is a little more yellowing on some of my toms than purists would like but all should be well with a potential crisis averted. This situation highlights how important it is that we allotmenteers keep our eye on the weather, particularly in this crucial period up to June. Keeping young plants on the dry side during colder weather also helps to minimise the risk of rot and damping off.

The cold weather also means potatoes are vulnerable to frosts. Luckily mine were not quite through when the frost came but we must all remain on high alert for the frost threat until the end of May.

Out on the plot there have been plenty of days to get lots of work done. Over the May Bank Holiday I tackled one of my asparagus beds which unfortunately are suffering from an onslaught by bindweed. Care and attention is needed here, to not damage the asparagus crowns as typically the bindweed was entwining itself around the roots. Much of the bindweed is now removed though I suspect a second wave will make an appearance and we will have to go through it all again in June.

One sure sign of the soil warming up is when perennial weeds start to grow, coupled with weed seeds starting to germinate. That is then our cue that it is the correct time to sow delights such as parsnip “F1 Gladiator”, beetroot ”boltardy” and the excellent “Rainbow Mix” which is also helpfully available as a seed tape.  I’ve also sown carrot “Autumn King2 “.  All the above I’ve sown directly in pre-prepared beds, containing no manure to minimise the risk of the roots forking.

Each year it is great to try something a little different; this year I’m growing Kohl Rabi for the first time for a good number of years. During May as the weather hopefully warms up a little more- I will sow the variety “purple and white Vienna mix”. Kohl rabi is a colourful alternative to the turnip and can be eaten raw in salads.

A key task for the mid-end of May period is to harden off our half –hardy veg such as runner and french beans, courgettes, pumpkin and squash. They can then be planted in their permanent positions when the risk of frost has passed in your area. In the meantime I shall be preparing my wigwams ready for my runner beans.

Traditionally May is the month to plant out your Brussels sprouts. I am currently hardening mine off with a view to doing that next week. The sprout is a hardy plant and we have no worries about frost with that one on our 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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