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!