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October Allotment Tips

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Lots of visits to the allotment are still the order of the day as the nights draw in. September was really a crossroads month as the summer gave way to autumn and the many opportunities this now brings to move our plots forward.

October has already nailed its colours firmly to the autumn mast and what colours they are! Blueberries are underrated in this department, mine will soon offer a glorious fiery red grand finale, lighting up the fruit garden in late evening sunlight.

My sweet corn is facing a race against time to ripen here in Yorkshire before the weather deteriorates too much. There is nothing worse than picking a cob to see only half of it, resembling the tasty sweet corn that we know and love. Sometimes wind pollination of sweet corn can be poor, even when the corn in grown in blocks to assist this. This year it has been a lack of sun to develop the plants during midsummer. As long as there are no frosts and some good periods of sunshine the cobs will ripen albeit rather late.

Allotments really do keep us on our toes and each year something unexpected happens that is at odds with last year.. It is part of the fun. We can never rest on our laurels with anything. Good record –keeping is a real help here to record successes and critically failures too  as they occur.

A planner is a good idea and helps greatly in conjunction with written notes we should all ideally make. The Suttons planner is easy to use and takes virtual gardening to a whole new level. It is free to have a play around with and can become quite addictive. I intend over the winter months to design a virtual allotment for fun while the wind rattles the windows outside –now that is the kind of gardening that I like!

Back to matters that are pressing here and now. Interestingly during early September I had a sporadic outbreak of blackfly on several of my runner bean plants. I used the finger and thumb control method to control them as it is so late in the growing season now. I can’t remember the last time any of my runner beans succumbed to blackfly. This begs the question -where are my notes when I need them!  Typically blackfly are associated with broad beans though they can attack, french and runner beans as well as nasturtium, philadelphus and viburnum.

During early-mid September I sowed a swathe of green manure seed on several vacant parts of my plot. This is always a good and often overlooked idea on land you don’t intend to use over the next few months. I used ”Winter Mix” a real good all-rounder. The packet contains a mixture of “Winter Rye” and “Vetch” both of which can be dug in before flowering during early spring. Rye is excellent for preventing the leaching of nitrogen during heavy winter rains. Vetch is a nitrogen producing legume that naturally increases the nitrogen levels in your soil. Green manure seed can be easily and quickly broadcast by hand and lightly covered. The good news is there is no need to go to the trouble of sowing in rows. If I can save some time on the allotment- and still get good results -that is fine by me!

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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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