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September Top Allotment Tips

The priority job at the moment on my Allotment is harvesting maincrop potatoes. Unfortunately potato blight struck very recently on our site. I’ve cut down the haulms to ground level as a temporary measure to stop the disease spreading to the tubers until I’ve time to harvest the remainder. Some are “slugged” though happily the majority are fine. I use the damaged ones first in the kitchen and store the rest for winter use.

I’m philosophical about slugs in potatoes. The threat is always there and the severity of attacks depends largely on the wetness of the season.  There are also some measures we can take. Nemaslug slug killer is ideal as an organic control for us next spring when the soil warms up. However, choosing the right variety for the right soil is key. For instance the variety “Kestrel” shows good really resistance to slugs. With some planning we can tilt the odds in our favour in this perennial battle against those slimy molluscs.

Allotments have traditionally been used for cutting flowers as well as growing food. Pleasingly growing flowers for showing and cutting is still popular on many plots today. With that in mind, September is the ideal time for sowing sweet peas in a cold frame or cold greenhouse.

If you like fragrant varieties as I do, try “Sublime Scent Mix” or “True Fragrance” and you won’t be disappointed. The young plants will get a head start on spring sown seeds and can be planted outdoors in early April. Flowering will subsequently be earlier. There is also something rather nice about having the promise of spring in your greenhouse over the depths of winter!

Established allotments are soon transformed in September; perhaps more so than at any other time of the year. This month is one of tidying in readiness for the onslaught of winter. There is certainly plenty of disease free spent foliage to start filling a compost bin. Weeds growth is slowing somewhat and any ground work done now goes a long way. As I harvest the last of crops such as peas and runner beans I give the ground a good weeding of any perennial weeds. It is still appropriate to hoe annual weeds a little longer too, stopping them firmly in their tracks.

During September an enjoyable task to sow green manures. They are greatly underrated and I do think more allotmenteers should do it. The plants will slow down nutrient leaching in winter rains while suppressing annual weed growth. Another advantage is they can improve your soil fertility and general condition. That sounds like a win-win situation!

I’ll also be sowing winter lettuce seed throughout the month. The brave little gem type “Vailan” is great for pots and containers in the cold greenhouse or polytunnel. During frosty conditions I cover the pots with thick graded horticultural fleece. “Winter Density” is the other classic one to grow now.

Leaf Salad ”Winter Mix” is a great alternative to lettuce with the advantage it is quicker. The loose leaf salad is produced through the autumn and in milder winter spells. Again I like to grow this under glass to offer some weather protection. Pea shoots “Twinkle” grown on your windowsill at home complements the leaves rather nicely. It goes to show there is no need to buy salad leaves from the supermarket even in winter!

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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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