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Top August Allotment Tips

Bee Friendly Gardening

Early this month, I’m going to harvest my summer onion sets “Stuttgarter” and “Sturon” both of which have grown well. I like to pick them after a few days of warm sunshine. The secret then is to let them dry properly before storing for winter use.

For giving value and being prolific, nothing beats the humble courgette. This year “Green Bush “is proving to be unstoppable! With regular harvesting, a new supply of small courgettes is being produced almost weekly.  I shallow fry them with my overwintered onions, (planted last autumn) coated in a tasty batter.

Harvest beetroot when they are the size of a golf ball for maximum flavour and tenderness. Larger ones can go a little woody.

Potato blight is now a real possibility, encouraged by any sustained humid and damp August weather. Early signs of the disease are unsightly brown fungal patches appearing quickly on the foliage. In just a matter of days the whole plant collapses. Cut off the stems at ground level as soon as the disease strikes. This will prevent the blight reaching those all-important potato tubers. The red-skinned maincrop variety “Sarpo Mira” is the best I’ve grown for blight resistance.

During prolonged dry spells it is important to keep runner beans well-watered. This task is one of the first on my list at this time of year.

My spring cabbage “Winterjewel” grew nicely in trays and I’ve planted it out now for growing on. I’ll harvest some as loose winter greens and leave some to form a heart to harvest next May.

A little privacy on the allotment can be no bad thing. At this time of year a combination of Globe Artichokes “Emerald”, cardoons and Jerusalem Artichokes “Fuseau” make a wonderful 7-8 feet tall living screen. Sited at the bottom boundary of my plot they produce some tasty food too both in summer and winter. All are growing in previously uncultivated land and help to provide a summer windbreak too.

Meanwhile, I never cease to be amazed by the amount of wildlife there can be on allotment plots. Two weeks ago quite by chance I came across a completely yellow ladybird on a row of parsnips. This juvenile ladybird was still attached to the larvae skin underneath it. I had witnessed literally the first minutes of the adult life of this young insect. Spots and colouring develop over the first twenty-four hours of adulthood. That really was a wow moment!

I tend to deliberately leave an odd spent plant or two here and there on my plot to flower.  Probably not what the purists would do. However, they add a bit of interest and encourage insects. Tall flowering parsnips are always a hit with ladybirds, hoverflies and the like. Kale, cabbage and broccoli all make a bright yellow spectacle for a number of days too. All in moderation of course but nonetheless we should remember our plots play a role in the wider eco-system. An increasing number of plot holders are realising this and erecting things such as the big bug and bee-friendly biome overwintering retreats. The biggest thing we can all do is grow a patch of wildflowers to supplement those inevitable nettles!

cauliflower flower

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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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