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Top July Allotment Tips

Strawberry Harvest

On the allotment as ever, the weather has been the main talking point. June was generally rather dry, almost until the month end. This put some plants under stress. I lost nearly a full row of young turnip seedlings after they succumbed to aphids in the heat during the middle of the month. Some of the others bolted due to the heat and dry conditions.

Several of my potatoes suffered too, being a little stunted and lacking vigour due largely to the lack of moisture. Meanwhile a neighbouring plot holder suffered some die back on established raspberry canes. Another suffered the loss of a young plum tree.These are just a few examples of what can happen in extreme conditions.

It is interesting to note that where my soil lacks a little organic matter (and therefore humus) is where the problems have been. Well-rotted manure is a wonderful saviour on allotments; acting as a sponge soaking up moisture and slowly releasing it to the plants.

There are plenty of positives too. Due to the good weather, strawberries started cropping rather early, even before Wimbledon!  It is essential to keep the fruit netted to stop birds helping themselves. Pleasingly I’ve noticed it is becoming fashionable again to put straw around the plants; this is a great way to keep the fruit off the ground, with the added benefit of deterring slugs.

After Fathers’ Day I stopped harvesting my asparagus plants to allow them to build up strength for next year. I’ll soon be adding some well-rotted organic matter around the plants to increase fertility. This is best done while the soil is damp.

One of the main tasks in summer is to regularly hoe around your plants. On dry sunny days it is rather pleasing to see the weeds wilt in front of your eyes!

It is also important not to allow runner beans to run short of water at the roots especially when flowers form.

There are still plenty of seeds to sow even though we are deep into summer. Chinese Cabbage F1 “Natsuki” can be sown now and next month, for use as a stir fry. Alternatively it can be left to develop as a normal hearted cabbage. I’ll also be sowing some spring cabbage seed” Wheelers Imperial” for harvesting late April next year.
There is still time to sow Sweet William “Pinocchio” for cut flowers from your plot next year.

I’ve been harvesting some first early potatoes, iceberg lettuce, broad beans, radish and some exceptionally tasty mangetout peas over the past few days. Mangeout sugar snap pea “Oregon Sugar pod” grow really fast and need picking while young, every other day or so.

For allotment beginners this time of year does bring challenges. The main task is to try and get control of what will doubtless be overgrown patches of your new plot. A combination of using either a strimmer, weedkiller or weed fabric should help. Sometimes all three may be needed. One common mistake that beginners make in summer is to begin by rotavating a weedy plot. This is the worst thing to do as weeds such as; couch grass, mares tail and ground elder will be spread across your new plot.

Finally, I do like a little bit of colour on my plot. This year I’ve deliberately left an old parsnip plant from last year to go to seed this year. They are great for wildlife and also as an allotment talking point. The plant has begun flowering and already I’ve noticed quite a few mating ladybirds on it.

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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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