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Top July Allotment Tips

pea mangetout

The allotment season is joyously in full swing and it really is a fun time to be down on our plots. The long days and warm temperatures mean early evening visits are a real treat. It is the best time to water too, not that we’ve needed to do much of that yet! Allotments are also a great place to potter around, unwinding after a stressful day at work.

Summer holds so much unbridled promise and excitement with all the tasty, fresh produce now starting to come our way. I’ve harvested my first Broad Beans of the year and delicious they were too! They really are a must-have on my plot. Harvest them young and the flavour is unrivalled. Broad Beans also complement early and second early varieties of potatoes, which are now also ready to eat in abundance.

Suttons broad beans buy plants and seed

For a burst of late-season potatoes, July is the time to sow a variety such as Nicola. There is no need to chit the tubers as the soil is so lovely and warm now. If planted right up to the end of July, the potatoes will be ready for harvesting at the end of October into November. If you grow them in well-drained soils or large containers, why not keep a few until Christmas Day? Frost becomes a risk from mid-September so, by late summer, it is a good idea to dig out the trusty frost protection fleece.

My burgundy-coloured Mangetout ‘Shiraz’ plants had wonderful flowers on them around the middle of June. They wouldn’t have looked out of place is a mixed border or potager. Purple-coloured mini pods soon formed and I’ve had the first picking of what looks like a big crop on its way. Young Shiraz pods are tasty when eaten raw. I also lightly steam them. Peas of all types thrive in wetter, cooler conditions.

It is interesting that Strawberries are considerably later than this time last year on my plot. Do ensure that you keep them covered with netting. In damp weather, it is important to keep the rows as weed-free as possible to maximise airflow and help minimize fruit rot.

Strawberry Toscana plants Suttons

Due to the shortage of sunshine in June, my Courgettes are developing slower than last year. They are forming nicely now though. French Beans and squashes have also struggled to get away due to the cooler temperatures.

The flipside is my brassica collection has really responded very well to the generally wet conditions of June. When compared with last year, the contrast couldn’t be greater. Last summer growth was slower and whitefly struck some of the stressed plants. This year the leaves are bigger, a deeper green colour and they are loving life! Differing weather conditions bring different positives and negatives with each passing year.

Now that the season for picking Asparagus has ended, it is an ideal opportunity to give the plants a good feed. An organic product such as Earth Cycle Compost Soil Conditioner does the job well. If your beds are prone to drying out, using Strulch mulch will retain moisture and deter many annual weeds.

Frustratingly, while hoeing in between the showers recently, I severed a French Bean plant. Typically, I have fewer of these than anything else and now I’ve got one less!

Last week, I spotted a lone frog in a patch of long grass near my shed and fruit bed. This is welcome as frogs are a natural slug predator. This is also a further example of a natural balance developing on chemical-free plots. That said, there is a limit to what one frog can do. Fingers crossed he or she has some friends!

Finally, there is still plenty of time to sow follow on crops of favourites such as Carrot, Kohl Rabi, Lettuce, Radish and Turnip.

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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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