‘There are mating ladybirds!’ announced my seven-year-old upon arrival at our plot at the end of May. The chatter from both my allotment neighbours stopped in an instant. Suddenly, a moment of great hilarity then broke out!
The Wonders of Wildlife
Closer inspection revealed the statement to be impressively accurate. Without doubt, towards the end of May, there was an explosion of ladybirds. In some parts of the country, mass swarms of greenfly appeared too. Aphids are predated by ladybirds so this may partly explain the apparent extra numbers. It also serves to highlight that are plots are not just places to grow our own food. They are also important green oases, especially in urban and semi-urban areas. Plots that are managed organically or are free of artificial chemical sprays, develop a kind of ecosystem. Eventually, a predator-prey balance begins to establish. Predators like ladybirds and hoverflies will increasingly visit. Making the transition just takes a little time to allow that all important balance to develop.
Still, on the wildlife theme, I observed an exciting development just outside the allotment site gate! Nestled just three foot off the ground, in the crevice of the back of a nearby street light, is a nest belonging to a family of blue tits. How industrious and clever is that? It is just about as safe an environment from predators as you could find. It just shows as we quietly go about our quest to grow as much food as we can, there is a hidden world going on around us.
During May, I’ve been enjoying a bumper crop of asparagus, with pickings every two-three days. And the purple sprouting broccoli soldered on too – until the middle of May. Both of these crops are must-haves on any plot. They provide fresh nutritious veg at a time of year when it is in relatively short supply. As a sideshow to this, I discovered in the absence of my allotment bag, that both crops fit nicely in the basin of my sun hat for the walk home! Make do and mend and all of that…
It is worth remembering not to harvest asparagus beyond mid-June. This allows the plants to build up strength for next year.
Tasks This Month
Early June is a time when a key focus is on keeping our young transplants supplied with enough moisture. This will aid their establishment, as the plants still haven’t developed a full root system. In hot, dry weather, they will need a little help. The idea is that the roots head downwards looking for moisture, of course. Nevertheless, it is important to spot-water when required.
Another routine task is to hoe regularly over the summer months. Using a hoe with a blade that is nice and sharp will cut down young weed seedlings before they can establish. The weeds can be left on the soil surface to wither away as a kind of temporary mulch.
Perfect Potatoes & Brilliant Beans
One of the highlights of June is a bumper crop of early (new) potatoes. Scrape away the soil gradually to reveal those tasty spuds whose skin can be left on or simply rubbed away. Rather than digging the whole plant up, by harvesting just a few at a time, this allows the remaining tubers to grow bigger.
Maincrop potatoes should be growing strongly now. Periodic earthing up is a job now for the next three months, a job best done when the soil is damp.
June also sees overwintered broad beans begin cropping. This is another welcome development on my plot. Nothing beats the flavour of young, tender broad beans, selected deliberately before the pods get too large.
We may be starting the cropping season in earnest now but there are still plenty of seeds to sow.
What to Sow Now
All summer salad crops including, lettuce, loose mixed salad leaves, radish and spring onion can be sown. Beetroot and carrots can be sown every three weeks to ensure continuity. French Beans love warm conditions are the variety ‘Safari’ can be sown up to the end of June.
All of this goes to show what a fun time of year to be an allotment gardener, this is!