We head towards midsummer with our plots generally in very good order. Many allotment sites across the country are thriving, some are at a standard not seen for a number of years. This is one positive of the extra leisure time due to Covid-19 and lots of sunny weather.
However, we gardeners are never totally happy are we? There has been a distinct lack of rainfall over the past two months. This has meant a huge demand on water taps on allotment sites lucky enough to have mains water. With social-distancing rules applying, this has resulted in some interesting side-stepping manoeuvrers by several plot holders in a bid to keep their distance!
So far, I’ve spot watered my plants using watering cans, where required. As well as keeping water usage to a minimum it deters weed growth and slugs. A hosepipe is a good option if physically you can’t lift heavy watering cans. They are also a boon if your soil is really parched or indeed you just want an easier option!
Too much water at the wrong stage of the development can be counter-productive. Roots are of course meant to travel down looking for water and overwatering can risk too many surface roots.
Sadly there are still some allotment sites without mains water. And with water butts running dry, this period has been a real challenge for them.
The asparagus picking season is gradually coming to a close. From mid-June the plants should be left to recuperate for next year. When the soil is damp, add a top-dressing of well-rotted manure to the crowns or a balanced granular fertiliser.
I’ve finished planting out the last of the squash and pumpkin plants along with the outdoor cucumber ‘Marketmore’. If the night temperature drops suddenly, it is worth keeping some fleece handy for cucumbers. Although the risk of frost should have passed, they don’t like night-time temperatures dropping below 5C.
My leeks are also transplanted into their final growing space and it is vital to keep these well watered in the first few weeks.
Early summer is the period I prefer to sow swede directly in rows, in a pre-prepared bed. Flea beetle can be a pest so it may be worth covering the young seedlings with fleece or enviromesh if required. This will deter them. Turnip and radish seedlings are similarly affected.
Talking of covering things up, my strawberry bed is now protected with a bird protection net. The fruit is forming nicely and is quite noticeably a week or two earlier than last year.
Interestingly, I observed a pigeon pinching green gooseberries from a neighbouring plot last week. The fruit may not ready for human consumption, but it seems with the humble pigeon it is a different matter.
The dry weather has meant hoeing has been a really effective form of weed control. The young severed weed seedlings have withered within a matter of hours. It doesn’t take long to keep on top of annual weeds, if you devote up to an hour per week to hoeing.
Some of the early potato varieties are ready to harvest now. I like to just scrape away a few tubers from each plant as required. The rest can be left attached to the plant to grow a little bigger. Early peas and broad beans are almost ready too. I am excited and it is an excitement that never dulls with each passing year.
In the greenhouse, I’m trying the Italian beefsteak tomato variety ‘Costoluto Fiorentino’. This is a variety I’ve not grown before. It can also be grown outdoors. The reviews in the gardening press are great and I’ve got high hopes for it. The plants are growing very strongly and a big crop looks to be in the offing. Fingers crossed!