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August Allotment Tips 2015

The recent wetter weather has brought the allotment on a treat. There really is no substitute for rainwater and recently we have had plenty of it!

The overwintering veg especially the savoy cabbage “January King” and the F1 cabbage “Kilaxy” have responded accordingly and are coming on really well. It is worth noting “Kilaxy” is a useful good-looking, late autumn Dutch white type of cabbage that will helpfully stand into early winter.

I’ve been transplanting Swedes earlier this week- they’ve settled in really well with the damp weather. They should be ready to harvest between December and March with the non-disturbed plants left in situ, ready to eat, by October.

Experience has taught me allotmenteers who work with mother-nature are the ones who ultimately reap the most success. I had the perfect illustration of this on my own plot last week. Some of my broad beans had typically, without warning, succumbed in a matter of days to blackfly. On a closer inspection the blackfly were themselves under attack!  Adult ladybirds and their larvae were having a feast picking off the flies at will. Intriguingly the much maligned wasp joined the party too. For several minutes I witnessed several worker wasps taking the blackfly thus helping to mop them up. Two days later there were no traces of neither pest nor predator. The finger and thumb control method (although not for the squeamish) is another option to control smaller outbreaks.

Sometimes our allies do need a helping hand. The Nemasys “Grow your own” multiple pest killer pack offers help. These are naturally occurring nematodes that predate on a host of other pests such as, onion fly, gooseberry sawfly, carrot root fly and cabbage root fly and codling moth until October.

Soft fruit has been one of the best performers of the year to date. Just one redcurrant plant “Rovada” has yielded a whopping 5lb of fruit. Redcurrant wine here we come!

Strawberries too have been a roaring success; every plot holder has the same joyous tale to tell here–pounds and pounds of luscious berries.

I am quite traditional with my choice of varieties and the tried and tested “Cambridge Favourite” hasn’t ever let me down. For beginners, the easy to grow strawberry plant is a great way to get begin in your allotment adventure.  If space is tight, then a strawberry planter is a good idea. However, careful diligence is required with watering.

By startling contrast tree fruit is having a relatively poor year. On our allotment site there are relatively few plums and apples. Admittedly pears have fared a little better. What a difference a year makes from last year’s bountiful tree fruit harvest. It just goes to show there are winners and losers every year..

Finally on the windowsill at home I harvested my first ever “Crimson Crush” tomato on July 27th. The flavour was superb- pure tomato, juicy and flavoursome. I cannot wait for the rest of the crop to catch up!

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Lee Senior

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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