June on the Allotment 2016
It has been a cold spring this year and everything seems to be that little bit later. I am only now starting to harvest a few strawberries and my autumn sown broad beans are late producing so they are covered in blackfly – normally I think autumn sown broad beans are fairly safe. This time there is little point in picking out the tender growing tips, the blackfly are crowded all the way down the stems – drstic measures are called for!
Maintenance - around the plot and in greenhouses or poly-tunnels –
* Birds are always a problem though, thankfully, not indoors. Netting brassica plants is probably essential. I have also found it necessary to put nets over peas and carrots.
* Berries, particularly gooseberries, are especially susceptible to harvesting by blackbirds. *They also hugely enjoy redcurrants.
* Slugs and snails are not so much of a problem in Green houses and poly-tunnels but do keep as lookout for them just in case. They can be quite a serious problem under cloches and in cold frames and a major issue on outdoor plants, especially brassicas. Do keep an eye on their activity – slug traps, pellets, etc are useful though, they can also be quite a pest underground with root crops and potatoes.
* Watch, also, for red spider mite on indoor plants – they like dry warm conditions and can take over and destroy your indoor aubergines, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and chilli plants. The leaves of affected plants will take on a mottled unhealthy appearance. On closer inspection you will see webs, mostly on the backs of leaves and when the infestation is severe, between leaves and stems [if the infestation reaches this level, it is best to dig up and remove the infected plants – keeping a close eye on nearby plants for similar infection].
* Carrot Root Fly – an ongoing problem in the UK for carrot crops. When thinning rows of carrots disturb the ground as little as possible and dispose of the thinning well away from your carrot beds. Alternatively, sown the crop very thinly to avoid thinning.
* By June you should finish harvesting asparagus. We should now allow the spears to develop into ferns to encourage strong growth in the crowns next year. Watch out for asparagus beetle and remove any beetles or larvae as soon as they are seen. This year I am seeing loads of them
* Aphids - particularly on broad beans, [Autumn sown broad beans are less likely to be attacked by blackfly – with spring sown crops, remove the tender top growth, once the first flowers have set to discourage this pest] and whitefly [on brassicas]. Watch out, also, for ants [especially red ants which seem to be more destructive and quicker to bite than their black ant cousins] – while they don’t, in themselves, damage the plants, they encourage aphids and will build their nests under plants undermining them.
* Cabbage White Butterflies. The green caterpillars of this variety can demolish your plants very quickly. Check daily, if you can and remove any caterpillars you see.
* Earth up main-crop potatoes as they grow.
* Pinch out the side shoots of cordon tomato plants as they appear [not from bush tomatoes], on plants already growing on in green houses and poly-tunnels. Stake or tie up the plants as they develop to keep them upright.
* Keep the plot tidy - cut grass on paths regularly to prevent weeds and grass from encroaching on your plot and to reduce slugs and snails.
* Weeding – keep seed beds, particularly, free from weeds. Hoeing is useful but take care to not damage young plants [hoeing is not very effective in wet weather as the hoed weeds will often re-root].
* Support your young peas plants as they start to grow. It is also a good idea to net them - young pea shhots make a wonderful meal for our greedy pigeons.
Preparation and planning
*Re-dig beds to create a good workable tilth - ready for planting out. As far possible, maintain the plan you created over the winter for good crop rotation – sometimes this does not work out as planned – weather, timing and condition of the soil can prevent implementation of excellent plans. Avoid planting root crops where you have added manure or lime.
* In June you can still sow many seeds outdoors and preparation of the seed beds is important for good germination. [If the ground is too hard in a dry month to create a fine tilth, try watering the ground well, leave for a short time then water again. If this does not break down unyielding ground, create a furrow 4 – 6inches [10 – 15cm] deep and fill this with compost [I use bought-in compost when necessary]. Sow the seeds into this as normal. The seeds and young plants may well need lots of watering in dry weather to ensure germinating and growing on. The addition of the compost should help the quality of the ground for the next crop when dug in. However, if using bought-in compost, be aware that it will dry out very quickly on the top couple of cms which will prevent seeds from germinating.
* When transplanting brassicas, it is a good idea to add a sprinkling of lime around each plant if you know your soil is too acid. Don’t add manure at the same time as lime but try to dig in good, well-rotted manure earlier in the season when digging the beds.
•Sowing and planting
- under cover [in green house or poly-tunnel] Herbs – basil can still be sown to have successional pots of the herb. Tomatoes, peppers, chillies, cucumbers, aubergines can still be transplanted into ground indoors or into large pots.
– outdoors – You can still sow – French beans [some varieties are better sown a bit later. Read the instructions from the seed supplier], runner beans, beetroots [although you may have sown earlier in the season, if you like this crop you can continue to sow for a couple of months:-
-Beans – French beans and runner beans can be transplanted outdoors;
-This is still a good time for sowing brassicas outdoors, try – Broccoli/calabrese, spring cabbage for next year, winter cauliflower and kale.
-Of course, carrots can be sown until the end of August, if you have suitable conditions although, I have found that I have had more success with earlier sown carrots.
-Courgettes – if you have good, kind conditions, can now be sown outdoors although I have always propagated my seedlings and grown then on indoors to plant out in June. In a good year, with predictably warm forecasts do try for an earlier crop but, I would still prefer to wait.
-Florence Fennel – a wonderful vegetable whose fresh aniseed flavour is such a wonderful addition to salads – sow from May until July outdoors;
-Peas can be sown for successional crops until the end of June. Although I have sown some developed for late sowing in late July. While this did extend my harvesting time, the crops were not amazing;
-Salad crops – lettuce, radishes, rocket, spring onions, can all be sown outdoors.
- You can still transplant outdoors – aubergines [only in warmer, sheltered areas], French and runner beans, Brassicas – broccoli and calabrese, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflowers, kale], celery, celeriac, courgettes, outdoor cucumbers, leeks, peppers and chillies[only in warmer, sheltered areas], pumpkins and squashes, outdoor tomatoes.
In all cases, harden the plants off well before planting out and do consider the weather. The young plants should be well watered into their final growing spot and continue to water until the plants have established – if necessary.
•Harvesting – By now we should be coming to the end of the ‘Lean time’. For some time, the only crops available for harvesting have been asparagus, spring cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli, lettuce and rhubarb.
• Overwintered cauliflower should be ready now, if it has survived the winter. Spinach and Swiss chard should provide a good harvest now – fresh young leaves are excellent in soups, salads, stir-fries, etc.
•Early potatoes should now be ready for harvesting but do check early in the month as growth has been slow this spring- I have now been harvesting globe artichokes for a few weeks, the purple ones especially have been outstanding. The plants have overwintered very well in spite of minimal protection and no cutting back.
•Broad beans are now at their best – Autumn sown – the Spring sown varieties are not likely to be ready until the end of the month or into July.
•Early sowings of peas – if sown under a cloche should start to provide a crop now.
•Over wintered onions and garlic will now finish their growth during the month although there is no sign yet of die-back– look out for yellowing leaves and some withering. In onions, the leaves will fold over. Lift them and set them on the ground, in dry weather or on a rack, to allow them to dry out before storing in a cool dry place.
•Young turnips, sown under cover in early spring should now be available for harvesting.
•Rhubarb should now be at its best [don’t forget that the leaves are poisonous].
•Soft fruit - redcurrants, blackcurrants and white currants as well as gooseberries, early varieties of raspberry and strawberries should now be ripening. Keep them protected from birds – they do seem to love redcurrants and gooseberries particularly. If you have lots of fruit, make sure you have containers for freezing and lots of jam-pots ready for preserving. If you still have produce in your freezer from last year, now is the time to use it up so that you have space for the new crops.
November on the Allotment 2017– What should we do this month?
-If you have netting over fruit cages, it is advisable to remove it before winter – particularly on the ‘roof’ as the weight of winter snow can collapse your cage;
-As you finish using tools and cloches, ensure they are clean and store in a safe and dry environment;
-As the crops in green-houses, cold-frames and poly-tunnels finish, wash the insides of the spaces with detergent and water or, if you prefer with Jeyes Fluid - though I find the smell quite nauseating [try to avoid this chemical on the soil but, using this should prevent the recurrence of algae for a couple of years]. You may find that the outside of your greenhouse or polytunnel has been more affected by algae than the outside [especially in a damp/wet year] and cleaning this is ‘a must’ to avoid a reduction in the light available for your crops in the coming year.
-If you have not already done so, cut back asparagus ferns as they turn yellow and compost. Remove all debris from the asparagus beds to reduce overwintering asparagus beetles;
-Clear away and compost dead rhubarb leaves -
If you have not already done so, in the milder parts of the country this is a good time to rejuvenate mature rhubarb clumps – dig up the crowns and split them. Replant the strongest pieces. Discard any small pieces and plant the best ones. Don’t dig up all of you old rhubarb plants in one year or you will have nothing to harvest the following year – the plants should be allowed to establish for a year before harvesting;
-Cut back and cover globe artichoke plants before frost becomes severe. It is recommended that they should be covered with straw but, on an exposed site, your straw may blow away – environmesh or plant fleece will make good substitutes but, don’t allow the fabric to rest on the plants.
-Keep winter crops – brassicas, leeks, parsnips, etc, clear of weeds and watch out for pests like white fly on the brassicas;
Preparation and Planning
-As summer/ autumn cropping plants finish their harvest, clear the areas of plants and perennial weeds then, start digging, especially if you have a large plot to dig. On heavy clay soil particularly, the difference between autumn dug and spring dug ground is significant.
-One of the difficulties of winter cropping vegetables – brassicas [cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, spring cabbages], leeks, parsnips is that the ground can’t be dug over until the following spring when the advantages of autumn digging [the rain and frost break down the heavy clumps of earth into a fine workable tilth] has been missed. Managing this aspect on heavy soil can be an issue if you wish to have a year round succession of vegetables;
-Prepare beds for autumn planting perennial crops, rhubarb, fruit trees, bushes and canes;
-Most of the large seed houses have now sent out their autumn catalogues. Write to them to request a catalogue or find them on-line.
Sowing and Planting
-Suitable sets for autumn planting onions, shallots and garlic;
-Broad beans – late October or early November is best for autumn sown broad beans. The advantage of autumn sown broad beans is that they can provide a crop early in the year with their early pods which provide a succulent vegetable early in the season and during the ‘hungry time’. Do leave enough to mature into broad beans which will, of course, harvest when other beans are a couple of months away from harvesting. In a ‘kind’ year will over-winter well on the plots though will probably need protection from the harshest weather. If you are using horticultural fleece or environmesh, ensure it does not lie down on the young plants during the winter as they will rot beneath the covering. Autumn sown broad bean beans are less likely to suffer from blackfly infestation than spring sown broadbeans;
-If you like to have flowers on your allotment – now is a good time to plant a good range of daffodils and tulips to give you a display and cutting flowers from late February until late April. For an early harvest of sweet peas, sow now in pots in greenhouse or poly-tunnel to plant out in early spring.
-Fruit trees, canes and bushes can now be planted into prepared plots.
-Late main-crop potatoes can still be harvested and stored now
-Brassicas – Brussels Sprouts, broccoli/calabrese, kale and winter cabbage are available now.
-Leeks and parsnips are at their best now.
-Parsley should be good until the winter frosts affect its growth although if it is a mild winter the parsley will continue to grow slowly and give a harvest.
Our native and over-wintering rare birds can look forward to a harsh time over winter so, do think about feeding them and providing water for them during the cold months.
Please don’t use bread to feed them especially white bread – this can result in a very debilitating wing growth called ‘Angel Wing’ which affects young birds and prevents them from flying or developing properly – this is a cruel end to these wonderful birds