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.
July on the Allotment 2017
It has been a very dry June and I'm sure, like me you have spent a lot of time watering thirsty crops. Normally, of course, it isn't necessary to water except for seedbeds, newly transplanted young plants to get them established, and crops as they are beginning to head up like cauliflowers or the fruiting 'vegetables' like curcurbits and tomatoes. many growers spend a lot of time watering unnecessarily when the plants are well established.
However, this June has been something of an exception and the rain over thae last few days has been gratefully received. I believe it's not going to last which will be a relief for holiday-makers.
Maintenance around the plot and in greenhouses or poly-tunnels –
• watch for caterpillar attacks on tomato plants – pick off and destroy as you find them – tomato caterpillars, which can be green or beige coloured and really quite chunky will feed on leaves and fruits , destroying the fruits and allowing botrytis [grey mould] into the plants.
• 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].
•For me, at any rate, slugs and snails are not a problem indoors but can still be a serious issue on outdoor plants, especially brassicas. Do keep an eye on their activity – slug traps, pellets, etc are useful though, they can be quite a pest underground with root crops and potatoes.
•Birds are always a problem though, thankfully, not indoors. Netting brassica plants is essential. Berries, especially gooseberries, are especially susceptible to harvesting by blackbirds. They also enjoy redcurrants
•Do net carrots as pigeons have discovered them a s a source of fresh food as with parsley [ having had my parsley crop totally annihilated on germination by pigeons – I now have a tub of curly and a tub of flat leaf in my garden at home – both with good netting over them. Similarly with carrots – I will now grow in tubs at home with netting and slug pellets – with luck, the height will also keep the carrot root fly away
•Carrot Root Fly – an ongoing problem in the UK for carrot crops. I have tried many methods of beating this pest, including planting above 30cm or in raised beds. I have sown in a carrot box – made for me by a kind neighbour – about 1 metre off the ground. It seems the carrot fly on my allotment field have not read the instructions. Last year I grew an excellent crop in deep tubs in my back garden – as no-one locally was growing carrots, root fly were not a problem. However, as my crop was nearing the first thinning stage I was astounded to see that my crop had disappeared. There was no indication of slugs so I assume pigeons were the culprits. I do have a bird feeding station in my garden and feel somewhat miffed that they were not satisfied with the food I was putting out daily but, next year I will try again with netting!
•Aphids - particularly on all beans[blackfly], whitefly [on brassicas], caterpillars can all weaken or eat your precious young plants. 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. Broad beans are particularly susceptible to black aphids. Remove the top growing points as soon as the plants have set pods at lower levels. While this does not eliminate the aphids it should discourage and hopefully encourage them to move elsewhere.
•Continue to 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 tomato and cucumber plants as they develop to keep them upright. By now the plants should be setting the young fruits;
•Peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, courgettes and squashes are greedy feeders and are thirsty. They will require regular feeding and watering especially in warm dry weather;
•Pick courgettes regularly to prevent them from becoming too large and to encourage the plants to produce more;
•Strawberries will now be sending out lots of new runners. Peg these into the ground near the ‘mother’ plants or into pots of compost, to create new plants. They will need to be watered regularly especially if in pots. If you don’t need the runners for new plants – remove them as soon as you see them as they will take away from the ‘mother plant’
•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]. However, hoeing regularly in dry weather will reduce the evaporation of water from the ground and should help to prevent heavy, clay ground from splitting.
Preparation and planning
- re-dig beds as soon as crops are harvested, to create a good workable tilth - ready for planting out.
Although it is early for ‘autumn’ digging, I will start to dig ground where crops have been harvested which will give me a chance to do the necessary digging [I have a large area to cover and opportunities for digging can easily be missed]. Areas such as pea beds and those for early brassicas can now be turned over.
Don’t forget that strawberry beds which are three years plus old should now be cleared – the ground re-dug and a new area set up for the young runners when rooted.
Sowing and planting
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;
Florence Fennel – a wonderful vegetable whose fresh aniseed flavour is such a wonderful addition to salads – sow from May until July outdoors;
Leeks can be transplanted as soon as the ground can be prepared. If it is very dry, water it well beforehand;
Spinach and Swiss Chard can still be sown;
Salad crops – lettuce, radishes, rocket, spring onions, can all be sown outdoors;
Turnips can be sown until the end of August for harvesting into winter.
Second-Early and Early-Maincrop potatoes are now be ready for harvesting.
Main crop peas and beans – runner and French.
Beetroots and carrots are also just coming to their peak quality.
Lettuces and spring onions [see above]. The lettuces won’t sit too long in the bed – eat them quickly or give them away and replant with new seedlings. [ I am really bad at harvesting my lettuces and waste so many of them in-spite of offering them to others- I should rethink the varieties I grow and the quantities
Globe artichokes are still harvestable although watch out for greenfly and black fly – they are quite a nuisance now coming into their main harvesting season.
Soft fruit - redcurrants, blackcurrants and white currants as well as gooseberries, 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.
Hot & Spicy Redcurrant and Chilli Jelly
Redcurrants – I am basing this recipe on approximately 3 Kg redcurrants.
2 whole garlic bulbs [ all dirt and outer leaves removed –cut across through the bulbs]
1 piece fresh ginger root approx. 3 cm x 6 cm or equivalent [it is not necessary to peel, just cut it up]
5 – 6 dried or fresh hot red chillies – broken into small pieces
3 – 4 dried, crushed Kashmiri Chillies – these chillies are mild bur have a very distinctive ‘smoky’, flavour
1 stick of cinnamon bark [or 2 or 3 pieces of Cassia bark which I prefer ... often sold as cinnamon bark]
1 dsp, whole pimento seeds [ Allspice ] crushed roughly
20 gm approx. - Birds Eye or Scotch Bonnet Chillies – or similar hot chillies. Add more or less according to your taste
•Remove all pieces of twig or leaves from the berries and add to a preserving pan [ it is not necessary to remove the fine stems of the bunches].
•Add the spices, ginger, garlic and enough water to show just below the level of the fruit – except for the Birds Eye or Scotch Bonnet chillies.
•Simmer gently until all the fruit, garlic and spices have broken down and blended – at least an hour.
•Allow to cool slightly.
•Pour the mixture into a scalded jelly bag [firmly attached to an appropriate stand]. I use a ladle so that the mixture is added gently – a small jug will do as well.
•Leave to drain overnight if possible or, at least for 8 hours. Do not squeeze the bag
•Measure the liquid into a clean preserving pan.
•Add 1 kg of sugar for each litre of juice – or 1lb Sugar for each pint of liquid [ the measurements are not equivalent but work just as well]
•Chop finely, the fresh Birds Eye or Scotch Bonnet Chillies and add to the juice with the sugar.
•Simmer very gently until the sugar has dissolved. Stir well.
•Bring to the boil and using a sugar thermometer boil until the temperature has reached 220ºF or 105ºC.
Strawberry Slush and Strawberry Iced Lollies
I am thinking of my elder grandson who is very allergic to dairy and eggs. This ‘recipe’ uses only strawberries and sugar. His Mum will allow me to give him these iced lollies but, she says, if he gets on a sugar high I will have to deal with him. So, not too much sugar.
Strawberries – hulled, sliced and enough to fill the food processor
Caster sugar – 1 Tblsp. Poured in on top of the strawberries
•Whizz the strawberries and sugar in the food processor until smooth.
•Pour the mixture into ice-lolly moulds and freeze
•Enjoy and let the children enjoy
•Any extra mixture can be poured into a freezer container and used scooped out or cubed into ice cream or champagne to make a delicious cooling cocktail.
Hot and Sour Gooseberry Chilli Jelly
2 kg slightly unripe gooseberries
A good handful of dried red chillies broken up [keep seeds in]
½ tsp. Aqsafeotida powder
2 – 3 whole garlic bulbs [remove all dirt and cut across the bulbs to ensure all cloves are ‘open’
A good sized chunk of fresh ginger root – 8 – 9 cm long [2 – 3 inches], cut up, it is not necessary to peel
25gm [1oz] green Bird’s Eye chillies – well chopped
•Remove any leaves, twigs or dirt from the gooseberries and wash.
•Place the gooseberries in a large pan or a preserving pan and add water – not enough to cover the fruit.
•Add the garlic, chillies and ginger and bring to the boil.
•Simmer until the fruit and garlic have well broken down. Mash any garlic cloves still whole with the back of the wooden spoon.
•Allow to cool slightly then ladle carefully into a scalded jelly bag over a suitable container.
•Leave for approx.10 – 12 hours or overnight. Do not squeeze the bag!
•Measure the liquid and add 1 kg sugar / litre [1lb sugar / pint] – adjust the quantities for the amount of liquid you have.
•Add the green chillies and stir over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved.
•Bring to the boil and using a sugar thermometer, boil until the temperature has reached 105º C or 220º F.
•Pot up in sterilised HOT pots. Cover and label.