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Lockdown Tour from Those Plant People

May Growing Tips: From Val's Plot

Well, after a few weeks of really cold nights I suspect that the rest of the month will be spent moving plants from our windowsills, cold frames and greenhouses out into our plots and garden. Be careful though a some plants, like squashes and courgettes are not ready to go out in case we get some more cold evenings.
It’s time to sow beans, the second lot of peas, outdoor tomatoes and the later cabbages such as kale and purple sprouting.
Successional planting of salad seeds can continue. Carrots might need thinning.
On my plot, most plants need netting to keep off the pigeons and discourage other wildlife from enjoying my nice new plants!

Growing Advice Fruit Trees

If you are thinking about getting a new fruit tree for your plot you might like to look at the folowing suggesions:

  • Some key types to be aware of include:
  • Rootstocks can be placed into five main categories: extreme dwarfing, dwarfing, semi dwarfing, semi vigorous and vigorous. These are usually distinguished in a nursery by a combination of letters and numbers such as M26 or M9, and these differ between fruits.
  • The majority of the fruit trees sold now are provided as grafted stock and include a scion (which relates to the variety of tree) and a rootstock. The rootstocks are the foundation of the tree and control the vigour of its growth and the ultimate height. The join between the two is identified by a bulge in the stem, which shows where the wood has knotted.
  • Start with what type of fruit do you like - soft juicy stone fruits like plums or apricots, or would you prefer something from the pome family such as an apple or pear tree? There isn’t a great deal of difference between these two types and maintenance and pruning tasks are more or less the same whichever you choose.
  • It’s a long term investment, once planted they don’t like to be moved so take the time to think it.
    • For apples: Trees grown on M27 rootstocks will reach between 1.2 and 1.8m high, while trees with M26 rootstocks will grow to around 2.4 to 3m high. Those on M25 rootstocks will grow over 4.5m.
    • For cherries: Trees grown on Gisella 5 rootstocks will grow to around 2.5-3m whereas those on Colt rootstocks will grow to approximately 5-6m high.
    • For pears: Trees grown on Quince A rootstocks will be around 3-4.5m high, whereas those grown on either Quince C or Quince Adams will end up at roughly 2.5 to 3m high.
    • For peaches, plums, apricots and nectarines: Trees with St Julien rootstocks will grow to around 4.5m high while those on Ferlenain and Mont Clare will grow to 3m high.
  • Fruit trees need to be pollinated in order to create fruit, and while some varieties are self fertile (which means they will set a crop of fruit without any interaction with another tree), some aren’t. These types will need exposure to pollen from a different variety of the same tree type. Sometimes a neighbour’s tree can pollinate your own, but this is not always a failsafe method. Ideally, if you are looking at trees that require a pollination partner, you should buy two different varieties which flower at the same time of year. Some cultivars – which are known as ‘triploids’ – need a third pollinator nearby as they are poor pollinators.
  • With most fruit you’ll find some varieties that proclaim to be early or late cropping. This means you can expect fruit either before the usual harvesting time, or after, and it’s worth considering when you would like your fruit gluts. It’s also worth bearing in mind that some types taste best eaten as soon as they are picked, whereas others can be stored for a considerable time.
  • Pest and disease resistance: Like vegetables, some fruit varieties show resilience (and susceptibility) to certain pests and diseases. It’s worth talking to fellow growers and seeing if there are any issues that are prevalent in our area.

August Growing Tips: From Val's Plot

As beds get cleared when crops are harvested, if you don’t have another crop ready to drop into them, then try a green manure. Some of the summer ones can be sown until the end of August – like clover, mustard and phacelia, and others can be sown in September and October – like field beans, yellow trefoil and grazing rye. Green manures can play a big part in preventing the winter heavy rain from washing out all the nutrients and damaging the soil structure. Covering exposed soil with cardboard over the winter can also help prevent soil damage and can be dug in before planting next spring.

Read more: August Growing Tips: From Val's Plot

Autum 2023

Late October 2023- the last of the root crops are being harvested to stop the rats / slugs and other wildlife from eating them; the apples are nearly all picked and what isn’t needed is going to the Share your Spare scheme with the local food pantries and community kitchens, which our allotments have joined. It’s been great to have an easy outlet for gluts of produce this year. Beans canes and pea supports have been pulled out and the plants jumped on to squash them down a bit and then covered in cardboard and left to the worms to work their magic. Compost bins are emptied onto the other beds and again covered with cardboard. The winter greens are all netted against the pigeons. Overwintering lettuce and cabbages have been planted in the cold greenhouse which is now cleared of tomatoes and cucumbers. The green manure is holding its own just now, but when it goes over it will be left in situ and covered. Then it’s time to tackle the bramble and hawthorn hedges.

April Growing Tips: From Val’s Plot

This is the month when we start seeing brighter sunnier days and can get fooled into planting things out too soon. The soil needs to warm up a bit more first and drain after all the heavy rain we have had recently. Seeds planted in cold wet soil will simply rot. So, as you get your beds ready don’t forget to add in as much compost as you can get and maybe add some pelleted fertiliser to scatter on prior to planting; I use the plant based one Viano and I have also bought some seaweed feed for giving everything a boost once they have started growing.

Read more: April Growing Tips: From Val’s Plot

April 2023 and green manures

It’s the middle of April and its still quite cold, it’s not yet warm enough to transplant the seedlings grown at home nor for direct sowings. I have been slowly uncovering my beds, lilting the cardboard coverings and despatching the slugs, spot weeding of couch grass and ground elder. I set up beer traps on the beds I plan to sow in the next couple if week. I have been emptying all my ready compost bins onto the beds. I never have enough compost and I tend to use green manures whenever possible; those that were grown in late summer / early autumn were covered in cardboard when the frosts came and the plants died back. Now I lift the cardboard and clear any stems that haven’t been taken into the soil into the compost bins. I am thinking of using summer green manures this year, sowing soon to give the soil a boost on some beds where I can plant my beans and corn through it in a couple of months.

If you have never used green manures, here is some information on why to consider using them.

Read more: April 2023 and green manures

Jobs for November

Jobs for November

  • Collecting leaves for leaf mould
  • Clean greenhouse glass
  • Sort out your compost bins- spread on your beds if ready, otherwise turn and amalgamate bins to make room for all your autumn clearances
  • Cover beds with cardboards – some plants like beans can just be left on the surface and covered and they will rot over winter and be taken in by the worms
  • Don’t tidy up too much as overwintering insects and beetles need places to shelter and flowers and seed heads will still be used for feeding
  • Clear your greenhouse and you can re-sow with winter salad
  • Plant spring cabbage plants outside or in a cold greenhouse or cloche. If planting outside cover with netting to deter the pigeons
  • Plant spring bulbs in beds or pots

Winter on the Plot

At the beginning of December I stood on the plot and it was still very green. The green manures were still growing and the mustard had flowers that insects and bees were visiting. There were still rasperries on the canes and the brambles had green and red berries. So some of my usual jobs would have to wait. I merged some of my compost bins to give me more space and also to try and keep some heat in them so they would continue to rot down. I harvested sprouts, parsnips, black kale, autumn radishes and some white turnips. I started to clear some of the cabbage beds, collecting the last of the small heads and then covered the beds with cardboard weighted down with some bricks.  A couple of weeks later the first of the cold spells came and we had a week or so of frozen ground. As it stared to warm up a little I cut down the green manure that had succumbed to the cold weather leaving in on the ground and covering it with cardboard.

On the next couple of visits I cut back the autumn raspberries, cleared the worst of the ground elder and bindweed from the beds and covered them with a thin layer of wood chip. Then i made a start on the bramble hedge which run the full length of the plot, cutting out all the dead growth and cutting it well back so I would still be able to walk round the beds. I woodchipped underneath the brambles to make a path around all the nearby beds. All the canes and brambles were taken to the bonfire site on the allotments where they will dry out and get burnt on our twice a year bonfires, for bonfire night and solstice. The cold greenhouse is full of overwintering lettuce, from which I pick the otuside leaves to take home, and of wheelers imperial cabbage. Last year I grew some in the greenhouse and then I cut them back to the ground but left the roots in while I planted out tomatoes. I found when i cleared the tomatoes that these stumps had produced new growth and so I am now harvesting fresh spring cabbages! I also planted some new whellers imperial, red and curly kale in the greenhouse in late September and they are growing nicely.

The apples tree I planted about 4 years ago is doing well, a fantastic crop this year, and I have now pruned this back to get rid of the leggy shoots and to try and make a good shape of a tree. Next up will be pruning the currants and berries in the fruit cage. Meanwhile I have put in my order in for West Riding Organic compost and Dalefoot compost through the allotment society; sorted out my box off seeds and ordered a few new packets to fill the gaps and put all the seeds I didnt want and the ones that I had saved far too many of into envelopes for the seed swaps coming up.

Jobs for the Month: July

There isn’t s much to plant this month as you will be starting to harvest.
Chard, peas and beetroot can still be sown as can parsley.
Plants to harvest may include beans (French and runners) beetroot, broad beans, summer cabbage (Greyhound, hispi), early calabrese, carrots, early potatoes, rocket and spinach.
The weeds will need keeping in check and you should keep feeding, Seaweed liquid can be fed directly to the pants or you can spray the leaves.
Growing tips - Seeds to plant in August

  • Leaf salad winter mix can be sown outdoors up to October or indoors throughout the winter
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Salad onion White Lisbon winter hardy
  • Chicory Grumlo Verde- green rossettes ready to eat in spring
  • Pak choi tatsoi- flat spoon like dark green leaves; sow from July onwards
  • Pak choi baby choi – a half size pak choi, sow until early autumn
  • Cabbage wheeelers imperial – dark green, compact pointed heads
  • Asparagus lettuce Cracoviensis – a loose leaved lettuce, looks a bit like a cos which can be sown from July and will bolt to produce edible stems that taste like asparagus
  • Turnips – many different types. White globe, golden ball, purple top mild and zurcher are some of the more interesting ones

If you are really quick you could get a last sowing of carrot autumn king, spinach and the winter radishes.

It’s is also the time to think about ordering your autumn sown onion sets and shallots, and it won’t be long before you are ordering your garlic bulbs!

March Growing Tips: From Val's Plot

I am starting to uncover some of my beds from their cardboard coats, removing the slugs that have nestled under them as I do so. I dig out any nasty weeds such as ground elder and bind weed, but try not to disturb the soil too much, and put on bags of Dalesfoot compost where it is needed. I use raised beds and so mend any rotten boards or put back bricks that have wandered over the year. I have now planted my onions, shallot and broad beans out onto the beds. Next up is preparing the pea beds, making new cages to take the netting which is the only way to stop the wood pigeons from devouring them. Modules of peas and beetroot are in my greenhouse. I have a box of seeds ready to start sowing later in the month.

It’s always a juggling act at this time of year, with my crop rotation plan in one hand, the last of the parsnips, leeks, savoys and kale all still growing, I try to decide where I can leave the cardboard down and plant through – suitable for corn and pumpkins. It is an exciting time as I start to sow and plant out, as well as harvest. My cold greenhouse has Wheelers Imperial spring cabbage coming along nicely, I am cropping the last of the over wintering lettuce and some radishes I sowed recently are popping through. In a couple of months, it will all get cleared for the tomatoes and cleaning the glass is on the list of job to do.

Jobs for the Month: June

This is the month when you can start to relax a little after the hectic period of planting out the early crops, although there are still more seeds to sow and plants to get into the ground.

French and runner beans can be sown directly into the ground, along with beetroot and late growing calabrese. A second sowing of carrots and peas can be made. Pumpkin plants, courgettes and outdoor tomatoes are safe to play out now as the danger of frost has passed and its time to get the sweetcorn plants in. Plant them in a block to aid pollination.

It is time to pinch out the side shoots of tomatoes if you want them to grow taller (cordens) and feed all tomatoes weekly.

Hopefully you will be picking salad crop and re-sowing to keep a succession going. It’s the last month to sow Basil indoors.

You can use pelleted feed as a way to boost the nutrients in the soil.

February Growing Tips: From Val's Plot

This is the month where I plan to catch up with all the structural work that I haven’t got around to yet. I have been examining my raised beds and repairing or replacing the rotten edge boards, mending the shed from the rat attack, topping up the wood chippings on the paths and cleaning the greenhouse glass. I have been picking different types of Kale – black, curly and Uncle Bert’s (a heritage variety), savoy cabbages and parsnips. My leeks were a disaster last year as many bolted and then the later ones didn’t take off.
On the growing side, I have started to cut back the autumn raspberries and will prune my currants and apple tree and put a bucket over one of my rhubarb plants to get the early forced rhubarb, although the warmer winter weather means that the rhubarb is much more advanced than usual. I have made a start on digging out the couch grass and ground elder from my fruit cage, and when that is done I have an old strawberry bed to clear and dig over. I planted a new strawberry bed last autumn and the transplanted plants look fine.
My few seed potatoes from the earlier potato trials – a mira/ valor cross are ready to be chitted. In the greenhouse I have sweet peas a few inches high, and I have sown some sweet peppers, hot wax peppers and jalapenos, a few tomatoes and some trays of broad beans on my propagator.
I have sorted out my seeds into the months in which they need to be sown and I have started to think about the crop rotation and my growing plan for this year, so it feels like I am getting organised! The compost order has come to the allotment now so I have a mix of West Riding Organic seeds and potting composts and some of Dalefoot, vegetable, tomato and double strength, bags. So roll on March and the main sowing period begins.

Jobs for the Month: May

Many veg seeds can be sown direct, put your supports in place first for climbing varieties such as beans. Otherwise you can sow the seeds into 9cm (3 1/2 in) pots of multipurpose compost and place on the bench in a heated glasshouse or on a warm windowsill. This early sowing can then be moved into a cold frame once germinated, so the plants acclimatise gradually, before being planted outside towards the end of this month.

Further sowings of late peas, radish, carrot, lettuce and beetroot can be made into drills outside. This will ensure you get a continuous supply to harvest throughout the year. Potatoes need earthing up, as the shoots show hoe soil over them to act as a blanket protecting them from frost. Any tender plants you have kept under glass over winter can now start to be hardened off and moved outside but do it gradually.

Plants needs bees so grow as many pollinating plants as possible!

Vine weevil is one of this month’s enemy so either use a biological control* or spend evenings outside picking them off. Another is the dreaded lily beetles. If you are growing lilies in borders or containers, make sure you are vigilant this month as they will be active munching on the foliage of lilies. Adult lily beetles are easily recognisable as they are an attractive bright red colour, keep a close watch over your plants and pick the lily beetles off with finger and thumb as soon as they are seen.

Keep the onions and garlic you planted last autumn well-watered and weed free
Strawberry plants will start to produce a lot of flower, and to encourage a good fruit harvest, feed your plants with high potash granular feed. Carefully work the feed into the soil in-between the plants, or the tops of the containers. Plants in the ground can then have some straw mulch placed around the plants to protect the developing fruit as it grows.

This is the ideal time to sow some of the hardy and quick growing herbs like dill, coriander, rocket, and parsley. As the soil is warmer, so you can sow these seeds direct into the herb or vegetable garden outside in shallow drills, or into containers on the patio ready for harvesting later in the year.

Deadhead tulips and daffodils.
 Once they have finished flowering, prune spring flowering shrubs such as Forsythia,
Hardy annual seeds can be sown anytime this month up to the beginning of June and will reward you with a colourful summer display. Try sowing some nasturtiums, sunflowers, cornflowers, godetia or calendulas.

Towards the end of the month, plant out some of summer bedding plants into their final positions, once the plants have been hardened them off properly for a few weeks in a cold frame so they are acclimatised to outdoor conditions before planting.

A useful resource is the Garden Organics site which has lots of info on e.g. weeds, nematodes and comfrey!

Terry's Tomato Tips

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Children's Section

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From Val's Plot

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Jack First's Advice

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