May allotment garden

Last revised: 11 February 2018

Seasonal reminders, hints and tips.

Plot and community paths

Please ensure paths are kept clear and well trimmed. With many more people on site at this time of year it is good to remove hazards and keep path well defined for those walking around.

The tenancy agreement requires that paths around your plot are clear and well maintained. Lawn mower’s and strimmer’s are available for use to Society members.

Runner beans

During May conditions should be warm enough to sow beans directly to soil. The new shoots need to be covered with netting and use of slug pellets or some defence provided as they are very attractive to pigeon, snails and slugs. For this reason many people start off seeds in pots until plants have 3 or 4 leaves which can be planted out and usually have better survival rate.

If you have not prepared a trench earlier in the year for beans, do so now. Dig a trench about 6 inches (15cm) deep, fill with well rotted compost and manure, and recover with the soil. Leave for two weeks before planting, but keep the ground wet.

Sow two or three seeds in stations about 10 inches (25cm) apart and two inches (5cm) deep. Push a cane into the ground next to each station. The seedlings can be planted in a similar fashion, but deeper, with two or three plants per cane.

Most commonly we see two rows of beans planted about 3 feet or a metre apart and the canes are tied together at the top to form a tunnel. An alternative approach is to create a wigwam by planting in a circle and tying the canes together at the top.

Alternatives to runner beans are French beans, which are usually low growing bushes that do not need canes for support. The sowing, planting and ongoing care is similar. French beans are fairly quick to mature, which can mean two crops per year if you sow again in June.

If using canes consider adding in sweet peas. The flowers will attract pollinators to the beans and provide an attractive display.

French beans

There are many varieties, dwarf, cane, green or purple. Quick growing and produce good crops of thin sweet pods, unless you leave them longer for larger beans.

French beans can be sown earlier than runner beans because they are slightly hardier.

It is best to start the earliest sowings off under glass in pots or trays filled with good quality compost and then plant out from mid-May onwards. The plants should be set out 30cm apart in rows about 60cm apart. All beans like sunny positions and as little wind as possible. Support the climbing types with canes or netting.

Water the plants regularly to help growth. They tolerate most conditions except hard or prolonged frost. Cover the plants and seeds if starting earlier than May.

The crop will be ready in 2 to 3 months. Look out for slugs and snails which will eat holes in bean pods.

Try successive sowing every two weeks during May and June, and do so between other crops like cabbages to fill the gaps.

Peppers and Chillies

Consider transplanting to larger pot with additional fresh multi-compost, feed and keep moist, but not soaked. Provide the plant with support, and position in full light. Continue to cover from cold nights.

Carrots

While it is important to decide which variety of carrot to sow, for most the technique is the same. There are small, short, quick maturing varieties and others better suited to over winter.

Lightly dig over and rake over soil to remove stones and create a fine surface. If surface is still too lumpy, try a layer of multi-purpose compost. Make a shallow drill about half inch (1cm) deep.

Carrots can be sown between onion or garlic. Each plants helps protect the other against varies diseases and insect infestations. Take care not to disturb onion or garlic roots when sowing crops in between.

Containers, large pots and raised beds with fine soil are good positions for carrots.

Sow seeds thinly apart, water with fine spray and cover with soil. Mark the rows clearly. As seedlings develop, thin out evenly to allow remaining plants to grow. Maintain regular light watering and keep weed free.

Peas

Most peas take about 100 days from seed to maturity. If you are entering peas into the September fruit and vegetable competition, consider sowing now.

Sweetcorn

Sow seeds in module trays or small pots of multi-compost. Water well and keep indoors in a sunny spot. Keep moist until about 6 inches (15cm) tall and conditions are good for planting out.

Prepare an area of ground in sunny location for the young plants digging in lots of well rotted manure. When planting, water in well and do not allow to dry out.

Winter Crops

A wide range of brassica are planted or sown now in preparation as a winter crop. Winter cabbage, Brussel sprouts and broccoli are typical.

Do not plant where brassica were grown in previous two years, as this may pass on disease and pests.

The ground should have been prepared previously with a light dressing of garden lime, and dug with well rotted manure.

Dig a hole to trowel depth and fill two or three times with water. Drop the plants in up the bottom leaf, and press around the surrounding earth. Keep well watered.

Sowing brassica seeds now is a little late, but worth a try. The plants need to be put out before end of July to become mature enough and survive the winter. Choose your variety carefully.

Fruit bushes

Blueberries

Feed ericaceous fertiliser according to instructions on packet. Usually a feed every two weeks until fruit is ripening is sufficient.

Raspberries

Raspberries will benefit from a weak tomato feed watered into the roots every two weeks until fruit is ready to crop.

Keep raspberries well-watered during dry periods, but avoid overwatering. Avoiding drought stress is especially important during fruit set and development. Apply water preferably at ground level. Keeping the foliage, flowers and developing fruit dry helps to reduce the risk of fungal diseases.

Gooseberry Sawfly

Check gooseberry bushes for signs of sawfly. The signs include branches stripped of leaves and leaves with half moon cuts in the edges.

Picking off the caterpillar is tedious and painful. One defence is to spray thoroughly with soapy water with pressure to blow the caterpillar off. Repeat several times over the next week, and check again regularly.

The fruit is not usually mature at this time of year and using a systemic insect spray will not affect the fruit. Repeat application of spray according to makers instructions.

The grubs over winter in surrounding soil. After harvesting, carefully scrap soil from around the bush and take it well away from the plant. Cover roots with mix of fresh soil and well rotted manure. Applying a week mix of tomato feed or fruit feed will help the plant recover for next year.