Friday, 7 August 2015

Rooko's August Top 10 Tips & Tryouts

1. August is probably a good month to spray weedkiller, (if you use it), onto those nasty perennial weeds, whilst they have a good covering of foliage to absorb it.

2. Pick veggies, such as runner beans, french beans, peas regularly, which will encourage the plants to produce more fruits.  Biggest is not always best, small and sweet is often the best.

3. If you have an abundance of veggies, why not invite some friends over for a B.B.Q. and utilize the extra fruit and veggies in a salad/meal.

4. August can be a fairly dry month, regular, consistent watering, particularly of seedlings, potted plants and hanging baskets may be required. Don't get dehydrated, have a drink yourself too.

5. Taking cutting from half hardy bedding plants is a good idea this month.

6. If the weather has been particularly dry add mulches around beds and borders to aid water retention.

7. Watch out for signs of late blight on tomatoes/potato plants. Remove any infected plants and burn or bag and bin them, don't add them to a compost heap.

8. Weeding is usually a year round chore, but many weeds have seed heads throughout August, make sure these seed heads are not added to your compost heap, unless you can ensure temperatures within the heap are high enough to kill the seeds off. Remember the old saying, 1 years seeds = 7 years weeds.

9. On the subject of weeds, many of them or different parts of them are edible. Check out which ones can be useful before discarding them.

1. Sow the following this month: Spring Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage, Kohl-rabi, Lettuce (Winter hardy), Spring Onions, Radish, Spinach and Turnips.
2. Plant out Savoys, Cauliflowers and Kale.
1.  Keep weeding & hoeing.
2. If you are storing potatoes for later use, ensure any damaged ones are used, not stored.
3. Pinch out side shoots on tomatoes, leaving 4 or 5 trusses on each plant in general.
4. Turn your compost heap and spray with water if it is very dry.
5. Compost & manure heaps are attractive places for wasps to build their nests, so be wary when disturbing the heaps.


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Tray Bien???

Another good harvest today, salute the kernal 2015.

Another harvest
Todays Harvest (29/7/15)

There's Always Tomorrow!!

Friday, 24 July 2015


Some rainwater at long last pouring from the clouds, at least I think that's what it is, with weeks without any its difficult to remember what a good downpour of rainfall looks like. Although over the past couple of months we have experienced a couple of thunder storms and a little drizzly, muggy weather the allotments have been parched, up until last night when the rain started. My recent visits to the plots have been intermittent for a while now, mainly due to the fact that my house sale is still progressing and the priority has been, jumping through the various hoops associated with organizing completion of the sale. Watering the plots has been a pain lately with some varieties of veggies not liking the hot dry weather conditions at all. To compound problems it looks like the water fittings around our allotments will have to be updated, special underground tanks fitted and hose pipes and water meters banned in future. So far this year I have managed to use water from the drainage ditch at the southern end of my plots to water my plants. That source dried up about a fortnight ago. In fact over the past 2 years the only "mains water" I have used has been approximately 30, 2 liter watering cans full. If these long dry Springs and Summers continue, which I think they will, in this part of the country, I am seriously thinking of dispensing with growing certain crops. The main ones adversely affected by the dry conditions so far being, turnips, swedes, some oriental greens and certain brassicas. Germination of some seeds has also been hit and miss with temperatures being above their germination limits.

Water Supply Getting Low
The Last of The Water (and mulch) Duckweed from the Drainage Ditch (17/July/15)
 Despite the dry conditions most of my crops have fared well with few problems along the way. Weeding has not been a problem, with many of the usual annual weeds not making an appearance, or the ground being too dry for them to fully develop this year. My sweetcorn has done exceptionally well so far, with up to 5 cobs per plant, (usually 2 max). I expect some of them to be fully ripened within the next week or so. Tomatoes, both inside my poly tunnel and growing outside are also excellent this year but slow to ripen. The fruit crops have done well, apart from cherries which I thought had been taken by birds last month, but on closer inspection, many were lost due to the June drop. Strawberries were rather disappointing this year, despite being well watered, both during and after cropping. Alpine strawberries on the other hand, have done well and are still fruiting vigorously after each picking. You win some and lose some!!  My apple crop in particular is very good this year. My 4 fruit trees, cherry, apple, pear and plum, were originally planted on the bank of the drainage ditch which is more or less the southern boundary of N1 Plot. Being close to a large hedgerow this area is home to hundreds of different weeds and wild plants as well as the insects and other wildlife they attract. In previous years I have kept the ground under and around the trees cultivated. This year I left it to grow wild. The result seems to be a lack of disease on the foliage etc of my fruit trees, which had been apparent in previous years. Bio-diversity at work no less. Runner beans again have been slow growing with the dry conditions this year and are only just producing a few beans. Looking around other plots on our allotments, very few seem to have lush growth on the plants. Climbing french beans (cobra) have again come up with the goods and several harvests have been done lately along with dwarf beans (purple teepee). 6 rows of peas have been harvested from No 3 bed, both (Hurst greenshaft) and 2 rows of  mangetout peas were prolific and good quality.  Marrows, courgettes and pumpkins currently growing away on N2 Plots' 5 bed don't seem to mind the dry conditions and seem to be producing fruit almost as fast as it can be harvested. Cucumbers within the poly tunnel are both prolific and gigantic. The specimens planted outside, (from potted seeds), have been slower to grow and are only just flowering. Onions again this year have been excellent with the majority of them already harvested. My sprout plants are in good condition in No 4 bed, which is more than can be said for the cavolo nero and the romanesco, with most of the romanesco quickly running to seed. Cabbages have remained in good condition, although a couple of seeded drills in No4 bed failed to germinate. Lettuce (mixed and crispheads) have done well again, even with little watering along with the reliable bolt hardy beetroot. My potato crop taking up the whole of No 2 bed seems in reasonable condition. The plants are not as tall or lush as last seasons specimens and the rain today will certainly freshen them up somewhat. 3 "trial" plants were lifted last week. One plant contained 10 rather large tubers with the other 2 plants containing a dozen tubers each, which I would class as medium sized. As these are main crop desiree spuds, planted early, another fortnights' time should see them being lifted. The quality of the carrots in No1 bed remains to be seen, again the top growth is not as lush as in previous years. My asparagus bed has come on leaps and bounds this year with plenty of strong growth, on the downside, picking off the ever increasing hoards of asparagus beetles has been a full time occupation. What looks like 2 good rows of parsnips are also doing well in bed No1, which I attribute to the mud and silt taken from the drainage ditch, which was spread over this bed last year, in lieu of manure.    

Tomatoes Poly Tunnel (Mid July 15)
Fruit Picking Late June
Fruit Picking (Late June 2015)
No 4 Bed
No 4 Bed (7/7/ 2015)
Cucumbers Poly Tunnel (7/7/15)

There's Always Tomorrow!!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Rooko's July Top 10 Tips & Tryouts

1. Temperatures in many parts of U.K. have been in the high 20's to mid 30 degrees C making some gardening tasks physically challenging. Grass cutting being one of them. Lawns and grass paths etc can usually be left to grow for a while longer, which will prevent the grass scorching/drying out and save you some time and energy??

2. If you have house plants on windowsills in hot weather the sunlight can be magnified through glass windows, ensure plants are not being scorched or frequently drying out due to the extra heat.

3. Many types of fruit will be ready, or almost ready for harvesting this month. Consistent watering is required for fruit to bulk out. Water around fruit bushes and trees and avoid splashing water onto the fruit.

4. This year has seen a rise in the number of asparagus beetles attacking my asparagus plants, (hot dry weather conditions). The common asparagus beetle is about 1 cm long with cream, red and blue/black markings. The adults generally appear first in Spring and can produce several generations per year. Large populations can kill off a full crop of asparagus. Insecticides containing pyrethrum are effective against asparagus beetle. Hand picking them off the plants is an alternative if you don't use chemicals, but the beetles are very adept at dropping to the ground when threatened, where they are difficult to see.

5. Inconsistent watering of cucumbers may give them a bitter taste. Keep the soil around cuc plants evenly moist, add some good quality compost around the base of the plants with mulch on top of it, as they begin to fruit.

6. Continue with successional sowing of quick growing veggies such as, lettuce, radish, turnips, spring onions, beetroot, cucumbers etc.

7. Regular hoeing of beds and borders and removal of weeds will help to keep your plants healthy, whilst keeping the soil hoed will help water to soak easily into the soil. Some weeds are useful as host plants keeping certain insects away from vegetables.

8. Thinning out fruit if a heavy crop is expected may be an option this month. Thin out any diseased or damaged fruits first and support branches, stems of plants/trees to prevent them snapping under the weight of their fruit.

9. There are over 200 types of  hoverflies in Britain. They are useful insects to gardeners. Their larvae will consume aphids whilst the adults are good pollinators.   

1. Sow French Beans, Beetroot, Carrots, Chinese Cabbage Spring Cabbage, Chicory, Kohl-rabi, Lettuce, Peas, Radish.
1. Watering is usually a major task during July.
2. Mulching may help to retain water in the soil but be on the lookout for slugs and other pests.
3. Keep weeds at bay with more hoeing.
4. Feed tomatoes and Onions.
5. Check Brassicas for caterpillars/eggs.
6. Water brassicas with a salt & water mix to keep caterpillars off them.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

As Is (June 2015)

The annoying persistent stiff, cold breeze returned a few days ago with a change of direction, now blowing from an easterly direction rather than westerly across the allotments. So what difference has that made down my plots. Yellowing of my sweetcorn plants for a start, they don't like a fresh breeze. Direct seed sowing is frustrating, trying to ensure the seeds don't blow out of my hands before I get them safely into their drills. I don't use the plastic contraptions for sowing seeds as I have found them pretty hopeless in the past. Any tall plants such as peas and beans are being blown over but not to any great extent yet. Some time ago I began the task of putting up pea sticks to support (obviously) my pea plants. Having completed both outside ends of several rows I got distracted from this task at the time. Anyway I didn't complete the job, but what has become apparent is that the plants around the perimeter of the bed are supported with sticks and as such are sheltering the rest of the plants in the middle of the bed. All are standing erect despite the breezy weather. This might be a time saving trick for the future.

Leeks L-Shaped bed (11/June/15)

Runner beans
Runner beans L-Shaped bed (11/June/15)
Well that's the annoying stuff out of the way, except for the fact that the birds have decimated my crop of cherries for this season, twas a good crop too. I expect they were taking revenge for the fact that they can no longer feast on my strawberries and currants since the completion of the fruit cage on No1 bed. The weather recently, despite the cold breeze has been mostly sunny with alternate overcast days, so planting, sowing and various other tasks have continued on a regular daily basis. No4 bed has been planted out somewhat, with marrows, courgettes and squashes. More successional sowing of lettuce, spring onions and brassicas has been completed. Little weeding has been needed lately, mainly due to the continuing dry weather, although another session of grass mowing and edging was done a couple of days ago.

More Strawberries Fruit Cage (11/June/15)

Currants Fruit Cage (11/June/15)
With the poly tunnel almost empty of trays and pots containing seedlings, I spent this afternoon reorganizing it. The borders had some compost added to them and were hoed over before some seed sowing took place. A large inverted plant pot was left on the ground in the back corner of the tunnel as shelter for the resident frog who currently lives in there. The first few tomatoes have just developed, inside the tunnel, since yesterday and back out on the L-Shaped bed, only 1 runner bean from the 42 sown a few weeks ago, had failed to germinate, although I found 1 well developed plant pulled from the ground this morning, possibly due to bird damage. After completing the work in the poly tunnel, I decided to replenish one of my water tanks, taking more water from the drainage ditch, utilizing a metal bucket with its handle tied to a piece of rope, I really must get around to installing a water pump, sooner rather than later. With the temperatures at about 25 degrees C this afternoon and 30 degrees C in the poly tunnel, with the door open, it was warm work. By the time the water tank was half filled it was time to spuddle off home for a cuppa.

No1 Bed (Roots)(11/June/15)

Gooseberries 2 Bed (11/June/15)
No2 Bed
No 2 Bed Top (11/June/15)
No3 Bed Legumes (11/June/15)
Broad beans
2nd Batch of Broad beans Bed 3 (11/June/15)
Bed 4 Brassicas (11/June/15)
Bed 5
Bed 5 Marrows Squashes Bridgwater beans Broad beans (11/June/15)
First Tomatoes Appearing Poly Tunnel (11/June/15)

There's Always Tomorrow!!