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!!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Rooko's June Top 10 Tips & Tryouts

1.  Add some colour to your veggie patch (or planters/flower borders) this month by sowing some Chard. The leaves usually appear in varying shades of green with different plants having a wide variety of colours. A useful vegetable which is normally pest free and easy to grow.

2.  Believe it or not, but the E.U. (in their infinite wisdom) huh!! have deemed that the use of coffee grounds to enrich your garden soil is O.K. but using them to kill certain garden pests is NOT.

3.  O.K. so most people don't like wasps. They do cause some damage in the garden especially around fruit. They are probably of more use though, 1 worker wasp will take out around 100 aphids in a day. Being predators they will also take flies and caterpillars as food.

4. Along with Spring and Summer comes the vast armies of pests and diseases. Here's a link to some preventative measures, mainly organic. Click Here.

5.  Are you growing Ferns and/or Gardenia and like eating pickles, try pouring the pickle juice around the ferns/gardenias to promote their growth??

6. Banana skins are rich in potassium, don't throw them away, use them underneath plants or put them on your compost heap.

7.  Earthing up developing carrot plants periodically is one method of deterring carrot fly.

8.  If you intend to add manure to your planting beds remember that REGULARLY adding a lot can result in trace elements being "locked up" and not being available to crops.

9.  Rainwater is in short supply around my allotments so far this year. When watering your plots or garden do so either early morning or evenings to conserve water.

 1.   Plant out Brassicas, Broccoli, Calabrese, Brussels Sprouts, Summer Cabbage and any beans which are in pots.
2.  Sow the following: French Beans, Runner Beans, Beetroot, Cabbage, Cauliflowers, Chicory, Courgettes, Cucumbers, Endive, Kohl-rabi, Marrows, Squashes, Swedes, Sweetcorn and Turnips.
3.  Successional sowing of certain seeds, should be done throughout the Summer.
1. As June is usually warm and dry do not neglect to water plants, a good soaking of plants is better than frequent amounts of a little water.
2. Keep weeds down, hoeing will aid water to soak in also.
3.  Salad crops should be ready for harvesting, along with other early crops.
4.  Check Lettuce/Brassicas for slugs/snails especially after rain or watering.

Friday, 29 May 2015


Although the current overcast, grim looking, leaden sky and the first heavy downpour of rain for some time seems to be clearing somewhat, a visit to my plots is off for today. Although the rain is very welcome after several weeks of mainly dry weather the continual, cold north westerly wind isn't. So what's missing from the allotments recently, I thought?

1. Slugs and snails, a distinct lack of them on my plots for most of the year so far which is good news for the developing seedlings and plants. The topsoil has remained dry for some time now due to lack of rainwater, keeping these beasties at bay and in their hiding places. I expect they will be making an appearance shortly, after the rain today.

2. Wood pigeons, the normal (for our allotments anyway), batch of them, which nest yearly in the trees close to my plots seem to have moved away this year. This appears to be due to the fact that a pair of Jackdaws have built their nest in the trees normally used by the pigeons, effectively scaring the Wood pigeons away. Well done to the Jackdaws.

3. Rainwater has been in short supply for a while now with about 50% of my water butts and tanks needing to be replenished already this year. Although more rain is needed the vegetable beds are still quite damp below the first few inches of topsoil. Many pleasant, warm sunny days recently have been welcomed, despite the temperatures not being hot, long enough to completely dry the soil out to any considerable depth.

4. Greenfly and Black fly, several of my fellow plot holders are already complaining about black fly infesting their veggies. Although I have seen a few on my overwintered broad beans, not enough to even bother spraying them off.

5. Weeds seem to have gone A.W.O.L. this year too with very few infesting my plots, hurray. The main ones to be seen have been chickweed, creeping veronica and thistles. I think the fact that lots of frosts earlier this year stopped or slowed down the initial germination of many weeds this season.

6. The frog population which usually breeds in and around the drainage ditch, situated on the lower reaches of my plots, seems to be depleted compared to last year, with very few sightings of tadpoles or frogs.

7. Peat based composts are becoming more difficult to obtain. Although I appreciate the conservation aspect of peat bogs I think that many "substitute" composts are just an excuse to add other "rubbish" to them. I am currently making my own compost from leaf mould etc. At the end of the day, on a larger scale, if seedlings germinate less well, using none peat based composts, where are future food crops and oxygen supplies going to come from? Even trees begin as seedlings, (not forgetting cuttings, layering etc).

This season I have streamlined the variety of veggies being sown which has cut down my workload somewhat and at present most of my beds are fully sown and planted out. No 4 bed which is this seasons brassicas bed is the last one to be completed. The successional sowing which was hit and miss last season is faring reasonably well so far this year, with, in particular spring onions, lettuce, onions and carrots into their second and third stages of development. Various types of beans have been planted/sown on a variety of dates so that they don't all fruit at the same time, causing a glut. The last 16 of my runner bean plants were planted out yesterday, (prior to the forecast rain today), with 42 more sown from seed earlier, approximately a dozen are just showing through the soil on the opposite side of the rank.

 2 or 3 changes to my allotment plan for this year, were to plant out leeks, in the L-shaped bed alongside the runner beans, switching the planned planting of marrows, squashes and pumpkins to No 5 bed, from the lower end of  the L-shaped bed, into less used soil, which, hopefully contains more nutrients for the benefit of these heavy feeders.  Oriental greens have been sown into the raised bed area instead of into the L-shaped bed where the leeks are now residing.

Several strawberries are currently ripe enough for picking with what looks like a good crop developing close behind, inside the fruit cage. The roof of the fruit cage was covered, a few weeks ago with some old netting which I reverted to using, as apposed to running lengths of string across the top, a method which was becoming too time consuming after several attempts at completing this method. Anyway no problems so far this season with birds taking the fruit or nipping out the fruit buds.

Runner bean planting
1st 6 Runner Beans Planted Out Last Monday (29/5/15)
Water the bean plants well
Water The Pots/Trays Thoroughly Before Planting Allow To Soak In (29/5/15)
Planting Runner beans method
Dig Holes Loosen Soil @ Base of Hole Add Water Allow to Soak In (29/5/15)
Planting Runner beans method
Remove Plants From Their Pots. Separate Plants If Necessary (29/5/15)

Planting Runner beans method
Place Plants Into Holes & Firm In Cover Roots with Loose Soil Part Way Up Stem Don't Water In Unless The Weather/Ground Is Very Dry/Hot (29/5/15)  

1st Strawberries
The 1st Nice Pair (29/5/15)

Carrots Earthed Up Roots Bed Weeded
Roots Bed Weeded/Hoed Carrots Earthed Up Before The Rain (29/5/15)
They'll Be Out In Force After the Rain (29/5/15)

Onions Drying
Overwintered Onions Drying Out (29/5/15)