For the week of 13th – 19th June.
It is mid June and the thermometer should now show double figures even through the nights until September. This is the growing period for most of our vegetables and choice plants on the allotment.
My polytunnel is bursting with plants that are outgrowing their pots and crying to be freed from their pot bound status and be allowed to stretch their roots in the garden soil, and that is exactly what I have been doing this past week because if I want them to reach their full size by the end of the summer it’s planting them out now or never . [If you have not sown these as seeds, ready made plants are now available at most garden centres. ]
Now let me share with you a few tips on planting out.
Sweetcorn – is an easy crop, from a distance no one will notice your turnips in the ground but sweet corn with its tall spires, will give your allotment that extra height to make it look as if you are really doing things! I sowed the seed in modules around 5 weeks ago and by now they have made good growth, and are around 30 cm. high. The text books advise you not to plant in rows – that does not meant you have to plant them zig zag- all it means is – not to plant just 1 or 2 rows because they are wind pollinated from each other to set fruit and if you were to have only one north – south row and the wind is only blowing east west they will never pollinate , therefore the advice is to plant in blocks of at least 4 by 4 and they will always catch the wind from every direction.
Plant them a bit deeper than their original soil height to avoid them being blown over before getting established and this encourages roots to form higher on the stem.
Cucumbers seem a complex crop , some seed packets say remove the male flower (these are the flowers that have not got a tiny cucumber behind them) and some say that they must be left for pollination . So before we have a referendum on whether to leave or to stay, let me explain the difference. The outdoor varieties will not set fruit unless the males are there to fertilise them , the indoor varieties usually set fruit without a male partner – in fact leaving them to get fertilised often makes the cucumbers bitter, so it is best to remove them. Many varieties nowadays are female only and you hardly get any male flowers, saving you the job of removing them. Some cheaper seed packets don’t write what type they are and you will have to experiment yourself. If conditions are favourable you can plant indoor varieties outside and if you live in a cold area vice versa, – just remember what type they are regarding the male flowers. Also remember to keep the area well misted as they don’t like dry air.
Again an easy crop and one that will pay its dividends deep into the winter when there is little else available. You are advised to dig a hole and drop them in and fill the hole with water to settle them in their new home. As you only need a small hole, the lady in the picture has used a novel idea of using the back of a rake, I have a metal handle with a plastic hook at the end so It won’t work for me, but please read my back saving tip at the end of the paragraph.
Tomatoes outside in northern Britain is a bit of a gamble even with varieties specially bred for outside like arctic plenty, but it is always worth a try, bush varieties are easier to manage outside then cordons as they need less staking. An unheated greenhouse gives a fair crop but you have to hurry, otherwise you will only have unripe tomatoes for chutney in September. Plant them deeper than their original soil level, as this forms new roots from the stem.
I can now include this flower on my vegetable list as I recently read that the tubers are very tasty especially from the yellow varieties, I prefer if you try them in the pot and get back to me then to try them myself! When planting them out remember that they need a lot of room. The slugs love their young growth so you must deter them in the way you prefer. Otherwise they are an easy flower to grow rewarding you with masses of flowers on any reasonable soil.
Back (money) saving tip:
I have a tool that I use regularly on my allotment that most garden centres don’t even sell! Those that do sell it, call it a drain spade and usually stock it with the building tools.
It is indispensable for removing dock roots as you see in the picture as most spades will not dig deep enough leaving the underground root to regrow . This tool goes straight to the point and removes the roots of any weed without you having to make a whole excavation programme all around it! When planting potatoes or planting out modules it will make the hole only the size you need without having to bend down whilst when working with a normal spade you are removing loads of unnecessary soil.
It is available from B& Q, Wickes and builders merchants for around £20.
Do your back a favour and go and buy one -soon everyone on the allotment will be begging you to borrow it!
Enjoy your gardening week!
Next week : Making fruit trees fruit.