Roehampton Garden Society


May jobs on your allotment

Pea Frame

Maintaining soil and structures and planning ahead

  • Hand weed and hoe regularly to keep on top of weeds. (Chickweed will produce 2,000 seeds per plant per season if left untouched!)
  • Keep the soil in good condition. Add garden compost or well-rotted manure to maintain soil structure and retain moisture and nutrients.
  • Sow fast-growing green manure such as crimson clover, buckwheat and phacellia where there are areas of bare soil or where summer or autumn vegetables are to be planted out. Dug in before July they will fix nitrogen in the soil and improve soil structure.
  • Plant comfrey.  The leaves can be used as a compost activator or for making an excellent liquid feed.
  • Keep adding to the compost heap, making sure to mix ‘greens’ (lawn cuttings, kitchen vegetable waste) with ‘browns’ (ripped cardboard, straw etc) and added layers of uncomposted stable manure.
  • Continue to mow grass paths.  (A strimmer is available to borrow in the store. Charge £1.00.  Contact root@roehamptonallotments.co.uk to book. Lawn mowers, free to borrow, are  stored in the toilets on both sites.)
  • Apply greenhouse shading to limit temperatures to 27c (81f) and ventilate on warmer days.
  • Watch night time temperatures and cover vulnerable plants with fleece or cloches if necessary.
  • Net cherry trees against birds as cherries begin to form.

Sowing and growing

  • Sow salad crops including radishes, spring onions, spinach and beetroot successionally for continuous cropping.
  • Sow herbs such as basil, coriander, dill and parsley.
  • Early in the month sow cucumbers and courgettes pots indoors for planting out later.
  • Sow cauliflowers, sprouting broccoli, Brussels sprouts and leeks for harvesting next winter.
  • Sow sweetcorn, French and runner beans direct into the soil.
  • Sow carrots in finely raked soil.  Use insect mesh to protect from carrot fly, securing well by pushing edges in to the soil, or sow in containers higher than 2 feet to lessen risk of carrot fly attack.
  • Sow pumpkins, squashes and outdoor cucumbers under cover now or outdoors towards the end of the month. Watch for cold nights.
  • Make late sowings of peas by the end of the month.
  • Prepare a fine seed bed and sow flowering annuals to attract pollinating insects.
  • Support broad beans and with stakes and tie in with strings.
  • Watch out for blackfly on broad beans and rub off or wash off with squirted water. Pinch off the tips with blackfly above the flowers as soon as the first beans start to form and bury in the compost heap.
  • Earth up potatoes when shoots are approx. 9 inches to prevent green tubers, pulling the earth up with a rake to form peaked rows. Remove any cold-damaged foliage.
  • Watch out for early summer dryness. Recently planted trees, shrubs and fruit need regular watering for the first two growing seasons.
  • Remove raspberry suckers encroaching onto paths or between rows.
  • Check gooseberries and redcurrants for sawfly larvae and remove manually.
  • Plant out tomatoes towards the end of the month watching out for drops in night time temperatures below 12 degrees c.  
  • Start to remove side shoots from leaf axils of cordon tomatoes.
  • Plant out Brussels sprouts, celeriac and leeks for autumn and winter harvesting.
  • Hang pheromone traps in apple trees to reduce codling moth caterpillar attack.
  • Start hardening off tender plants for planting out at the end of the month.
  • Place straw under strawberries to keep fruit clean and deter slug damage. Feed with tomato fertiliser every week.

Harvesting

  • Harvest up to half stems of established rhubarb when the stalk reaches 9-12 in. Pull (do not cut) stalks, taking no more than half at any one time.
  • Start harvesting established asparagus spears when 5-7” tall.
  • Harvest early crops of radishes and salad leaves as they appear.

Gardening for Wildlife

  • When plant buying choose single flowers as better sources of pollinating insect food than double blooms.
  • Top up bird feeders to help birds feed their young. Avoid peanuts now as these can choke chicks.
  • Froglets and efts (baby newts) will be leaving ponds by now so make sure there is a slope for them to climb up.  Make sure there is plant coverage on surrounding flagstones or they will fry on these.


January jobs on your allotment

Maintaining soil and structures and planning ahead

  • As crops are harvested clear debris and cover cleared soil with weed suppressant.
  • Plan a crop system for vegetables- leaving a minimum of two years before replanting crops in the same place.
  • Complete winter digging of bare beds and cover the ground to warm beds for early crops.
  • Open greenhouse vents on mild days
  • Clean greenhouses, staging, pots and seed-trays for the coming growing season.

Sowing and growing

  • Apply winter washes to fruit trees to control overwintering pests.
  • Start ‘chitting’ tubers of early potatoes in trays in a cool, light, frost-free location.
  • Sow broad beans in pots under cover.
  • Sow winter salads in a greenhouse or windowsill.
  • Sow summer brassicas and spinach on a windowsill to plant out in late February.
  • Aubergines can be sown under cover on a sunny windowsill from late January.
  • Bring potted runners of strawberries under glass for forcing.
  • Sow later sweet peas now and pot on autumn-sown sweet peas, pinching out the tip after 4 pairs of leaves have developed or when plants have reached 3.5 cms. Place on a sunny windowsill, in a cold frame or greenhouse.
  • Ensure brassicas are protected against pigeons by netting.
  • Begin forcing rhubarb for an early crop by placing a bucket or forcing jar over the crop.

Harvesting

  • Harvest parsnip, swede, sprouting broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leek and turnip.

Pruning

  • Prune overgrown blackcurrant bushes- remove a third of the old, weak or unproductive stems to ground level to encourage new basal shoots.
  • Prune freestanding apples and pears, maintaining an open centre. Do not remove more than 20% of the crown in one winter
  • Prune gooseberries, redcurrants and whitecurrants by removing dead wood and low lying shoots. Prune last year’s growth of the main stems by about a half. Prune all side-shoots back to one to three buds from their bases.
  • Prune grapevines before mid January.

Gardening for wildlife

  • Regularly replenish bird feeders.
  • Clear out bird boxes by removing old nests and rinse out boxes.


February jobs on your allotment

Maintaining soil and structures and planning ahead

  • Prepare for early vegetable crops by warming soil before sowing, covering seedbeds with polythene or cloches.
  • Keep off wet soils to avoid compaction. Use long boards as walkways, to spread your weight.
  • If the soil isn’t too wet, start to dig in overwintered green manures (e.g. Grazing Rye, Winter Tares or Overwinter Mix sown previous August to November) as the frost should have killed them off.
  • Continue to tidy up and re-cut grass path edges if the grass has encroached on your plot.
  • Continue to add layers of un-composted stable manure to your heap.
  • Apply 2” layer of well-rotted garden manure (Country Natural ) or garden compost around perennial crops such as Jerusalem artichokes and rhubarb.
  • Club root is a fungal infection that affects the roots of brassicas and is endemic on allotment sites. To reduce the risk of infection, apply lime to the soil at 270g per sq m, 8oz per sq yd. where brassicas are to be grown. Do not add composted manure at the same time. Calcified Seaweed can be used as a natural alternative to lime, fork it in 140g per sq yard / metre about a week before planting.
  • Apply general fertilizers such as Growmore, (inorganic) or fish, blood and bone or seaweed (organic). Poultry Manure pellets are a non-chemical alternative to Growmore. They are slower to release their nutrient content, some of which will not become available until the soil warms up.
  • Organic Rock Dust and Bio Char soil improvers replace minerals in the soil lost to leaching..
  • Top-dress all tree and soft fruit with sulphate of potash.
  • Clean pots and trays by scrubbing in hot, soapy water before starting to sow new seeds. Pests and diseases can overwinter in old potting compost, surviving to damage newly emerging seedlings.
  • Prepare a new asparagus bed by digging in well-rotted manure and order asparagus crowns

Sowing and growing

  • Chit potato tubers in a light, cool, frost- free place.
  • Outdoors, sow broad beans, spring garlic, peas and Jerusalem artichokes.
  • If mild, also sow spinach outdoors.
  • Sow sweet peas under cover in deep pots or Root-trainers.
  • Pot on and pinch out autumn-sown sweet peas to encourage side-shoots to form View on Gardener’s World
  • At the end of the month sow tomatoes under cover.
  • Sow sweet and chilli peppers from mid February in a heated propagator or sunny windowsill. (Chillies need 21 degrees to germinate.)
  • Sow radishes in cold frame or greenhouse beds.
  • Sow aubergines in a heated propagator or sunny windowsill.
  • Sow celeriac in deep modules in a heated propagator or sunny windowsill.
  • Sow cabbage under cover.
  • Sow early leeks in deep pots under cover.
  • Sow early lettuce and keep in cold frame or greenhouse for earlier harvest.
  • Sow hardy annuals for companion planting such as calendula and tagetes indoors for earlier blooms.
  • Sow mustard and cress in a small seed tray on a warm windowsill for pickings in just a few weeks.
  • Spray dormant fruit trees and bushes with plant oil-based winter tree wash to kill overwintering eggs of aphid pests.
  • Force rhubarb for sweeter, earlier stems by covering crowns with straw and then a container, such as an upside down bucket, to exclude light.

Harvesting

  • Purple sprouting broccoli and kale may be possible to harvest.

Pruning

  • This month, complete pruning of apple and pear trees, gooseberries, redcurrants and prune out a quarter of blackcurrants’ older growth at ground level.
  • Prune autumn raspberries, cutting all canes down to the ground.
  • If summer-fruiting raspberries have grown above their supports, cut back to one or two buds above the top wire.
  • After pruning, apply a general-purpose fertilizer to tree, bush and cane fruit and mulch with well-rotted manure or garden compost.
  • Start pruning bush roses at the end of the month.
  • Vine pruning must be completed by the middle of the month.

Gardening for wildlife

  • Continue to top up bird feeders. Avoid giving large foods, such as peanuts, as nesting time approaches.
  • Put up nesting boxes.
  • Avoid turning the compost heap until mid-spring as it could be sheltering hibernating frogs, small mammals and insects.


December jobs on your allotment

  • Clear away any remaining plant debris from plots and compost if disease-free.
  • Earth up and check stakes on Brussels sprouts and other tall brassicas to prevent wind rock.
  • Prune grape vines before the end of the month, when dormant, to avoid sap bleeding.
  • Continue to plant fruit trees and bushes if soil is not frozen.
  • Divide and replant rhubarb.
  • Ventilate green houses on mild days to reduce diseases.
  • Plant blackcurrants 5cm below the soil to encourage new shoots.
  • Your last opportunities – 3 and 10 December – to shop for seeds in the Store for stocking fillers – sweet peas and herbs etc.
  • Protect autumn-sown broad beans with cloches during extended periods of frost.
  • For early tender stems, ‘force’ rhubarb by covering crowns with a dark-coloured bucket.
  • Plant fruit trees trained as cordons or espaliers to make good use of limited space. Check RGS website for guidance on permitted trees.
  • Plant blueberries in pots of ericaceous compost. (Ericaceous compost available in store)


November jobs on your allotment

  • Continue to clear all plant debris from plots. Do not add blighted tomatoes to your compost, but burn or take to the dump.
  • Tidy up and re-cut grass path edges where the grass has encroached on your plot.
  • Empty compost heaps and use the well-rotted dark crumbly material.
  • Apply a 5cm layer of well-rotted compost or manure to bare plots or cover bare areas with brown cardboard weighed down with damp grass clippings. (Country Natural rotted stable manure available in store)
  • Add layers of the un-composted stable manure from the piles to your compost heaps and spread thinly on bare soil to rot down over winter.
  • Prepare a winter compost trench for next season’s moisture loving plants such as sweet peas, runner beans or squashes. Dig a trench a spade deep and fill with kitchen vegetable waste covering each additional layer with soil.
  • Continue to sow overwintering broad beans.
  • Sow hardy peas either straight into the ground under fleece or 3 to a 9”pot to be planted out when the roots reach the bottom.
  • Sow peas for pea shoots in a box or gutter in the green house or windowsill for salad or risotto at Christmas time.
  • Sow boxes of cut-and-come-again salads in the green house or a sheltered spot covered with fleece.
  • Finish planting onion sets and garlic.
  • Order bare root trees now for the best selection.
  • Fix grease bands to fruit trees to protect against winter moth. Start winter pruning of apples and pears.
  • Keep overwintering brassicas covered with netting to prevent pigeon damage. Stake tall brassicas against wind damage.
  • Start to harvest winter cabbage, Brussels sprouts and leeks.  Wait until after frosts for parsnips as they will be sweeter.
  • Clean the greenhouse to maximise light levels and before the water is turned off in December.


October jobs on your allotment

  

Maintaining soil and structures and planning ahead

  • Continue to clear the ground of this summer’s growth, weeding as you go.
  • Turn the compost heap to speed its decomposition.
  • Compost fallen leaves in hessian bags. Compost pea and bean foliage,but leave the roots in the ground as they contain nitrogen.
  • Plan where you will grow brassicas next year. Manure the area now and lime in the spring if the ph level is below 7.
  • To maximise light levels and reduce harbouring of bugs, clean the green house with eco-friendly detergent. Garden disinfectant such as Jeyes Fluid can be used in a greenhouse or a sulphur candle if resident bugs are suspected.
  • Make a last cut on grass paths and reinstate beds where grass has encroached.
  • Apply grease bands around the trunks of fruit trees as a barrier to winter moths.
  • Order bare-rooted fruit trees to be delivered November onwards. (See guidance on website and contact Site Secretary)
  • Check that the bird netting on brassicas is secure in preparation for more wintry weather.
  • Collect seeds of plants that have not been harvested. Peas and beans save well. Collect directly from the plant on a dry day to avoid fungal rot and put straight into paper bags.

Sowing and planting

  • Winter salads and oriental greens can be sown in the green house or cold frame.
  • Sow over-wintering broad beans either directly or start under cover in pots or root-trainers.
  • Sow green manures such as rye, vetches or ryegrass to be dug in next February.
  • Plant overwintering onion sets and garlic. Soil must be well drained. Onion sets should just peep above the surface. If the ph is lower than 7 add a little calicified seaweed. Plant garlic planted 1.5- 2”deep, spaced 7” apart. Both benefit from onion fertilizer.
  • Plant daffodils, alliums and other spring bulbs for early spring flowering. (Hold off planting tulips till November.)
  • Sow sweet peas in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse for early summer flowering and showing. Sow in root trainers or 3” pots.
  • Plant out spring cabbage 6” apart.
  • Take hardwood cuttings, 1ft long, from gooseberries and currants. Plant in pots of compost.

Harvesting

  • Harvest winter squashes. Cut the squash carefully leaving a 2-3” stem. ‘Cure’ in a warm, dry place for 10-14 days, then in a cool, light place at around 50-55F until ready to eat. Many squash can be stored for up to 6 months.
  • Store disease-free apples, pears and potatoes in a cool, dry place.
  • Ensure carrots are protected with insect mesh as carrot flies are most damaging in late summer and autumn. Leave in the ground to harvest as needed.
  • Harvest maincrop potatoes. Check each tuber for disease or damage and do not store damaged tubers. Store in a cool, dry place. Let the tubers dry off before storing in jute, hessian or paper bags in a dark frost-free place.

Pruning

  • Lift and divide rhubarb plants that have been in situ for more than 5 years or are less productive. Keep and replant the newer outside growth and discard the centre.
  • Cut down asparagus stems as they turn yellow and mulch with well-rotted manure.
  • Clear away strawberry foliage to prevent build-up of pests and diseases.

Gardening for wildlife

  • Leave decorative perennial seed heads as food and habitats for wildlife
  • Build an insect hotel or install a log pile.

 

 

 


September jobs on your allotment

  • Deep-dig out perennial weeds such as bindweed.  Keep weeding to prevent weeds seeding.
  • Begin to add well-rotted manure to bare areas.
  • Empty the compost bin by bagging up compost from the bottom of the bin or heap.  Store it ready for use next spring and start a new mix.
  • Spinach, coriander, rocket and parsley can all be sown until the middle of the month.
  • Sow fast-growing Oriental greens such as pak choi and mizuna.
  • Sow winter greens such as land cress, corn salad and hardy lettuce cultivars (including ‘Arctic King’ and ‘Valdor’) for spring picking. Sow kale for early spring harvesting and rocket for autumn harvesting.
  • Sow hardy annuals such as calendula officianalis in shallow drills for late spring flowering next year.
  • Sow green manures in vegetable beds that are to be left fallow for the winter.  When dug in they conserve nutrients and improve soil texture.
  • Sow broad bean varieties such as Aquadulce or Masterpiece Green Longpod in late September for harvesting in late May, early June.
  • Pot up strawberry runners to make new plants for next summer or plant out new strawberries.
  • Plant out spring cabbage.
  • Plant overwintering onion sets.
  • Plant daffodil bulbs for early spring flowering.
  • Start planting trees at the end of the month while the soil is still warm.
  • Harvest maincrop potatoes. Check each tuber for disease or damage and do not store damaged tubers. Store in a cool, dry place. Let the tubers dry off before storing in jute, hessian or paper bags in a dark frost-free place.
  • Store onions that have been dried in nets in well-ventilated conditions.
  • Continue to harvest sweetcorn.
  • Cut herbs for drying and use throughout the winter.
  • Continue picking autumn raspberries and blackberries.
  • Continue harvesting apples and pears. Store in a cool, well-ventilated place. Black, scabby blotches, distortion and cracking on apples and pears indicate scab disease. Affected fruit will not store well but can be eaten now.
  • Leave autumn squashes to ripen on the plant as long as possible. Place fruit on a wooden board or tile to prevent soiling.  Fruits are ready when richly coloured and ring hollow when tapped.
  • Protect leafy vegetable crops with bird netting.
  • Cut out the fruited canes of summer raspberries, blackberries, loganberries and tayberries. Leave the new green canes, as these will crop next year. Prune blackcurrants.  After picking autumn-fruiting raspberries, do not prune. Wait until late winter/ early spring to cut all the canes down to ground level.
  • Keep leeks protected with insect mesh against leek mining fly and leek moth.
  • Ensure carrots are protected with insect mesh as carrot flies are most damaging in late summer and autumn.
  • Water plants in the morning to help prevent fungal diseases.
  • Continue to feed and water tomatoes. Cropping can continue well into the autumn.
  • Clean the greenhouse to reduce overwintering pests.
  • In the greenhouse sow herbs, salad leaves such as pea shoots, beetroot and chard for winter leaves.
  • In ponds, thin out oxygenating and floating plants.  Leave debris at the side of the pond overnight so creatures can return to the water.
  • Apply grease bands to fruit trees at the end of the month to deter winter moth. (or try the new Fruit Tree Grease in the store)
  • Do not compost blight-affected foliage or tubers of potatoes and tomato plants. Do not add rose leaves affected with black spot to the compost heap.


August jobs on your allotment

  • Sow green manure crops such as mustard to dig in during autumn.
  • Sow oriental vegetables such as mizuna, pak choi and mustard greens for salad leaves- they bolt less at this time of year.
  • Sow parsley to last through till spring and basil on a sunny windowsill.
  • Sow Swiss chard and perpetual spinach at the beginning of the month.
  • Make a last sowing of beetroot at the beginning of the month.
  • Sow fast growing ‘catch crops’ for autumn use, such as radish, lettuce, rocket and turnips.
  • Plant out winter brassicas, broccoli, kale and cabbages in limed soil to reduce club root infestations.
  • Plant new strawberries now, either as detached runners or new plants.
  • In dry weather keep runner beans well-watered twice a week to aid setting.
  • To reduce risk of tomato blight, water directly onto the roots not the leaves.
  • Harvest sweet corn when a grain exudes milky juice when tested with a fingernail.
  • Harvest onions and shallots when the stems are dry and papery.
  • Start harvesting runner beans, parsnips and cucumbers as ready.
  • Complete harvesting of second early potatoes and begin to harvest main crop potatoes as they begin to flower.
  • Harvest early ripening apples and pears.
  • Summer prune trained fruit trees such as fans, espaliers and cordons.
  • Prune plum and damson trees after fruiting.
  • On grape vines shorten fruit bearing branches to two leaves beyond the fruit bunch.
  • Prune out fruited canes of summer raspberries.
  • Tie in new canes on raspberries and blackberries.
  • Keep protective insect mesh on carrots until autumn.
  • Cut back chives if showing signs of rust and new shoots will quickly appear. Remove mint plants showing signs of rust. The disease will persist over winter and re-infect new plants next year.
  • Pick off and destroy rosemary leaf beetle that are active at this time of year.
  • Divide clumps of chives.
  • In the greenhouse avoid splashing water onto leaves.  Moisture triggers spore germination of fungal diseases.


July jobs on your allotment

  • Hoe off weeds on bare soil, water well then cover with mulches to prevent moisture loss, for instance, pile grass clippings onto layers of newspaper.
  • Add material to compost heaps, mix greens (nitrogen rich) with browns (carbon rich) at 50/50 ratio.
  • Water heaps if dry and turn to speed up decomposition.
  • In early July continue to sow beetroot, chard, perennial spinach, kohl rabi and turnips for autumn harvesting.
  • Sow dwarf French beans.
  • Sow kale for early spring harvesting and rocket for autumn harvesting.
  • Sow beetroots Choggia or Burpees Golden for autumn eating.
  • Plant specially prepared potato tubers for Christmas crop.
  • Finish planting out leeks.
  • Remove the main shoot on cordon tomatoes where they hit the greenhouse roof, or a leaf or two above the seventh flower truss.
  • Water soft fruit and fruit trees during dry spells to encourage good fruit development.
  • Water courgettes consistently so they continue to flower and crop.
  • Mulch brassicas after rain to lock in moisture and nutrients and lessen the effect of club root.
  • Prune cherries and plums after fruiting.  Remove weak, damaged and crossing branches.
  • Pinch out climbing beans once they reach the top of supports.
  • Once harvesting of summer fruited raspberries is finished, cut old fruited canes to ground level and tie in new, healthy canes to supports.
  • Summer-prune red and white currants and gooseberries. For gooseberries trim back all side shoots to 3 or 4 buds from their point of growth and cut out shoots that cross into the middle f the bush.


June jobs on your allotment

June Foxgloves

Maintaining soil structures and planning ahead

  • Continue to hand-weed or hoe regularly to keep on top of weeds.
  • Dig deep to remove highly invasive bind weed as it appears.
  • Continue to mow or clip grass paths weekly.
  • If you have sown green manure, dig it in this month to fix the nitrogen in the soil.
  • In the greenhouse ensure adequate shading. Check night time temperatures and close door on cold nights. On hot days keep greenhouse temperatures down by using maximum ventilation and damp down greenhouse floors to increase humidity.
  • Use insect-proof mesh over carrots to prevent carrot fly attacking carrots. Ensure it is well-pegged down, not leaving any gaps.
  • Use insect-proof mesh over leeks to prevent leek moth damaging leeks. Ensure it is well-pegged down, not leaving any gaps.

Sowing and Growing

  • Direct-sow courgettes.
  • Sow radicchio in drills for autumn salad leaves.
  • Sow fennel and oriental greens such as mizuna and pak choi. June sowings reduce the risk of bolting.
  • Successionally sow salads, rocket and basil etc every two to three weeks for continuous picking.
  • Make a late sowing of peas for an autumn crop.
  • Sow overwintering carrots such as Autumn King or Chantenay.
  • Quick-maturing radishes or salad leaf crops can be sown between brassica rows.
  • Quick-germinating annuals, such as cosmos, that attract insect pollinators can still be sown.
    Sow wallflowers for next year.
  • Water potatoes well for good-sized tubers and reduced problems with scab. (Remember to target-water, not spray, to avoid water wastage.)
  • Water tomatoes regularly and evenly. Uneven watering can cause cracked fruit and blossom end rot. Regularly pinch outside shoots on cordon tomatoes and tie in plants to supports.
    Feed every 10-14 days with a liquid fertilizer, changing to a high potash fertilizer once the first fruits begin to set.
  • Plant out sweet corn 16” apart in blocks, not rows, to aid wind pollination.
  • Continue planting out or direct-sow runner and French beans.
  • Transplant pencil-thick leeks now into 6” deep holes.
  • Plant out pumpkins, squashes in well manured ground. Plant out outdoor cucumbers and peppers. Protect with fleece on cold nights.
  • Keep fruit bushes well-watered. (Target-water, not spray, to avoid water wastage.) Protect soft fruit from bird attack by netting securely and tie in new raspberry and blackberry canes.
  • Continue to check for sawfly larvae on gooseberries. Hand pick off.
  • Remove strawberry runners during the early part of summer, to avoid energy being diverted from the developing fruit.
  • On plum trees, after the ‘June drop’ of excess developing fruits, thin the fruits to prevent overladen branches breaking.

Harvesting

  • Continue to regularly harvest established asparagus – mid April to mid June. If asparagus growth is weak, apply a general fertilizer of fish, blood and bone.
  • First, second and salad potatoes may be ready for harvesting. Tubers should be ready when plants begin to flower.
  • Harvest broad beans from the bottom of the plant up. Once the plant is harvested, cut off the stems and dig the roots back into the soil to make use of the captured nitrogen.
  • Harvest early peas. Put unused pea pods and foliage into the compost heap or dig into the soil to provide nitrogen rich nutrients to the soil.

Gardening for Wildlife

  • If broad beans are affected by blackfly, rub off or spray with a jet of water to remove them rather than using insecticides.
  • Create a cool, damp spot for amphibians and their prey to take shelter in by building a log pile in a shady corner. Half bury the bottom logs and fill nooks and crannies with leaves.
  • Add a bee house to your plot or garden, placing it in a south-facing spot but not in direct sunlight.
  • Select single forms of annual flowers as these provide more pollen for bees. Integrate annual flowers into the vegetable beds to attract beneficial insects such as bees and hoverflies.
  • Reduce the use of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides if possible.


April jobs on your allotment

Maintaining soil and structures and planning ahead

  • Although weather is warmer, continue to listen for forecasts of frost warnings and cover vulnerable plants at night. Delay planting out cold sensitive plants if frosts are forecast.
  • Weed ‘defensively’; remove weeds before they flower to avoid seeding.
  • Continue to keep grass paths manageable by regular cutting.
    Draw up soil around the base of peas and broad beans to support them and increase the rooting area.
  • Clean greenhouse glass to improve light levels
    On sunny days ventilate the green house by morning opening and close late afternoon to conserve the heat.
  • Earth up early potatoes when they have made 8” growth.
    Plan and prepare planting holes for squashes, adding well-rotted manure.
  • Build frames for climbing beans.

Sowing and Growing

  • Sow indoors or in the greenhouse Brussels sprouts, cabbage, early leeks, cucumbers, courgettes, peppers and sweet corn.  Sow tomatoes for outdoors.
  • Sow herbs; dill, fennel, oregano and thyme, parsley from seed.
  • At the end of the month sow tender vegetables indoors, such as runner beans, squash and pumpkins.
  • Watch out for signs of damping off in seedlings which can be caused by sowing in cold, wet soil with poor drainage and air circulation and worsened by overwatering. A light covering of vermiculate reduces the problem.
  • Direct sow broad beans and early peas.
  • Make successional sowings of beetroot, Swiss chard, lettuce, radish, summer spinach, spring onions, lettuce, parsnips and turnips.
  • Thin out germinated seedlings and hoe between rows.
  • Direct sow early varieties of carrot when the ground has warmed up.  To avoid attack from carrot fly, either sow 18” above ground level or cover with insect mesh.
  • Sow annuals to attract pollinating insects such as nigella, single flowered marigolds, comos, Californian poppies.
  • Direct sow sweet peas.
  • Second early and maincrop potatoes should be planted by the end of the month.
  • Once tomatoes have their first true leaves, plant them deeply into individual pots
  • Water crops regularly in dry weather.
  • Plant out autumn-sown sweet peas.
  • Finish planting shallots.
  • Plant soft-neck garlic.
  • Plant up new asparagus and globe artichoke beds.
  • Cover radishes and turnips with horticultural fleece to protect against flea beetle.
  • Use fleece to protect blossom of trees such as pears if frost is forecast.
  • Net strawberries against bird attack.
  • Watch out for early aphid attacks. Early action by manually removing these or hard- spraying with water can reduce likelihood of damaging infestations.
  • Feed roses with rose feed.
  • Feed soft fruit with a general purpose fertilizer.
  • Pick and destroy yellowing leaves of brassicas infected with downy mildew.

Harvesting

  • Harvest rhubarb by pulling a few stalks at a time. Put the leaves on the compost heap.
  • The first cutting of asparagus is traditionally made after St George’s Day, 23rd April and the last cutting on the longest day, 22nd June.

Pruning

  • Once leaf buds open, start formative pruning of stone fruit trees such as plum and cherry.
  • Pinch out laterals on grape vines to leave one every 30cms and tie in selected shoots.

Gardening for wildlife

  • Divide or cut back pond marginal plants.
  • Prepare a fine tilth before sowing a wildflower meadow patch of cornfield annuals to attract pollinating insects.


March jobs on your allotment

Maintaining soil and structures and planning ahead

  • Continue soil preparation by hoeing to suppress early weeds and cover with black landscape fabric/ weed suppressant or a thick layer of composted stable manure to warm the soil. Top- dress overwintering vegetables with a general fertilizer.
  • Control early weed growth by regular hoeing.
  • Nutrient-rich mulches such as composted manure should be spread when the soil is moist and warm, from mid to late spring, just before the main growing season.
  • Apply a balanced fertilizer such as growmore or fish, blood and bone around fruit trees and bushes.
  • Apply a general fertilizer to all areas required for early crops. Fish, blood and bone or pelleted poultry manure are slow-release so apply now for summer growing.
  • To lessen the impact of brassica club root, raise the soil pH by adding lime or calcified seaweed to brassica beds. Some club root resistant varieties are available e.g. Brussels sprouts Crispus, Cabbage Kilaton.
  • Some green manures can be sown now to improve the soil structure and return valuable nutrients to the soil. This month sow Buckwheat, Crimson Clover, Fenugreek, Mustard, Phacelia, Trefoil or Winter Tares.
  • Ventilate the green house on sunny days and close up by mid afternoon.
  • Clean greenhouse panes to maximise light levels.
  • If the soil is not too wet start strimming, clipping or mowing grass paths to maintain good paths between plots.


Sowing and growing

  • Sow outdoors early cultivars of beetroot, broad beans, peas, early cultivars of lettuce, radish, early spinach, parsnips and turnips. Towards the end of the month early varieties of carrot can be sown.
  • Protect young seedlings with fleece or cloches on cold nights, removing the covers in the day.
  • Sow indoors or in the greenhouse Brussels sprouts, cabbage, summer cauliflower, celery, celeriac, early leeks and tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, peppers and chillies.
  • Germinate aubergines, cucumbers, peppers and chillies in a heated propagator if available.
  • Start herbs from seed. Sow dill, fennel, parsley and sorrel in plots to transplant later.
  • Annual flower seeds such as cosmos, sweet peas, marigolds, nasturtiums and candytuft can be sown directly as the soil warms.
  • Watch out for signs of damping off in seedlings which can be caused by sowing in cold, wet soil with poor drainage and air circulation and worsened by overwatering. A light covering of vermiculate reduces the problem.
  • Direct plant shallots and onion sets, just deep enough that the bulb tips are visible above the soil.
  • By the end of March, if the weather is warming, plant first early potatoes when the shoots are 2cms long.
  • Plant asparagus crowns.
  • Prepare trenches for runner beans with well-rotted manure and shredded paper at the base.

Harvesting

  • Broccoli, kale and leeks can be harvested now.

Pruning

  • Prune blueberries. Promote new fruiting wood by removing up to a third of the old stems at ground level.
  • Complete pruning Hybrid Tea and Floribunda roses.

Gardening for wildlife

  • Convert an empty flower bed into an annual meadow to attract pollinators to your plot.