We’ve been predicted a cold start to spring this year, with Arctic winds arriving from the North. This doesn’t necessarily mean that days are unfit for being out in the allotment or on your vegetable patch – indeed clear and dry days may well prevail.
However, be aware that frosts may well make a frequent appearance and have protective fleece at the ready for your growing crops. Invest in Envii Early Starter too – a liquid bio-stimulant that helps plants develop roots in colder temperatures so crops grow away quickly and strongly when weather improves.
Enjoy busying in the allotment this May.
Jobs to do now
Mulching with compost or manure is a fantastic way of looking after various ornamental plants and fruit and vegetable crops. Mulching is basically adding a thick layer of some form of material around plants. This has the primary purpose of keeping soil warm, so there’s a good root environment, and keeping moisture levels at an optimum. (Read more)
Mulching also suppresses weeds which means there’s less competition for light, water and nutrients as your prize plants are busy flowering and fruiting.
You can mulch using old carpet, newspaper or other man-made materials. However if you mulch with some bulky compost or manure you’ll also be feeding the soil to an extent – which is yet another benefit.
When mulching make sure that the mulch doesn’t touch the stems of the fruiting plants as this might burn the bark. Leaving space directly around stems is advisable.
Even if May is cooler than average you can toughen up the young plants of crops that you have raised under glass. By day bring your young pot-grown crops outdoors. This will help green stems to thicken and strengthen more readily than if left under glass permanently.
In the evening bring the young crops back indoors and cover with fleece or a protective frame if frosts are predicted in the evening.
If you have space sow vegetable seeds in trays or pots every two weeks so you have a manageable succession of harvests later in the year, rather than one glut at one time.
Introduce supports into your garden for vegetable crops such as beans and peas as well as greenhouse crops such as tomatoes and cucumbers.
There is a wide range of supports you can use of various materials and various constructions. Wigwams are useful for vegetables you would like to grow as part of an herbaceous border display.
You can also use smaller frameworks to support shorter plants like broad beans, more so to keep them compact and upright for maximising space.
At this time of year keep your eyes open for the following pests that attack a range of leafy and root vegetables, and take protective measures.
Cabbage root fly are attracted to young cabbage plants that will be establishing in your vegetable patch. When transplanting young crops to outdoors apply a collar to the base of the plants to prevent flies from laying eggs.
Asparagus beetles are active at this time of year. Both the adults and the larvae eat the foliage which weakens the crop the following spring. Remove them by hand as you see them. Avoid chemical control as this can harm beneficial pollinating insects. At the end of the year, cut back and dispose of old stems to rid overwintering beetles.
Florence fennel is a great vegetable – it looks curious as it’s growing, unusual but certainly not unattractive. Once harvested though, it makes a very versatile ingredient. You can steam it, grill it or boil it.
In its raw state, it has a taste of aniseed and you can add it to salad as a garnish, or even add it to hot water to make a tisane.
You can sow seeds from March to July, depending on when you want to harvest your fennel. For a May harvest, you‘ll want to sow in March outdoors in drills that are 1cm deep. Make sure the drills are well-watered to give the fennel a good start from the off. Thin out the seedlings to 30cm (12in) apart.
Once the young plants start to form a whitish bulb that has attained the size of a ping-pong ball at the base of the plant, earth them up. Continue this process until the bulbs are the size of tennis balls, at which time they’ll be ready to harvest.
It’s a great vegetable to try to grow- just make sure that it’s well-watered as it develops in summer. You can also add a general fertiliser too to raise the nutrient levels in the soil.
May’s a busy month on the vegetable plot. Here are some of the tasks we’re getting on with to put our crops in good stead for the season ahead.
When moving plugs to their permanent position outdoors ensure they have a good network of roots within and around the soil.
Transplant young plants of cabbage into well-fed soil and place a collar at the base of plants to prevent the pest cabbage root fly from laying eggs.
Remove older leaves of globe artichokes (Cynara scolymus) to keep plants well-ventilated to stave off disease. Water well, mornings and evenings.
After transplanting young crops provide a protective cover and frame so the vulnerable plants don’t succumb to late spring frosts.
Coming in all shapes and sizes tomatoes are a fantastic crop to grow whether you’re a seasoned allotment holder or new to growing your own fruit and vegetables. Grown as cordons in the greenhouse or as hanging-basket plants outdoors, you’ll be rewarded with a summer-long harvest of tasty tomatoes.
Blue Berries is vitamin-packed, full-flavoured fruits that turn attractive shades, ripening to almost black with a brick-red bottom. Excellent for eating straight from the vine or blitzing for smoothies.
Cherry Drops is a stunning cocktail cherry tomato with an excellent sweet flavour and excellent growing potential. Produces huge yields of 2-2.5cm (1 in) fruit on robust tomato-scented plants.
Gold Berries is new for this season, this 'sister' tomato offers generous trusses of yellow fruit. The unripe fruits are an attractive amethyst-purple gradually ripening to a bright yellow with complementing black top.
The best tips and trouble-shooting for tomatoes
Tomatoes are hungry crops that appreciate feeding whether grown in bags, pots or baskets. Follow the instructions for feeding and watering as the spring and summer progresses.
Tomatoes show disease and deficiencies very clearly, through their leaf colour as they grow. Yellowing between leaf-veins indicate a magnesium deficiency that can be righted with an application of Epsom salts, while brown mould patches signify tomato leaf mould which you can get on top of by ventilating the greenhouse.
Always water tomatoes consistently and routinely. Sporadic watering and drying-out causes the skin of developing fruits to split.
Visit the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016 24-28 May
May is an important month in the garden-show calendar. The world-famous and prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show takes place this year on 24-28 May. It hosts the best in garden-design, the latest plant fashions and innovative horticultural products.
Tickets are available to buy from the RHS website, so don’t delay. Keep an eye out for our RHS Chelsea Flower Show newsletter special in late May. We’ll be visiting the spectacular show for inspiration and ideas which we will be happy to share with you in our newsletter. Watch this space!
Look out for our May Catalogue coming out soon!
We’ve lots of new varieties of fruit and vegetables for you to try.