10 August 2015 | Posted in Food by
It's National Allotment Week (10-16 August) and we're happy to celebrate all thing allotments. It's a busy time in these outside oases and we appreciate that allotments mean a lot of things to different people. So whether you've just recently acquired a vegetable patch, or whether you're a long-standing allotment holder we hope you'll all celebrate with us too.
It's a fitting time to have a week dedicated to the allotment with so much going on in August. While some harvests are now coming to an end, others are still with us. Not only that, there's forward planning - clearing vacant spaces for easy-grow leafy salads for picking now until autumn, or sowing and planting winter and spring brassicas for the winter ahead.
Here's our useful guide to what you can be busying with in your allotment this month.
Allotment tips in August
Here are some timely tips on what you can be doing on your allotment now.
- Order Autumn Planting Onions Shallots and Garlic for home-grown flavour-rich bulb veg.
You can order now and get your plot prepared for growing bulb vegetables in autumn for a summer harvest next year.
Bulb crops require a sunny site and well-draining soil. Adding bulky compost before planting will improve the soil texture and open it more to water and oxygen, which the roots will really appreciate.
Get an all-in-one collection of prepared bulbs of Onion ’Radar’, Shallot ‘Yellow Moon’ and Garlic ‘Provence Wight’, plus fertiliser to get your crops off to a great start.
- Harvest often to prolong crops
If you can, get out daily to harvest crops like courgettes and runner beans. Picking fruiting crops often offers a number of benefits. Firstly, you can get your hands on crops when they are at their freshest and most flavoursome. If you harvest around midday or in the afternoon, you can take advantage of sun-ripened flavour -which is simply exquisite.
By picking often, you’ll be allowing more air to circulate around the plant and prevent over-crowded leaves which can bring on diseases.
Picking often also encourages plants to flower more, giving you more and more harvests.
- Sow quick-growing crops
Make the most of vacant spaces on your plot, or interplant some of your rows with fast-growing crops that you can sow now and harvest while waiting for other crops to ripen. Fantastic examples of fast-growing crops include salad leaves like lettuce ‘Little Gem’ and ‘Tom Thumb’,and mizuna ‘Kyoto’.
You may want to harvest these fast-growing crops when they have small leaves – and use in cooking as micro-leaves like some of the top chefs.
If larger leaves suit your tastes, you don’t have to wait that much longer and these taste great as garnishes and as fresh salads.
Be sure to keep these crops well-watered as they germinate and develop and guard against pest damage.
- Clear space in your veg plot for spring-cropping brassicas
Now that some of your spring and summer crops have finished, it’s a great time to clear that part of the plot, dig over, add some bulky compost or manure, and level the soil ready to plant young brassica plugs for overwintering, for good, healthy crops in winter and spring, when greens are lean.
Plant young brassica plugs in soil that previously had legumes growing in it, if you can. Legumes fix nitrogen from the air into nitrates that crops can readily take up as nutrients. Brassicas will use this extra bank of nitrates, to grow strong and give you great harvests early in the year.
So what seeds can I sow now in the allotment?
Here are some crops you can sown now in the allotment for thinking ahead......
Beetroot, spring cabbage, kohl rabi, lettuce, swiss chard (left), spring onions, turnips
And here's a quick guide on preparing your soil;
Use a rake to level the surface and create a crumble-like tilth. At this point remove any weeds or large stones etc.
Water the surface prior to sowing. This is better than watering over the top of seeds once they are sown as the force of the water can displace the seeds unevenly.
Create a shallow furrow in the soil (a drill) sliding a corner of a hoe across the soil and place seeds at equal distances along the drill. Our seed packets tell you the spacing distances depending on the variety you're sowing.
Use a rake to gently cover the seeds with soil.
Before you forget where the row is and what you’ve sown, place a label in the soil at one end.
Remember to water in dry spells
If you want your plants to germinate quickly you can put down a horticultural fleece over the soil – this helps retain the heat in the soil, and doubles up as protection from hungry seed-eating birds.
And if I'm into fruit , what then?
Strawberries - You can plant these now to put down a really impressive root system over winter. This results in early flowering next year and subsequent earlier fruiting. A perfect way to get fresh-tasting and sun-ripe strawberry fruits for next summer. Our Misted Tip strawberries have been expertly propagated and prepared to kick-start into flower and fruit early next summer.
Just plant them up now in containers or baskets, feed and water now and reduce the amount over winter. Pick up the feeding and watering again as it gets warmer in spring.
Raspberries - Raspberries are great in that there are types depending on when you want most of your harvests. Summer-fruiting varieties give you crops from June to August while autumn-fruiting varieties will give you the biggest crop at the back end of the year.
With summer fruiting varieties (floricanes) prune fruited stems to the ground in autumn and leave the leafy-stems which will fruit next year.
With autumn-fruiting varieties (primocanes) prune fruited stems to the ground after winter and in early spring. The will then grow that spring and summer and fruit the following autumn.
ENTER OUR COMPETITION- WIN a Super Spring Cropping Brassica Collection.
A perfect collection of young brassicas to plant now and get harvests through the winter months and well into spring. Includes 8 plants each of;
Cabbage Duncan-It can be harvested in the autumn from an early summer planting, picked as unhearted leafy greens in late autumn from a late August planting, or over-wintered and picked whole in the spring.
Cabbage Sennen-This new frost-hardy ball headed cabbage is the earliest cropping Primo type especially if given a little fleece protection during the hardest weather. This variety stood out as the sweetest tasting cabbage. Perfect for making salads and coleslaw.
Kale Afro Green Curled- Reliably winter hardy Kale Afro will take everything the British weather can throw at it! It is packed with vitamins and minerals and will grow just about anywhere.
Sprouting Broccoli Claret-It provides a very good crop from March-April. The spears are extra large and succulent and can be harvested for up to 4 weeks.