Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
Lost Crops and Late Sowing.
The late frosts in the middle
of May hit some of my fruit trees and bushes very hard. Indeed the Grape
vines are only now recovering properly as we approach July and some of
the Fig Trees still have hardly any leaves on them. In fact the growth
is so late that I doubt if either will do much good this season and they
may well not produce any fruit at all. The Kiwi vines, Jenny and Issai,
as well as my Bay Trees, were also hit hard with all of their young,
fresh leaves taken, but they have recovered much more quickly. My
Dioscorea Batatas (Cinnamon Vine) and the berried Magnolia Vine (Schissandra
Chinensis) were not affected at all as they weren’t in leaf and hadn’t
even started shooting by then. The Sausage Vine, (Akebia Quinata) is
semi evergreen and was able to withstand the light, but destructive,
frosts. “Normal,” fruit trees weren’t really touched, although any that
were actually in flower then would have lost their blossom and
subsequent fruit which is always a problem with late frosts.
I almost expected an odd, frost, or two in June with the freakish
weather we have had this year, but we didn’t, although, we did have one,
or two cold nights. Indeed, the weather was much kinder in June with
plenty of heat, but also some wet days to balance things out and make
things grow. The wet came too late for my Early Broad Beans though and
they cropped very poorly from stunted plants, but my later sowing that
were put in, in the Spring, weren’t so bad.
As I removed the Broad Bean plants at the end of June I replaced them
with Leeks that I had sown much earlier and had been keeping in modular
trays until they were wanted. I also have some Kale seedlings along with
more trays of Turnips, Beetroot, Kohl Rabi, Swede and Red Cabbage that I
have just sown. Hopefully, these will go into my plot as the Potatoes
start to come out. Radish Mooli being a true “Root Vegetable,” shouldn’t
be transplanted, but I will sow some of these as well to harvest in the
Winter months along with the Kale, Cabbage, Swede and Leeks. The
Turnips, Kohl Rabi and Beetroot will harvest much more quickly and
should be ready in the Autumn.
The May frosts also took my Potato tops and set them back very badly.
Normally, by the end of June/July the “Earlies,” are starting to flower
and are almost ready, but this year they are going to be much later than
usual. This early Harvesting would normally mean that they avoid getting
Potato Blight which usually starts in late June. Wet, humid weather does
encourage Blight, but if the tops have flowered you can remove them
altogether to avoid damage to the Potatoes underground. Indeed they say
that if you take the tops off Potatoes and leave them in the ground for
a further week, or two, the skins thicken and then they handle and store
During the long dry spell that we had earlier on I did lots of hoeing
which is always the best way to deal with weeds in dry weather. If you
try digging weeds out properly you end up drying out the exposed soil,
destroying the “Crumb Structure” and you turn it into so much dust.
Hoeing only affects the shallow surface layer leaving the deeper soil
undisturbed. In fact this is really a better way to deal with young
weeds anyway and enables you to cover a bigger area much more quickly
with the sunshine soon burning them up to nothing. It also means any
soil on the weeds stays on the beds instead of going into your compost
My mother always loved to grow Tomatoes as do most people who have their
own Greenhouses, but I have never been very good with them. I think the
main problem is that I don’t water them regularly enough. However, this
year I had some plants in large pots left over from the vegetable plants
that I grew for other people, so I decided to give them another try. 6
plants were put in my Allotment at the beginning of June, which was a
bit early, but I got away with it as far as cold nights were concerned.
Then, I had 4 plants left over that I put into even bigger pots for my
greenhouse. When using big pots it is always a good idea to part-fill
the bottom of the pots with some “Spent Compost” and then use fresh
Compost to top up the pots. Spent compost is from pots that have been
tipped out because, the seeds, cuttings, or whatever didn’t take. If
plants have died from anything suspicious then don’t re-use that
Compost, but instead put it on your Garden, or the Compost Heap. Most of
the goodness will have gone from Spent Compost, but you will be feeding
Tomatoes regularly anyway so that doesn’t really matter. (This is a good
way of filling very large Patio Tubs as well instead of buying huge
quantities of new compost to fill them.)
As Tomatoes start to grow you need to pinch out the side shoots before
they develop and put canes in firmly to tie the plants to. The canes in
the pots can then usually be tied with long strings to crop headed bolts
placed in the roof framework of most metal greenhouses.
Bolts used to construct most domestic greenhouses have normal square
heads and you can slide them around the framework as you build it, but
after construction, all the ends of the metal channels of the framework
fasten together and are inaccessible, so you need to use “Crop Headed
Bolts.” Basically these have 2 of the corners on the heads of the bolts
removed enabling you to insert them into a channel. Then you twist them
to secure them and tighten them up as normal even though half of the
head of the bolt is missing.
On the Allotment, growing Tomatoes is slightly different to in the
Greenhouse as you want shorter, bushier plants that can stand up to the
weather. Here you may need to tie the plants to 4, or 5 foot canes, but
you don’t pinch out the side shoots. Then the wind and weather will
naturally stunt the plants somewhat. They may still crop bountifully, at
least in a good Summer, but they will ripen a lot later than in the
Greenhouse and cropping is a lot more hit and miss with some years
giving practically nothing except green tomatoes suitable only for
Chutney. Indeed many people grow the smaller tomatoes like “Cherry,”
varieties outside, because they naturally ripen earlier and so are more
reliable to crop.
Last year I tried growing some Aubergines for the first time with some
success, so I have potted on a couple of plants that I grew from seed
earlier in the season. They were slow developing for a long time, but
are coming on nicely now. I think they crop later in the season than
most things and seem to remember that the fruits were still ripening as
the colder nights of Autumn were approaching last year. However, last
year I must admit that I bought the plants a bit later than I might and
that could have been part of the problem. I do think they want a long
growing season though, so hopefully, this year they will get that and
reward me with some of their expensive fruit, or should I say
Back on my plot the Sea Kale, Asparagus, Globe Artichokes and Rhubarb
all finished cropping earlier, but in late June I started harvesting
some lovely Turnips that had been planted out this Spring. My Beetroot
are not far behind them with the Cabbages and everything else to follow
on as well as fruit including Gooseberries, Raspberries and Black
Currants. Talking of Fruit, there will be a natural dropping of fruit
about now, but “Thinning,” the Apples and Pears will need to be done
anyway to remove any sub standard, or excess fruit and encourage the
remaining Fruit to develop into better, bigger Fruit.
Some pruning of Trees can also be done, but you will have to be careful
not to cut away the fruiting branches. Stoned fruit like Plums, Peaches
and Cherries should definitely be pruned in the Summer rather than the
Winter. Even so, you only want to be tidying up this type of fruit tree
now as they don’t respond well to a lot of pruning.
Other than these jobs it is just a case of staying on top of the Weeds
until it is time for Autumn planting and Harvesting in a few weeks.