Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
People seem to have generally
been planting up their plots on our site a bit later this season,
although a few eager Allotmenteers put their early potatoes in, back in
the middle of March and garden centres have been selling lots of things
like cabbages for ages now. Of course Cabbages should stand any amount
of cold nights as long as they are hardened off properly before planting
out and Potatoes that are still underground will generally be Ok from
frost, but as soon as they start to shoot, the fleshy, green stems and
leaves will be extremely vulnerable to the cold. Personally, I didn’t
plant my Potatoes until the start of April because of the risk of frosts
and I am making sure that I keep “Earthing them up,” to give them some
protection for a bit longer. Hopefully, the shoots won’t break through
their earth ridges until nearer to the end of the month.
Towards the end of March I did sow a few rows of Parsnip seeds directly
in the ground, but all of the rest of my seed sowing has been done at
home with some in my Greenhouse and some on my Kitchen Windowsill.
My greenhouse soon started spilling over with young plants as the seeds
came up and were pricked out into pots and modular trays. The first to
be done was Parsley and they went outside almost straight away as they
are pretty tough. Others that were put outside for the sun in the
daytime and then brought back inside for the colder nights when frost
was forecast included: Asparagus and Globe Artichokes along with Cape
Gooseberries. Pots of Leeks and Chives soon followed as they came
through from a later sowing. I tried to hold back my Brassicas a bit
though as they would not be needed until later in May when it was to be
our Sales Day.
Apart from growing lots of vegetables for the allotments, I have been
Germinating all sorts of other seeds for the Charity where I was working
as a Volunteer before the Lock Down restrictions and they had to
virtually shut down.
Some tender greenhouse vegetables like Aubergines, Peppers and Tomatoes
had to go in early for them as they wanted them to be ready a bit
earlier than we did on the Allotments, but my own Courgettes, Squash and
Runner Beans will not go in until a bit later in April.
Much of the seed that I have put in for work was of Flowers. They like
to grow things like Helichrysum and Statice for cut flowers and they
produce lots of Bedding and Tub plants including African Marigolds,
Amaranthus, Celosia, Cosmos, Lobelia and Ipomoea, so those have all gone
in. I have also sown some seeds of Perennial and Border plants of things
like Dianthus, Alyssum Saxatile, Geum, Gazania and Rudbeckia.
The ethos for Allotments is to recycle and make do and Re-using old Pots
and Trays is definitely the “Thing to do” these days when growing your
own plants, but there is one golden rule that really should be obeyed.
The Rule is that everything must be washed to remove hibernating Slugs
and their Eggs along with any diseases. This is most important as they
will soon come back to life when your seedlings start to grow.
Some trays and Pots will always get broken and need re-cycling with
other plastics, but many can be used over and over again which of course
will also save a lot of money as they can be expensive to replace.
A lot of Allotmenteers also try to save money by using garden soil, or
any other odd bits of old, Compost that they can find to sow their seeds
in. This is not a good idea for so many reasons including the fact that
it may well contain weed seeds, insect and other pests such as Slugs,
and an assortment of plant diseases. Furthermore it is unlikely that it
will have a good consistency for the seeds to grow properly. It is also
a fact that it will probably not have a balanced nutrient content, or
indeed have much in the way of nutrients at all.
Using bought compost may seem an expensive waste of money but a bag of
proprietary Compost for seed germination is as they say a “No Brainer.”
The cost of a bag from a Garden Centre is small compared to the value of
even a few trays of home grown plants that have been grown from seed.
However, with the days of all Compost being made from Peat being behind
us now on Environmental grounds, the quality of bought Compost seems to
vary dramatically. This often means that it may have to be sieved,
especially where small seeds are to be sown and need to be covered. The
general rule here is that bigger seeds need to be covered more than
smaller ones, although some seeds need light to germinate, some need
dark and things like Brassicas have smallish seeds, but need a good,
thick covering. I suppose it is true to say that of most seeds that are
sown directly in the soil on Allotments including other things like
Beetroot, Carrots and Parsnips, but always read the seed packets before
sowing where you will generally find good instructions.
Wherever you sow your seeds, they will want watering afterwards, whether
they are outside, or in your greenhouse. Outside you have no choice, but
to water with a can from above, but after sowing your seeds in trays
they are best watered from below to prevent the seeds from being washed
away and when you do start watering from above, always use a fine rose.
It does help if you don’t fill the trays to the brim as well, because
this can help seeds from escaping and being washed away if you are a bit
heavy handed with the watering. You shouldn’t really need to water seeds
on your Allotment Plot again unless there is a dry spell, but most seeds
germinated inside will need constant attention as regards their
watering. A few seeds like Basil don’t need much water to germinate, but
most need moist soil and a moist atmosphere, so are best put into a
Propagator of some sort to retain the water, keep the humidity levels
high and also increase the warmth. As soon as seeds are through they
should be removed from the Propagator or else they will develop soft,
fleshy and weak growth. Don’t put them outside, but they do need to be
just a little cooler and they need plenty of light even if they had to
be germinated in the dark. As they rapidly grow and develop their first
“True Leaves,” they can be “Pricked Out,” separately into pots, or
Modular Trays to give them a bit more growing room. Apart from some of
the hardier vegetables, most young plants will then need the continued
protection and warmth of a Greenhouse for a while before they can be
planted out after the frosts have finished at the end of April, or even
later depending upon the weather.
Do be aware that, if we have particularly sunny, or warm days in Spring,
the temperature in a Greenhouse can rapidly soar and almost cook your
young plants. Apart from checking on them regularly, and leaving the
door and propagator tops open, it is sometimes a good idea to drop a
couple of sheets of old Newspaper loosely over them to shade them. Don’t
leave it on for all day and night though, because that will make them
“Leggy.” Just cover them for the hottest hour or two of the day.
Then, as May comes and the days and nights start to warm up a little,
you will be able to plant out any of your young plants, including: all
tender vegetables such as Beans, Tomatoes, Courgettes, Squashes and
Sweet Corn. Indeed flowering plants that you have grown, such as Bedding
and Basket Plants and any Border Plants can go in as well.