Allotment Growers Tips and Tricks

The following tips, tricks and ideas have been submitted by plot-holders to share their secrets with you.

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Asparagus tips

Many plot holders grow asparagus some more successfully than others and here are a few tips to help us improve our crops. This advice includes that from the RHS and further guidance is available on their website 

Asparagus originate from sand dunes. So they need a sunny site with a sandy soil for good drainage. So a raised bed may help, especially on plots with poorer drainage As they need time to mature and should be left for many years, good soil preparation is essential. Especially removing perennial weeds 

To grow buy good quality crowns which are one year old male plants and mulch ground to suppress weeds. Follow RHS and other advice in particular add fertiliser in spring at 100g sq m. and weed carefully not using hoe to avoid damage to plants. Can also feed at end of summer to boost plants. 

Stake tall feathery plants to avoid wind damage.

Asparagus beetle is a major pest and found on many of our plots but needs controlling to avoid serious damage. Although they can fly many plots are free of the beetles when next door is badly affected so the main issue is dealing with your own infestation. From May through to August pick off and kill to prevent damage. They lay eggs on the stems which grow into grubs that devour your plants. You should remove eggs. To prevent beetles make sure in autumn to cutdown the plants below ground level And remove all stems. The beetles live in the dead stems or other debris To kill larvae in March treat with nematocides. Not cheap but effective and once killed off should not need repeating just pick off any beetles you see. There are organic sprays such as Bug Clear but these are less effective.

Although some effort is involved they will repay with years of tasty crops in May when not much else is cropping. And they don’t need watering!

Using Less Water

Water is a valuable resource and in long dry spells it's vital to not over water.  This not only reduces the amount of water we use but saves time for you too.  The water troughs around the allotment may look like a free resource for you to help yourself, but it's our most expensive extra cost - both in terms of money and the environment.

  1. When planting crops in a trench, line the bottom of the trench with a mulch such as leaves or paper - some people use cardboard.  This helps to keep the water where the roots are.
  2. Add mulch above ground around the plants - slowing down evaporation.
  3. When watering try not to do it too quickly - give time for the water to penetrate the soil rather then run off to the sides.
  4. Adding organic matter to the soil not only provides nutrients, but also helps to retain water - think how wet a peat bog is!
  5. Don't water if you don't need to.  It seems obvious, but if the top of the soil looks dry, it doesn't mean the soil below is dry - stick your finger down into the soil and see if there's moisture just below the surface.
  6. And of course collect rain water where you can.

Bitter Tasting Courgettes - a warning

The RHS state that:- "The bitter taste of some fruit is caused by an over-production of plant defence chemicals called ‘cucurbitacins’. This is mainly a problem in courgettes and summer squash and is caused primarily by a mutation within the plant.  The problem is more likely when plants are grown from saved seeds, where inadvertent cross-pollination may have occurred. Affected fruit should not be eaten as it causes stomach upsets and affected plants should be removed." 

More worrying is this article (see the link) which clearly shows these courgettes should not be eaten: 

It is recommended you taste them raw and, if bitter, discard them and that plant.

Plot Holders

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