May is when we can really get sowing and planting. Still a chance of frost though, so keep fleece, grass cuttings or straw handy for a quick cover-up if there is a frost warning..
Lots of vegetable seeds can be sown under cover this month including pumpkins, runner beans, courgettes. We have known a frost in June though, so would wait to plant these outside until at least the end of the month. Of course, you can risk it if you have spare seeds or seedlings to replace any that get frosted. Or you can buy replacements at the HAHA Plant Sale on 9th June – it could be very good timing!
Mangetout and peas that have been sown undercover and are now ready to be planted out, with plenty of twiggy protection from pheasants and other birds. I often struggle with making successional sowings but find this technique helps:
1. Sow quick-germinating seeds into modules
2. Plant half the resulting seedlings out into the ground
3. Sow some more seeds directly into the ground
4. Two weeks later plant out the remaining seedlings from the original modules
This should at least offer three harvests which are a couple of weeks apart – of course, the weather may impact on this along with slugs and other pests taking out your seedlings, but it may extend your harvesting season by a few weeks…
This year’s spring has meant that the ground is still quite wet below the surface and the sunshine is bringing the weeds along very nicely. Every time we clear a patch a new bunch of seedlings appear a few days later. At the moment we know that these can only be weeds but it will be difficult to tell weed seedlings (weedlings?) from our sowings in a few weeks time. Usually it’s obvious by the time that the 2nd set of leaves appear on a plant, as they look more like the adult leaves. This is one of the reasons why traditionally seeds are sown in rows on allotments so that if the seedling appears outside of the neat row then you know it’s a weed and not wanted and can be hoed off (that’s the theory)
A couple of things we’ve learned recently:
1. You may notice notches appearing in the leaves of your broad beans and peas. These are made by weevils. The produce won’t be damaged as long as you water the plants regularly to encourage them to grow quicker than the beetles can attack the leaves.
2. You need to tie-in the young sweet peas so that they grow upwards rather than spread along the ground – but remove the topmost curly tendrils to encourage them to grow strong stems and a bushier habit.
Much later in the year and the weather will likely make it more difficult for you to get started with preparing the ground and sowing for this year – although, of course, it’s not impossible and you’re bound to get something back for your efforts.
Hungerford Allotment Holders Association