What to grow
The range of vegetables/fruit you can grow is huge and with the warm (and getting warmer) climate in this part of the country virtually anything is possible. Just take a walk around the site and see what other people are trying out. Aubergines (see above), figs and apricots are but three crops which can now be grown out of doors.
It is also good fun and not too difficult to try and keep the allotment producing throughout the season. Some useful tips are are:
- Planting some crops is the late autumn to over winter: garlic, onions, peas and particularly broad beans can be grown like this. Broad beans are one of the jewels of allotments. Aquadulce and Sutton varieties can be planted in late October/November and they will get a head start in the spring so that they will largely avoid the problem of black fly.
- Use various means of protection in the Spring to extend the growing season. Obviously a greenhouse will do this but also simple cloches and cold frames will serve equally well. Clay soil, because it holds water, is slow to warm up so if you want to grow first early potatoes warm up the soil first for a few weeks by covering with plastic/fleece.
- Try to phase your crops so that not everything is ready at once. Successive sowings of salad crops/peas/beans etc will help. Also over the season make a plan so broad beans and peas are ready first, followed by climbing/dwarf French beans, followed up by runner beans in August/ September.
- And make sure that you have crops producing through the winter. Calabrese and Cauliflowers are best when ready in the autumn followed by cabbages which should be available throughout the winter. For Christmas you should be aiming for parsnips and brussel sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli will follow in January through to March.
- Brassicas are hard work but well worth persevering with. You need to net them at all times with a small sized mesh (good butterfly nets are available from Harrod Horticultural which will keep the caterpillars away) and intensive treatment with advanced slug pellets is also advised. (see pests and problems and how to deal with them)
- Soft fruit varieties can also be phased through the summer months. This is particularly the case with strawberries and raspberries and choosing the right varieties will ensure a continual supply throughout the summer. Autumn fruiting varieties of raspberries are particularly suited to heavy clay and will withstand the damp conditions better than the earlier varieties and the birds do not seem to like them so do not need netting.