Welcome to Lesley Upton’s allotment blog, where she will look at life on her Berkshire allotment, from the veg she is growing to how people are living with the threat of coronavirus. Here she looks at beans, courgettes and lettuces

Beans
About ten days ago I planted my runner beans, climbing French beans and dwarf French beans for the allotment in cardboard toilet-roll tubes. I normally sow all my beans in 7.5in (19in) 3-litre flowerpots and then separate them at planting time, but this year I decided to sow them separately.

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Runner beans

Runner bean 'Painted Lady'

Runner bean ‘Painted Lady’. Credit: TI Media

I planted ‘Painted Lady’ and ‘Polestar’ runner beans and some of these are starting to emerge. ‘Painted Lady’ is an old variety with bicoloured red and white flowers. It is a reliable cropper and the beans have a really nice texture when cooked. ‘Polestar’ is an early cropper and has a long picking season. It produces long, smooth fleshy pods and has red flowers.

Runner bean 'Polestar'

Runner bean ‘Polestar’. Credit: Alamy

I also plan to sow some beans straight into the ground at the allotment when I plant out the beans in cardboard toilet-roll tubes in May, after the last frost, just in case some of the young plants are eaten or don’t grow well. Both sets of runner beans should be ready for picking from July/August.

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French beans

Climbing French bean 'Blue Lake'

Climbing French bean ‘Blue Lake’. Credit: Alamy

While I like runner beans, I much prefer French beans. I have had success in the past with the climbing French bean ‘Blue Lake’ and have sowed these again this year. ‘Blue Lake’ produces lots of tasty stringless beans and I find that they freeze well, too. As with the runner beans, I’ll plant the climbing French beans on the allotment after the last frost and sow a few seeds straight into the ground as well.

Dwarf French bean 'Ferrari'

Dwarf French bean ‘Ferrari’. Credit: Alamy

I have also sown some ‘Ferrari’ dwarf French beans for the allotment. I like to try different varieties, and this is the first time I have tried ‘Ferrari’. I have no idea why I sow dwarf French beans and climbing French beans as they taste the same, but sometimes the dwarf varieties perform better than the climbers – and vice versa.

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Courgettes
I have planted out two of my ‘Endurance’ courgettes, even though I know it’s a bit early. I was tempted by the warm sunny weather, but if the plants are hit by frost I still have two others in the greenhouse.

Courgette 'Endurance'

Courgette ‘Endurance’ planted on the allotment.

I place a stick where the courgette is planted so I know where to water once it starts scrambling its way all over the allotment. Sometimes it’s difficult to see where the actual plant is under all that foliage, so the stick just makes watering easier.

As courgettes are hungry feeders, I’ve added some Dalefoot Lakeland Gold ‘clay-buster’ compost that is ‘full of rich organic material’ to get them off to a good start.

You can still sow courgette seeds. Sow one seed about 1/2in (1cm) deep in a 7cm pot, water and place on a warm windowsill, in a propagator or in a greenhouse.

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Lettuces
We eat a lot of lettuce, so as well as the ‘Iceberg’ plants I sowed a few weeks ago, placed between the Brussels sprouts, I’ve added a small row of cut-and-come-again lettuce plants on the allotment and put a few in a small container in the back garden.

Lettuce 'Salad Bowl'

Lettuce ‘Salad Bowl’.

The ‘Salad Bowl’ I’ve planted is a mix of red and green lettuce that look like oak leaves, and they should keep us going for about three weeks. I’ve also sown some more ‘Salad Bowl’, and plan to continue doing so every three weeks so we have a succession of plants maturing over the summer.

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Blackbird eggshell

Blackbird eggshell

Blackbird eggshell.

I found what I think is a blackbird eggshell on the allotment. I’ve seen lots of blackbirds this year, so I’m hoping they raise plenty of young. There are also lots of robins, blue tits and great tits. They seem to congregate in the plum tree where, presumably, they are looking for spiders, aphids and caterpillars to feed their young.

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We are here for you

Although many people are coping well with self-isolation, others are really struggling and feeling completely forgotten and alone.

Here at AG we are doing our best to keep connected to our readers though the magazine, this website and also through social media.

Our gardening ‘agony uncle’ John Negus is also still working hard. Send him your problems and questions, with pictures if you can, and he will get back to you with an answer withing 24 hours, as he has been doing for decades. Contact him using the AG email address at: amateurgardening@ti-media.com

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We already have thriving Facebook page but are also on Twitter and Instagram. These sites are a brilliant way of chatting to people, sharing news, information, pictures and just saying hello – we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Best of all, as gardeners are generally lovely folk, more interested in plants, hedgehogs, tea and cake than political shenanigans and point-scoring, so the chat is friendly and welcoming.

So please drop by, follow us, ‘like’ our posts and say hello – the Instagram feed is in it’s really early days so the quicker we can get that going with your help and support, the better!

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