Welcome to Lesley Upton’s allotment blog, where she looks 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 planting out beans, strawberries and leeks

Praying for rain

It’s time for planting out on the allotment, but the main topic of conversation at the allotment is water – or the lack of it. We desperately need rain, as watering an allotment with watering cans is causing problems for everyone at our allotment site. One person I spoke to said he’d given up counting the number of watering cans he had carried to his allotment from the water troughs when he reached 50.

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We used to be able to use hosepipes run from taps dotted around the site, but this was stopped seven or eight years ago. Apparently, some people were leaving their hosepipes running all night, so the water bill was horrendous. Now all we have are water troughs where we fill up our watering cans and trudge up and down the allotment paths.

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Beans
Earlier this week I planted out my ‘Polestar’ and ‘Painted Lady’ runner beans and the three climbing French beans that had germinated. A number of people I know have had trouble germinating beans this year.

Runner beans and French beans

Runner beans and three small climbing French beans, with the dwarf French beans behind, covered by netting.

My neighbour on the allotment has had to sow a second batch of runner beans today as the first lot didn’t germinate, while I had to sow some runners for a friend as his didn’t emerge, either.

My runner beans germinated fine – the problem is with French beans, both climbing and dwarf. I sowed about 15 ‘Blue Lake’ climbing French beans in the middle of April and about the same number of ‘Ferrari’ dwarf French beans. The result – just three ‘Blue Lake’ and not one ‘Ferrari’.

French beans

French beans – but are they dwarf or climbers? I’ll find out later.

Fortunately, a friend gave me some dwarf French beans, which I have planted and they seem to be growing well. I then found some French bean seed in the bottom of my allotment bag, so I sowed ten seeds in two pots. Now they all seem to be germinating! The trouble is, I don’t know whether they’re dwarf or climbing so I’ll have to wait until they get bigger to see if I can tell the difference.

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Strawberries
I have had to place netting over the strawberry plants as the blackbirds have started to dine out on the few that have started to turn red.

strawberries

One picking of strawberries from the allotment in 2015.

I don’t know whether this will be a bumper year for strawberries, as my plants are still quite young, but if I get half of what I collected in 2015 (see picture) I’ll be happy. They should be ready to pick in 7-10 days.

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Leeks
The first leeks are in the ground. I planted out a few of the ‘Pancho’ variety and will plant a few more of these, and the ‘Autumn Mammoth’ I sowed earlier in the year, over the next week or so.

Newly planted 'Pancho' leeks.

Newly planted ‘Pancho’ leeks.

I used a dibber to make a hole about 8in (20cm) deep and dropped the young leek plant in. There is no need to backfill the hole with soil, as all you have to do is fill the hole with water and some of the soil around the plant will be drawn down into the hole to cover the roots. I sowed two rows, about 1ft (30cm) apart, with leeks planted every 6in (15cm) or so. They should be ready from October.

 

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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.

John Negus, questions, answers

AG’s agony uncle John Negus is still answering your questions and solving your problms

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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