Welcome to Lesley Upton’s allotment blog, where she looks at life on her allotment in July from the veg she is growing to how people are living with the threat of coronavirus. Here she looks at French beans, runner beans, strawberries and garlic growing on her Berkshire plot.

Thank goodness we’ve had some rain to make life on the allotment in July a little easier, but now we have strong winds that are causing havoc to my beans! I’ve had to tie in most of my runner beans, while the dwarf French beans – which don’t usually need support – have had to be supported with string. It’s very strange weather for July.

 

Beans

I’ve lost two dwarf French beans because it’s been so windy, and the third (bottom right of the picture below) doesn’t look like it will survive. It’s such a shame as they are growing so well this year.

Dwarf French beans supported by string

Dwarf French beans supported by string.

I’ve enclosed the beans in a string support in the hope that it will stop the wind blowing them over and snapping the stems.

The runner beans have also been affected by the strong winds, so I’ve tied these to the canes. There are a number of young beans forming on both the ‘Polestar’ and ‘Painted Lady’ varieties.

Young beans on runners

Young beans on runners.

‘Painted Lady’ is an old variety, originating in mid-1800s, and has lovely red and white flowers. ‘Polestar’ is a more recent variety that is supposed to be completely stringless.

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Strawberries

As my strawberries fruited early they are producing runners earlier than usual. So I’ve earmarked a few plants that produced lots of large fruit and have potted up the runners.

Strawberry runner held down with wire

Strawberry runner held down with wire.

I filled some 4in (11cm) pots with compost, watered it and then chose some strong runners, preferably that had already started to form roots. I then pushed the roots of the runner into the compost and anchored it in place using a U-shaped piece of wire. The runner should remain attached to the parent plant until its own roots have become established.

Some of the runners had two or three new plants forming, so I chose the strongest one (nearest the parent plant) and removed the rest of the runner.

Strawberry runners potted up

Strawberry runners potted up.

I should have seven new strawberry plants in four-six weeks. When I see roots coming through the bottom of the pot, I’ll snip the runner from the parent and plant it out on the strawberry plot.

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Garlic

My garlic was growing really well until we had the hot, dry weather. I’m not sure if I overwatered or underwatered them, but they didn’t produce many bulbs. Then the foliage started to dry up, so I decided it was best to lift the bulbs as soon as possible.

Garlic, including elephant garlic

Garlic, including elephant garlic.

I planted some elephant garlic along with some traditional garlic last October – but I can’t remember if it was a hardneck or softneck variety. The rain washed away the variety on the label, but I think it was a hardneck variety.

Hardneck garlic is usually hardier than softneck garlic, but it produces fewer cloves per bulb (9-11 cloves). Softneck garlic is less hardy than hardneck varieties and produces more cloves per bulb. It also stores better than hardneck garlic.

Elephant garlic, which is more closely related to leeks than to garlic, has a milder flavour than traditional garlic. I actually prefer using this when cooking.

I really should keep a list of what I sow and when, so I can see what grows well each year. I’ll try harder next year!

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Let’s keep gardening!

One of the great things about lockdown was that more people discovered the joy of gardening and growing things and we greatly hope that this won’t wear off now that ‘normal’ life has resumed.

This blog is an insight into what the AG team is up in their gardens, what we like to grow, what we pick and harvest, what’s worked for us and what hasn’t – because like everyone, things go wrong for us too!

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 within 24 hours, as he has been doing for decades. Contact him using the AGemail address at: amateurgardening@futurenet.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.

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So please drop by, follow us, ‘like’ our posts and say hello – we will reply as soon as we can. Happy gardening!