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 planting lettuces, parsnips, beetroot and spring onions on the allotment.
Yesterday I planted out my ‘Iceberg’ lettuces among the Brussels sprouts. I planted them there as I wanted to keep them covered and had run out of Enviromesh! I also seem to be running out of room, as I still have to plant out cabbages, cauliflowers, runner beans, dwarf French beans, climbing French beans, leeks, squash and pumpkins – to name just a few.
I have never grown ‘Iceberg’ lettuces, and I know they take a while to develop the crunchy heads, but hopefully the Brussels sprouts won’t shade them too much as they grow. I still have some cut-and-come-again lettuces to plant out – once I find some room for them.
The recent warm weather has meant I can sow some parsnip seeds. This year I’m trying ‘White Gem’ for the first time, as I usually sow ‘Tender and True’. I only changed varieties because our allotment sells seeds and ‘White Gem’ were the only ones available at the time!
I always buy fresh parsnip seed every year, as it seems to deteriorate very quickly. I also sow quite a lot of seed as I find germination can be sporadic.
I prepared a drill and sowed the seeds at a depth of around 3/4in (2cm). It can take up to 28 days for seeds to germinate, so you have to be patient. If lots of the seeds germinate, I’ll prick out the weaker ones and leave the strongest seedlings about 3in (7cm) apart.
The parsnips should be ready to harvest from late autumn until January. I try to leave them until they have become exposed to a frost as this tends to make them sweeter. Apparently, this is because the cold conditions turn the plant’s starch into sugars to prevent water in the cells from freezing!
There are so many varieties of beetroot available today, in various colours, that we’re spoilt for choice. However, I prefer the old-fashioned plain-red ‘Boltardy’. I’ve sown it for years and it’s really sweet. Unfortunately, I only had half a packet of seed so I sowed the lot and hope it all germinates.
I sowed the seed in a shallow drill about 1/2in (1cm) deep and will thin out seedlings if they’re too close. I usually transplant the seedlings as they don’t seem to mind being disturbed.
I like beetroot that’s slightly larger than a golf ball in size, as it’s sweeter. I then boil it and eat it as part of a salad, or roast it.
Next to the beetroot I have sown a row of ‘Guardsman’ spring onions. I never seem to have much luck with spring onions, as they don’t seem to ‘fill out’, but I keep trying, year after year. I usually sow ‘White Lisbon’ but this year I’m trying ‘Guardsman’ for a change.
I sowed the seeds in a drill about 1/2in (1cm) deep and will keep my fingers crossed that I get some decent onions in about ten weeks.
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