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 growing peas, rhubarb and sweetcorn

Peas, please!
I managed to plant some peas in the allotment a few days ago – then it said on the weather forecast to expect a frost. Luckily, the peas were unaffected and seem to be growing well.

I sowed ‘Meteor’ in cardboard loo rolls, two seeds in each, a few weeks apart, and kept them in the greenhouse. Once they had been hardened off, they were ready for the allotment.

'Meteor' peas on allotment

The ‘Meteor’ peas are growing well.

I dug a trench deep enough for the cardboard loo rolls to sit in, and added some Dalefoot Lakeland Gold ‘clay-buster’ compost to give the peas a head start. I also added some blood, fish and bone. Then I placed a length of chicken wire along the middle of the trench and planted the peas either side. I prefer to use ‘pea sticks’ rather than chicken wire, but haven’t been able to get any this year.

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‘Meteor’ is a first early pea variety that should reach a height of around 18in (45cm). I haven’t grown ‘Meteor’ before, usually planting ‘Feltham First’, but apparently ‘Meteor’ has a better flavour. I still have a few more ‘Meteor’ peas growing in the greenhouse, and have started to plant some ‘Hurst Green Shaft’ in cardboard loo rolls.

‘Hurst Green Shaft’ is a taller maincrop pea, reaching a height of about 30in (75cm). It produces heavy yields, with up to 10 peas per pod that are renowned for their sweetness.
I love the taste of fresh peas as it reminds me of my dad’s veg garden, and I can’t wait for pods to start appearing!

Rhubarb, rhubarb
The rhubarb on the allotment is growing well. I have no idea what variety it is as I inherited it when I took over the allotment, but it really does produce a lot of rhubarb. I’ve already pulled a number of stalks to give to neighbours – making sure to pull and twist the stalks rather than cutting them.

Rhubarb allotment

The rhubarb is ready to pick.

I’ll keep harvesting rhubarb until the middle of June, making sure I water it well if we have a dry summer. Then I’ll stop harvesting so it can build up its energy reserves for next year.

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Swift sweetcorn
My sweetcorn is starting to germinate in the greenhouse. This year I’m trying ‘Swift’, which I haven’t grown before. It’s an extra tender sweet variety, which is sweeter than standard sweetcorn. It apparently stores well, although I always boil mine as soon as I can after picking it and freeze what I don’t eat.

Sweetcorn 'Swift'.

Sweetcorn ‘Swift’ just starting to germinate.

I planted ten pots with sweetcorn, and six have germinated. I’ll give them a few more weeks and then acclimatise them to outside conditions before planting at the allotment.

Sweetcorn is wind pollinated, so it’s best to plant it in blocks rather than rows. I plant them about 18in (45cm) apart and water them well throughout the growing season, although I have heard that some people say this isn’t necessary and they provide only minimal water once the plants are established.

To test whether the cobs are ready, use a fingernail to pierce one of the kernels and if it’s milky you can twist it off the main stem. If the liquid inside is clear, it’s not ready to pick.

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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 theAGemail 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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Don’t forget to give someone you know or love a call. They might be feeling low and lonely and hearing from you will make their day. Happy gardening!