Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Grow Your Own in under 2 hours a week: The 80 Minute Allotment in May

Grow your own May Update 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog

The 80 Minute Allotment is a guide to growing your own in under two hours a week. Here are things you can be doing in May if you only have limited time on your allotment or kitchen garden...


The days are getting longer, the sun and soil are both getting warmer, and there are more and more things growing on The 80 Minute Allotment.



Timing can be so important when you're trying to grow your own fruit and veg in a small space or in limited time.


Sow too early and you might find seeds fail to germinate or seedlings grow leggy and weak. Plant out too soon and your plants can succumb to a late frost. Too late and they miss the chance to get established before the slugs reappear.


Even harvesting needs to be optimised to get the best taste before things go over, and to make space in time for the next crop that will follow on in the same piece of ground.





May provides relief from most of these little puzzles here on The 80 Minute Allotment.

It brings longer days and warmer sunshine, interspersed with the odd day of rain. This combination creates optimum growing conditions for almost everything.

Where you are, this perfect horticultural storm may arrive sooner or later than it does here in South Wales. But whenever it does, here's a rough idea of what you might do with however much time you have available to grow your own.

I get an average of about 80 minutes a week to grow fruit and vegetables on my allotment. If you've also got limited time to grow your own, then come and visit me regularly on the 80 Minute Allotment. Click here to Subscribe by Email and you'll get regular updates on how I use my time, in short sessions of one to two hours. I'll show you how growing your own can fit into a busy lifestyle and still produce regular harvests of fresh fruit and vegetables all year round. 



Grow Your Own in 80 minutes a week: What to do in May



I've put a couple of affiliate links to useful items in this post. The Green Fingered Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk. My promise to you is that there are only links to products I'd be willing to buy myself. If you do click through from this site and buy anything, I may receive a fee - just so you know.

I started the year with a rough plan of what I was going to grow and where I was going to fit it all into my plot. These rows of veg are now rapidly filling up as seeds germinate, seedlings grow, and I can now get them in the ground.


Planting and Protecting Brassicas


I buy my brassicas as seedlings, a couple of pounds for each little tray. The trays contain 8 to 12 plants, and I've now planted out a row each of red cabbage, savoy cabbage, green broccoli, purple sprouting broccoli and kale. 

Brassica seedlings ready to plant 80 Minute Allotment May Green Fingered Blog
Brassica seedlings

The numbers in each row and the spacings were all according to the simple plan I worked out earlier in the year.


These are slow growing crops that won't be harvested until autumn at the earliest. This early stage when they are so small is the most critical. They need watering, and protecting from slugs and caterpillars.

Cabbage white butterflies will lay their eggs on the leaves of brassicas and the caterpillars that hatch can ruin any chance of a decent harvest. 

They did for all my cabbages last year so this year I'm taking no chances.

I didn't plant them out until I had a protective net in place. It forms a tent of fine mesh which insects cannot fly through and it will stay in place until the plants are mature and the threat has passed.

Brassica net 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
My brassicas in their tent

It is attached to the posts by hanging it over numerous nails, and the different pieces are held together with bits of wire to ensure a nice overlap without gaps. Two pieces of net go round the sides and another for the roof. It can be unhooked in order to go inside to weed and water, but it should keep the butterflies out!

Although I've recycled beds and snooker tables to use as posts, I haven't yet found a sustainable net of the right sort so I had to buy it. If you know of a plastic free alternative do let me know.


If you need fine mesh netting for your own veggies, these should do the trick: (affiliate link)

       


Planting carrots and beetroot


In April I sowed some beetroot and carrots in modules. They didn't do that well, I only ended up with about half a dozen of each, but I've now planted these in the ground. I think it was too early to sow them, with light levels too low (they were certainly warm enough indoors). 

I think it's better to sow them all direct even if that means waiting until mid May for the soil to be warm enough. 

I could sow some direct now but simply haven't got round to it. I'll do it in the next couple of weeks though. I did sow some parsnips at the end of April, and there's no sign of them coming up yet. This is not a surprise as parsnips are notoriously slow to germinate which is why I sowed one batch at the first sign of things warming up. 

Carrots and beetroot germinate quite quickly in good conditions so there is less of a hurry with them. The carrots and beetroot I sowed in containers have already come up!

Carrots do need protection, from carrot root fly. These insects can destroy a row of carrots, but apparently spend their entire lives within 3 feet of the ground, so a fine mesh wrapped around the bed, attached to posts to keep it in place, is what's needed. 

I use the same mesh as for the brassicas, just cut in half and without the need for a roof.


Carrots Net 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Carrots need protecting too, just in case

Planting Beans and Peas


I've already planted out a few broad beans and peas that were sown indoors and grown on in the coldframe. 

I've now got some french beans, which are much more tender and need to be grown later, hardening off in the coldframe. They'll be planted out soon, but this week I've put in more of the peas and broad beans, after they've spent at least a week in the coldframe first, to get gradually used to conditions outside. 

As you can see, these longpod broad beans were more than ready by the time I was able to get them in the ground.

Broad Bean Seedlings May 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Broad Bean Imperial Longpod ready to go in the ground

There are a few more peas and beans in pots that will be planted out soon. I've also sown a few broad beans direct. They can germinate at lower temperatures than things like carrots, so hopefully they'll come up soon. The disadvantage of sowing direct is that the tiny seedlings are more vulnerable to slugs and snails than if they are larger pot grown plants before going out on the plot.

But the first few batches of Dwarf Broad Bean "The Sutton" are doing well. Some are even flowering so the first harvest is already on the horizon. I've only watered them once a week and they are looking really good.

Broad Bean Flowers May 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Broad Bean The Sutton flowering

Weeding onions


The onion bed is virtually full. I have some leeks sown indoors that are hardening off and can be planted soon. I'll also sow some salad onions, but the bed is already pretty full of red and white onions, garlic and shallots. 

After a slow start they are now growing well but so are the weeds!

Onions are easily damaged by hoeing around them so they need to be hand weeded. This takes a while so I never clear them all but enough to prevent the onions being deprived of water or nutrients by their unwanted rivals.

Onions and weeds May 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
A weed filled onion bed, before I got busy

Growing Raspberries


I planted 6 raspberry plants in February and they have been very slow to get going, presumably due to the very cold spring we've had. 5 of the 6 have now produced shoots, some growing faster than others. I'm hopeful the last one will appear soon.


Raspberry shoots May 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Raspberry shoots

Flowering Strawberries


The strawberries are now starting to flower well. Once they have been pollinated and start setting fruit, I will need to protect them from being eaten by birds. 

Strawberry flowers 80 Minute Allotment May Green Fingered Blog
Strawberries flowering
I use the same system of nets attached to old bits of bed and snooker table, but the netting doesn't need to be so fine, as there's no problem with insects getting through. In fact we want insects to carry on pollinating later flowers. 

There are lots of nets available with mesh size of 15mm to 20mm. Any of these would do the job: (affiliate link)

              


Earthing Up Potatoes


Every trip to the allotment now involves adding a bit more compost on top of the potato shoots. I'm growing them in bags at the bottom of the plot, and as they grow taller, I cover them up again to encourage more tubers to be produced down below. 

Apart from watering to make sure they don't dry out, this is all that's needed

Potatoes May Update 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Potato shoots peeking out - just cover them up again!

Tomato and Lettuce seedlings


Germination of lettuce in modules has not been very good this year, and its always quite difficult to keep the seedlings going. They have a tendency to rot off, or get eaten by slugs while hardening off outside. 

They need to be a decent size before planting out or I find they will just get eaten.

About 8 Lollo Rossa have made it so far, and I'm just waiting for them to grow on a bit before planting them out between other crops. I will sow some more.

Tomato seedlings have done really well to date. I have 7 plants on the windowsill. This is as much as I will have room for, as I want as many as possible to stay inside to avoid the blight which always seems to arrive at some point in the summer. 

Tomatoes May Update 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Tomatoes on the windowsill

I have two varieties, both are cherry tomatoes, because that's what we prefer to eat - Gardeners Delight, and The Amateur.

Eating broccoli and kale


We've now eaten all the kale that was left. This has been removed to make way for carrots and parsnips. There is still some purple sprouting broccoli - as you pick it, the plants just produce more flowering stems. There is so much that its been difficult to avoid the flowers opening before we pick. Once the flowers open the stems get much harder and less appetising.

Always nice to finish with a harvest! I'll be back soon with more on how I spend 80 Minutes a week growing my own. If you are growing your own too, do let me know how it's going.

Paul.

You might also like:

Grow your own in under two hours a week: The 80 minute allotment

Getting your allotment or vegetable patch started





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