Saturday, 16 June 2018

Protecting Strawberries (and other allotment jobs for June)

Save your strawberries! Protect them from birds and slugs before they ripen, if you want to enjoy a plentiful crop. And there are plenty of other things to do at this time of year in the allotment or kitchen garden. 


Even if, like me, you haven't got much time to spare, you can still grow your own fruit and veg. I average about 80 minutes a week on my small allotment. By keeping it simple and straightforward, it's surprising how much you can get done. Here's what I'm doing this week...


Protecting Strawberries (and other allotment jobs for June)

There is nothing better than picking (and eating) your own fresh strawberries straight from the plant. The anticipation builds as they ripen and soften while you wait for them to be at their best (if you can wait that is). There is consequently nothing more disappointing than to find that someone else has got there first.



I'm not referring to greedy relatives, or thieving scrumpers - I mean of course the wildlife. The wildlife we try hard to attract to our gardens to add to the entertainment and pleasure a garden gives, and to help protect our plants from pests, can occasionally become the primary pest. 



Strawberries can come under attack from above and below. Those birds we encourage into our gardens to devour aphids and the like, are similar to us in that they much prefer fruit to insects. And the usual garden nemesis, the slugs, will also munch there way through our strawberries given half a chance.

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.



Spread straw around strawberries

I've spread straw across the strawberry bed so that any developing fruits rest on top of it. This keeps them off the soil so they are clean and dry. It helps stop them rotting and seems to make it more difficult for slugs to eat them. I've done them same to the ones I'm growing on the patio in containers.

Stop birds eating your strawberries by covering them with a net

I've built a net cage over and around my strawberries. It's very rustic, but does the job and cost me nothing:

Related: Recycle to protect your allotment crops or garden fruit and veg


Most of the year the strawberries are uncovered, right up until the fruit develops. Bees need access to pollinate the flowers, otherwise there would be no fruit. But once the berries appear, I cover them over so that birds can't get in. 

Strawberry bed with straw and net 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
My strawberry bed, with straw and net

I haven't yet found anything I can recycle to make an effective net, and haven't found a plastic free one either. If you have let me know. For now there's no alternative for me to buying standard fruit cage netting like these (affiliate link):



The strawberries are looking good, but they're still green. I should be picking them nice and red and juicy in a couple of weeks.



GREEN FINGERS TIP: Make sure your fruit cage is tall enough for you to get inside and actually pick the fruit. Otherwise you will need to remove the net every time you want to pick some. I have a section at one corner that hooks over like a flap, so that I can open it easily to get inside. 




Other grow your own jobs for June 

I also crammed these other jobs into my 80 minutes on the allotment this week:



Earth up potatoes


Both the early and main crop potatoes I'm growing in bags are growing well. To encourage as many tubers to develop as possible, I've regularly added compost to cover the foliage as it grows. The plants are now nice and tall, and both bags are full, so we just have to wait for the plants to flower. Once the flowers finish we'll dig them up and see what we've got.


Potatoes in bags earthed up 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Potatoes in bags earthed up and growing well
Related: Planting potatoes in a bag



Check brassicas

Any cabbage white butterflies getting near the brassicas could be disastrous so I make sure the fine mesh net cage they are in is secure and in tact. I've had no problems this year and they are all growing well. 

You can see savoy cabbage and green broccoli on the right of the picture. These were planted earliest and are looking strong. Kale and purple sprouting broccoli are on the left, and red cabbages in the middle. Only a couple of seedlings have withered in the exceptional dry weather we've had since I planted them, and I've only managed to water them a couple of times. So far so good for the brassicas.


Broccoli and cabbages in cage 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Cabbages and broccoli growing well in their cage

Plant out courgettes and french beans

Now the weather is really warm it's time to plant out courgettes. I'm growing two plants and they have grown well in small pots in the cold frame since I bought them. This has hardened them off to life outside and now they are in the ground. They need plenty of eater early on to make sure they establish.

Courgette plant 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Courgettes planted out
I also planted out the rest of the french beam seedlings. These were the later sowings that have been hardening off in the coldframe for a couple of weeks before being ready to go in the ground.




Thin  and water seedlings


There is still no sign of any parsnip or carrot seedlings, from any of the batches I've sown. I may resort to buying plug plants if they don't appear soon.

The beetroot and spinach have come up. They need to be thinned so that they have room to grow to a good size. I worked out the spacings at the start of the growing season, so I know beetroot should be about 10cm (4 in) apart, and spinach 8cm apart. 


I look to leave the stronger looking seedlings in place, but gently pull out any in the gap in between so that the right spacing is achieved.

All seedlings need to be watered in dry weather as they are vulnerable to drying out at this early stage in their life.

Beetroot seedlings 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Beetroot seedlings
My container grown carrots have germinated, and survived next doors cat looking to do its business in the pot. The container grown beetroot are also looking good. These get exactly the same treatment as those at the allotment. 

Sow more seeds


I did sow more carrots but its difficult to keep them moist enough to germinate at the moment without being on the allotment more often. Buying seedlings might be the answer. 

The lettuce seedlings I planted out got eaten by slugs and snails so I've sown some more in trays at home. They are easier to transplant successfully than carrots and parsnips which are better sown direct if possible.

Back at the house the neighbours cat did dig up the spinach and spring onions I'd sown in containers so I sowed some more and surrounded them with pointy canes to put the cat off trying again. 

Tie in peas and climbing beans


Peas and climbing beans are growing well at the moment. They need help to cling on to whatever supports you're using. Mine are growing on teepees made of sticks with twine around them.

I gently push them in and out of the twine as they grow so that they attach themselves to it and stay upright.

Harvest snap peas and mangetout


The first of the peas are ready to pick! They taste really great fresh from the plant and this makes all the effort worthwhile when you can either eat them raw straight away, or cook them and have them on your plate within a few minutes.
Peas ready for picking 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Peas ready for picking


Weed around broad beans 


The broad beans aren't quite ready yet but they wont be long. There are loads of flowers so I'm hoping for a bumper crop. The first pods are developing, but I can let them get much bigger before picking them.


Broad Beans 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Broad beans starting to produce pods


Pot up tomatoes


My tomatoes are also growing well. I have seven plants in total, four of a cordon variety and three of a bush variety. I've moved them all into larger pots to give them room to grow and fresh compost to feed them. They are all on sunny windowsills.

The bush varieties don't need anything doing to them apart from watering. The cordon ones now have canes for support. They need any side shoots pinching out from between the main stem and the leaf stems. When they reach the top of the cane I will pinch out the top growing tip too. 

Tomato side shoots 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Pinch out side shoots from cordon tomatoes
That's my busy 80 minutes on the allotment for this week. I'll be back with more soon. Hope your plots are doing well too. Happy growing!

Paul


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