Gardening Blog – Allotment cubed?

Climbing French Bean 'Blue Lake'

Think of your garden as a cube rather than as a flat piece of land.  That was the helpful advice that plant ecologist, Ken Thompson, gave to would-be wildlife gardeners a couple of years ago.  We should plant skywards as well as horizontally.  Perhaps his advice is just as applicable to an allotment?

A neighbour and I have been discussing the merits of climbing beans.  He’s decided not to grow dwarf french beans on his allotment next year.  He’ll grow more climbers instead.  Trouble-free and healthy though my dwarf beans have been, I think I agree. Their climbing relatives are more productive per square metre.  I’ll keep the dwarf varieties for the garden.

Climbing French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ has been my favourite for years, but my allotment neighbour recommends ‘Cobra.’ He’s also growing Runner Bean ‘Moonlight’ – a bean that combines the best of climbing and runner beans.  Two more varieties to try next year.

I haven’t grown sweetcorn this year, but plenty of people have and are starting to enjoy their harvest.  It’s a crop that needs plenty of space.  Pollination is more reliable if it’s planted in a block rather than a row, so it’s easier to grow on an allotment than in an average garden.

When it’s picked and cooked straight from the plot, it tastes better than anything you can buy.  Chefs recommend putting the water on to boil before you go to pick it – not so easy to organise on an allotment.

According to grow-your-own guidelines, our leeks should have been planted out by the end of last month.  I hung on to mine until rain was forecast. An allotment neighbour reminded me that the traditional method is to make holes in the soil with a dibber and then to gently trim the roots and leafy tops of the young plants before putting them in.

I did as he suggested. They’re  looking happy, if a little crowded.  I’d forgotten quite how many seeds I’d sown.  The aim is to have something delicious to pick during the winter, rather than flower show quality leeks, so ‘crowded’ will be OK.  The trimmings from the leafy tops were great in a stir-fry.

Despite plenty of butterfly netting, a Cabbage White must have ventured into my brassica cage.  A few of its bright green caterpillars have been munching on the broccoli leaves.  They’re easy enough to take off.  The dense clouds of white-fly are another matter! I’ve never had so many on so few plants.  If anyone has any tips on dealing with them organically, I’d be pleased to hear.

Tips from the allotments:

– Sow autumn/winter salad crops such as corn salad and rocket

– Spring cabbages are a good follow on crop after peas or broad beans

– Prune summer raspberries.  Cut the canes that have carried fruit this year down to the ground