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Allotment Garden Extra April 2021

Allotment Garden Newsletter

From John Harrison


As I write the weather could best be described as changeable. Yesterday we had rain, sun, snow, sun, hail, sun, snow and ended with a lovely sunny evening!

As gardeners we just have to cope with variable weather. Life would be a lot simpler for us all if Mother Nature followed the rules and we got the weather we expect, but life is rarely that convenient. Don’t miss the chance to get out on the plot if the weather is up to it.

One way to handle variable weather is successional sowing. Many seeds are really cheap, so wasting a few isn’t a big deal. Sowing some seeds into pots or modules undercover, whether in a greenhouse or coldframe every 2 weeks will ensure some are ready to plant out when the weather is right.

With crops that you have to sow directly like carrots, horticultural fleece will help if the weather turns cold. On my raised beds I use netting above some crops to protect against birds. The netting has a side effect of reducing wind speed and this improves the micro-climate, reducing wind-chill and improving results.

And with potatoes you’re better planting in mid-April if the weather dictates than a month earlier. You’ll still get a crop and a better one than you would by planting in frozen ground at the ‘correct’ time.

As the April Dig for Victory Guide says

And although we shall be only too anxious to get on with arrears of clearing up; digging, seed sowing and planting, we shall find that “hasten slowly” is still sound advice when soil conditions are not right.

Incidentally, there’s a poem and a short film from 1941 I shared on my blog you might enjoy

Mrs. T. And Her Cabbage Patch

Growing Potatoes

Now the weather is – I hope – improving, high time to get the potatoes in. Potatoes rarely fail, except when blight strikes, but often produce a disappointing crop. So a few pointers that will ensure you get a bumper crop.

Potatoes are a very hungry crop, so plenty of rotted manure or compost or potato fertiliser in the soil before planting will give them what they need.

Watch out for late frosts after the haulm (foliage) has started to show. Earthing up will help but I like to cover the rows with horticultural fleece when frost threatens.

Water well in dry spells – they need more than you might think!

Slugs are the biggest pest, tubers with holes in will not store well and there is nothing worse than finding a slug inside your potato. I’ve tried lots of solutions over the years and for my money the best answers are nematodes or the organic wildlife and pet-safe slug pellets based on ferric phosphate.

There’s over 20 pages on growing potatoes including alternative methods on the site here: How to Grow Potatoes

Potato Offer

Our expert friends at Potato House tell me that stocks are out/dwindling of some varieties but they certainly have a good alternative for most varieties for the next couple of weeks.

The offer for the Sarpo blight resistant trial packs is still available to allotment garden readers.

Sarpo 5 varieties pack usual price £17.75, extra discount of £3.00. Price with coupon £14.75

Just put SARPOAG in at the checkout

Chitting is not so important at the time of year and hopefully we won’t have any more snow! Potato House are dispatching most orders by the following day and so people could be planting potatoes by the weekend/start of next week. (Unfortunately unable to deliver to NI).

Sarpo 6 varieties trial pack offer

Our Books

Thanks to Suttons, the free seed offer across the range can continue! More stocks arrived just in time. We’re still offering free delivery as well.

Check out the April specials too – I do my best to give people value as best I can.

Our Books – Click Me!

Keep Your Hands Clean!

If, like me, you don’t like wearing gloves and quite enjoy getting your hands in the soil you will have had the experience of finding soil ingrained into the skin and taking a lot of scrubbing to get clean.

Try applying a barrier cream – just the cheapest hand cream you can find. When you get in and wash your hands you’ll find they clean up easily and feel a lot better.


I get quite a few questions about restoring old rotavators but sadly I can’t help. I’m just hopeless with mechanical stuff.

However, there’s quite a few petrol heads on our forums who can often help and we’ve got a selection of technical manuals online.

Rules of Rotavating

Fancy a giggle? These cartoons from Howard Rotavators back in 1974 have a gentle, timeless humour.

The Rules of Rotavating

Planting Spaces

A lesson that applies just as much on the vegetable plot as a shrub border. Those small seedlings that look so far apart when planted will eventually, with luck, be strapping big plants and filling that space. I’ve seen a lot of growers disappointed by crops just because they didn’t give them enough room.

Sometimes you can make use of that space though. With brassicas like sprouts and cauliflowers, you’ve often time to interplant with fast growing crops like lettuce and harvest them before the brassicas need that room, making the most of your space

Carrot Fly

You’ll often read that the carrot fly cannot fly above 30 or 45cm high and a barrier that high will stop them reaching your crop. If only it was true. Show growing friends tell me they’ve had to protect against them even when growing in barrels 2 metres above the ground.

Interplanting with onions might well confuse some of them and one tip that made me laugh – although it might work – was to put pieces of mirror in with the carrots so the fly would attack the intruder to defend her territory.

Resistant varieties like Flyaway are a good option but the best solution if carrot fly is a major problem in your area is to grow under fleece or insect mesh.

Growing Carrots – Articles & Help

Horticultural Fleece (Harrod Horticulture)

That’s All Folks!

I’m always happy to hear back from you but I get a lot of emails and regret I just can’t answer everyone.

Don’t forget there are a lot of good growers on our forums who are happy to help with your questions. It’s often useful to get more than one person’s input to a problem.

I hope you’ve found this newsletter extra useful. The next newsletter will be May. Until then –

Good Growing and above all, Keep Safe


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