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Allotment Garden Newsletter August 2020

Allotment Garden Newsletter

From John Harrison


Dear Friend

I don’t know about where you are, but we’ve not had the best of July. For the most part it’s felt more like early winter than high summer. The weather seems more and more unpredictable but looking at some old gardening books, it’s never been that reliable in Britain.

Still, what can’t be cured must be endured so we plod along!


Our site supporters Harrod Horticultural and TwoWests & Elliott are both still busy but getting orders out of the door as normal, near enough. Seed suppliers like Suttons are coping now as well. Panic over! 🙂

Just a thought…

Since the coronavirus epidemic started, a lot of people have taken to growing their own. Some just because they’ve had time on their hands but a surprising number are, like me, a little concerned about their food security.

One thing this pandemic has shown us is the fragility of our food supply system. There doesn’t need to be an actual shortage, just a suggestion of a problem is enough to start people panic buying. Once started, it quickly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Having a plot capable of providing food is an insurance policy in an uncertain world.

Happily things don’t need to go wrong for this insurance policy to pay off. Growing your own is rewarding in many ways. Not least, it pays for itself. Saving money that would be spent in the shops for inferior fruit and vegetables.

And don’t forget, working on the plot is keeping you fit in body and mind.



My August 1945 Dig for Victory guide started by explaining that “Before Roman holidays were popularised in these islands August was Weodmonath—the month of weeds.” Given half a chance they’ll be scattering their seeds and there’s a lot of truth in the old saw, “One year’s seeding, seven years weeding”

Most weeds are easily dealt with by the hoe, especially if you get them young. The action of hoeing will break up the soil on the surface which is useful in itself. Some heavier soils form a crust on the surface which means rain doesn’t soak in easily and it helps water in the soil evaporate by capillary action from below. So if we do get a prolonged period of dry weather, there’s less need to water soil recently hoed.

Some weeds are more difficult to control. Cut the top off a dandelion and it will spring back. Chop up the root and you’ve got yet more plants growing. I discuss these difficult weeds in some detail here – Weed Control

For some weeds, chemical control is by far the easiest way although with time and determined effort you can control even the most difficult organically. The choice is yours but if you can handle them without chemicals, do so.


Flame Weeding

There is an old way of weed killing that works really well for things like paths and drives, a flame weeder. The idea with a flame weeder is not to burn the weeds to ash, just to stroke the weed with the flame until it shrivels. More information on flame weeders at Harrod Horticultural

Sacrificial Beds

This leads to another old but effective technique for controlling weeds when you sow. The sacrificial or stale bed technique. It does require a bit of planning ahead but it can save hours of work.


Late Season Cultivation of Tomatoes

It’s time to stop your outdoor tomatoes although you may get away with letting your greenhouse plants go another few weeks. See this article: Removing Tomato Side Shoots (Suckers) & Stopping Tomatoes

After stopping my tomatoes I start removing foliage to encourage ripening. Not all the leaves, just a few at the bottom to start. This allows more light to get to the fruits and helps avoid mould problems in cool, damp weather.

Once stopped and with some foliage removed, the plant is stressed and reacts by pouring its resources into swelling and ripening fruits to carry on the line.


Yellowing Leaves on Tomatoes

You may see yellowing leaves on the plant and fear it’s some disease. Tomatoes do suffer more than their fair share of viral diseases but often it’s an easily cured magnesium deficiency and easily cured. See: Tomatoes Magnesium Deficiency

Normally we feed our tomatoes with a liquid tomato feed that is high in potash for the fruits but I like to help the plant along around now by giving them a couple of feeds with Miracle Gro or similar. High in nitrogen to perk up a tiring plant, Miracle Gro also has a good selection of trace elements to cure most deficiency problems.

An organic equivalent would be to move from a high potash feed like comfrey based liquid feed to a nettle feed or a muck tea for a few feeds.


Our Books

Orders are being processed as quickly as possible but inevitably there are some delays so our current delivery estimate is 10 days.

Multiple orders may be split and dispatched in separate packets to simplify handling and avoid manual processing at the post office.

We’re sorry but no orders for outside of the UK can be accepted at the moment.

We’re still able to offer free seeds with a value of £6.00 with each book.

All of our books are individually signed by the author on the title page.

Our Books


There are four vital elements to produce a good crop of sweetcorn.

  • Space, plant them at least 18” apart.
  • Time, get them sown and planted in good time so they have a long enough growing season
  • Weather, a decent sunny summer makes a real difference to sweetcorn
  • Nutrition, sweetcorn is a greedy crop. It needs plenty of available nutrients to produce well.

The cold, dull month we’ve just endured is not helping things along. They’re looking a bit stunted – probably wondering if they’re in the right season.

Anyway, to give them a boost I’m giving them a booster liquid feed which I make up myself. Take 2 oz (60 gr.) of Growmore and 1 oz. (30 gr) of sulphate of ammonia or half that amount of urea and mix with warm water in a jug to dissolve. Add this to 2 gallons or 9 ltrs of water in a can.

Water around the base of the sweetcorn using 2 gallons per 10 plants. It usually gets them back on track quickly given a little luck.

Preserve your Produce

I’ve always admired the Victorian head gardeners. Their job was to put a varied selection of wholesome fresh fruit and vegetables on the table of the Big House every day of the year. A tall order even today. They did have the benefit of a large staff and costs were not much of a concern but it was still an impressive accomplishment.

For us ordinary gardeners today, lacking a large staff and twenty years of training, the answer is to use the tools the modern age gives us to store our crops to provide all year round quality food.


How to Store your Home Grown Produce

It’s great growing your own and eating freshly picked fruit and vegetables, but what do you do with the inevitable gluts? We’ve faced that problem over the 40 years we’ve been growing our own and this book passes on our answers.

That’s why we wrote How to Store your Home Grown Produce. 186 pages of hard information you can refer to. From drying and salting, bottling and many other traditional and modern methods through to freezing.


Easy Jams, Chutneys and Preserves

When we wrote our Easy Jams, Chutneys and Preserves we never expected it to be as successful as it turned out to be. We didn’t want it to just another recipe book but a genuine guide so readers with no experience could produce delicious jams and chutneys – moving on to confidentally creating their own recipes. Seems we got it right!

Easy Jams, Chutneys and Preserves


Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for August

Don’t forget there are things that can still be sown or planted even this far into the season. Spring cabbage, Chinese cabbage, winter lettuce, rocket, dwarf French beans, spring onions, radishes and green manures. That should keep you busy!

Read ore here: Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for August


It’s always nice to hear back from readers but please understand we’ve a lot going on that I’m trying to keep up with. I really can’t reply to everyone but I do read all the emails that I’m sent.

If you need advice, why not ask on our help forums where there are lots of experienced gardeners who can assist you.

That’s it for now, I hope you’ve found this newsletter useful. The next newsletter is due early September but I may send out an extra mid-month. I’ve had a lot of people say they find them useful, especially at the moment.

Good Growing but above all, keep well



Allotment Garden

Fron Dirion, Clogwyn Melyn,
LL54 6PT


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