There’s nothing quite like tending to your very own allotment, reaping the rewards of your home-grown hard work. Wonky carrots and weird-shaped tomatoes take pride of place on our plates – who cares if they’re not winning any prizes, they’re winners in our eyes. And we think they taste better too!
To celebrate the coming of National Allotment Week, we asked Ken of Plants2Gardens to give us his top tips on how to get the most out of your allotment. Friends of Joules seller Plants2Gardens, who grow and sell beautiful plants for your home, certainly know a thing or two about gardening – Ken’s allotment is home to rhubarb, parsnips, onions, beetroot, potatoes, carrots, fennel, broccoli, sprouts, tomatoes, apples and much more!
To provide the best space and environment for your fruits and vegetables to grow, you need to keep on top of pesky weeds before they become too much of a problem. Start by using a good quality hoe to pull up the worst of the weeds. For new shoots, you’ll have to get down and pull these by hand, but if you get into a good rhythm this shouldn’t take too much effort.
Got chickens in your allotment? They love to eat the weeds you’ve pulled up! Just toss them a handful and you’ll have happy hens and a happy veg patch too.
Weeding is one thing, but if you’re growing fruits and vegetables from seeds you need to make sure you’re thinning them out before seedlings start competing with each other. With the onions we grow in our allotment, I like to sow them into a line then pluck out the shoots so there’s a space of a couple of inches apart. That way, the onions will have plenty of space to grow nice and big.
A great tip for growing tomatoes is to pinch out the side shoots that grow on the vines to encourage one long stem to grow to give enough space for your tomatoes. It’s good to do this every day.
New raspberry plants are best planted in the autumn, winter or early spring period as dormant roots. Raspberry roots grow new shoots from underground and they can come up two feet away from where they are planted so be careful when you hoe the ground in spring around newly planted plants. Raspberries require some support, but simply a post and wires is sufficient and loosely tie in stems to help them stand up.
Raspberries prefer sunny sites with good free draining but moist soil. Water if particularly dry in summer when plants are in flower until harvest for the most delicious juicy fruits. Once they’ve fruited, pick raspberries regularly when the red flesh pulls away from the plant easily with your fingertips. Always pick in the coolness of morning and allow to warm through the day for maximum sweetness. – or just pick and eat as you garden!
Did you know there are 7,500 registered apple varieties? There are apples specifically for fresh eating, cooking, making jam, juicing and cider.
Not all apple trees are self-pollinating, so many need a partner apple within 1-mile radius in order to produce fruit. Bees will carry the pollen between the trees. An apple trees height is given by the rootstock that the variety is grafted onto. Some apples trees can be grown as a single columnar stem, others are trained as a fan shape while others make perfect patio trees on a balcony. Not all apples require a garden or allotment!
Wondering when to pick? Apples are ripe for picking when you gently lift them in your hand and they come away from the tree without any pulling.
Our Friends of Joules seller Plants2Gardens specialises in the latest breeding and forgotten plants from yesteryear that are worthy of a space in your garden. Each plant arrives from the nursery – being hand-picked and packed – supplied with care instructions to help you select the best location for it to thrive for the season or the years to come.