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May 2021

This has been the coldest and driest April since I started the allotment, so lots of planting has been put on hold. Just when I thought the frosts were done, I chanced putting out the French Beans, Peas and Mange Tout. Only to have to rush out and closh the whole bed with fleece to protect it from yet more late frosts. Climbing French beans have been sown in triplets and the sown area protected with some plastic milk bottles. The base and the top can be sliced off (carefully) and a bamboo stick inserted to hold them in position. They provide a warm micro climate for germination and a little protection from pigeons and perhaps mice. The middle fallow area under the bean frame has the courgette plants; they will fill out the ground space.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli:

The wait is over, and now the Purple Sprouting Broccoli is available on a cut and come again basis. There is about a 2 month window of picking before it turns to flowering and seeding. This is a long crop, the new plants will be put out soon and it needs fine mesh protection, as a brassica, from Cabbage White butterflies. It also need staking as the plants grow else the heavy tops flop over onto the soil. If you can afford the time and space it is well worth the wait. The fronds are crunchy and nutty.


My father sent some strawberry plants as a thank you for helping out in his garden last month. Normally I propagate and plant on the runners in the Autumn, but these are bare root plants that need planting out straight away. I managed to get some free bark chipping from a tree surgery job nearby. The by product makes an excellent base for fruit beds and weed suppression. Here’s what to do with these plants.

  • Before planting out, on delivery, put the plantlets in water to soak the roots.

  • Trim the roots if they are too straggly. The aim is for the root tips not to be bent up at the edge of the hole.

  • Place into the hole, about 5cm (2in) deep spreading the root structure carefully. It’s not essential but if you can put a little mycorrhizal fungi in with roots that will help establish a healthy root system. A small bag of Rootgrow (™) costs about £5.

  • The perennial plant should fruit well for about 3-5 years, after which it may become exhausted and subject to virus degradation. By that stage young runners will have been planted in a fresh bed.


I used three deep-fill grow bags on plastic trays. I grow tomatoes in our small garden for three reasons. Firstly, I have an automatic water dripper that can keep the bags moist when I am away. Secondly, whilst the allotment has a good border of protecting trees, I find that the concentration of other tomato plants encourages the production of blight which browns the fruiting plant and tends to kill it late on in the season. Finally, it is nice just to stroll out and grab some fresh tomatoes for lunch. Make sure you shake out the compacted compost then place three plants, as per the marked area, in each bag. The deep fill allows you to put the plant deeper than its extant root system, the covered lower stem will develop more roots helping healthy growth. I keep the flap of cut plastic and tease the plant stem through a slit so that it covers as much of the compost around the base of the plant as possible. This is because we have a lovely pair of Blackbirds that return year after year to nest. However, they love to rummage through the bags searching for worms and grubs!

Each plant is placed next to a vertical support and it will need tying up as it grows. I lost one plant to the frost. However I always have a few spare grown from last year’s seed just for this reason.

I’m hoping for a little more warmth over the next few weeks to sow root vegetables and put out the celeriac plants I grew in the Potting Shed. I will also plant next years purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflowers and calabrese plants remembering to net them of course.

Good luck.

Angus is a Senior First Officer and Resilient Pilot Mentor with a passion in Wellbeing, CRM and TEM. This is the fifth in a series of blogs from Angus, to read more click here. To find out more about Angus, and our other pilot mentors, please visit our 'supported' page

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