Tips from and questions to other allotmenteers.

… or, answers to daft and often very simple questions I came up with but couldn't find answers in books Also, questions for a newbie to ask to save time, money and effort. They are in no particular order.

Q: When are broad beans ready to pick? (I don't eat them, but acquired some when I took over)
A: When they feel an inch or so long in the pods. Feel them.

Q: How do you get immaculate cabbages? (after mine had been shredded by the local caterpillars)
A: Spray them every week or so!

I decided to fight on with this one: I don't like the thought of eating more pesticide than cabbage so next time, nets are going to be used to keep the butterflies off in the first place. Oh and the pigeons… Flea beetles are another matter - grow the plants as fast as possible and use derris dust if all else fails.

Q: What dug up my carrots? (looking at a suspicious crater in the plot)
A: Foxes. There was a den up near the trees. They do keep rabbits out, which is a blessing.

Ask to find out what doesn't grow very well on the local soil so you don't waste money on seeds!

Q: When is the last frost in the area?
A: A question which is very local to a given allotment, but the allotmenteers can tell you about the particular conditions in your plot. For instance, in my allotment, which is on a hill, there is a dip at the bottom and is a bit of a frost pocket. In 2001 it got frosted in early June, but further up the hill was fine.

Q: When do you plant sweetcorn out?
A: Again a very local answer. Mid-June seems to be the consensus here - ie after the last frost plus a week..

Q: Where do you get your manure from? This is best asked of the person with the nicest well-rotted manure heap!

One from Bob Flowerdew, heard on Gardeners´ Question Time after a question on one of my own banes, bolting caulflowers on light soils:

Caulis are not easy.  Light soils are not good. They really do like heavy soils. Enrich with compost, manure, firm it by treading. Grow them in seed beds, thinly. Thin early, and when only a couple of inches high, run a knife a couple on inches under the surface to sever the taproots. This causes them to grow a bushier system of roots. When you transplant them it's a fibrous sytem which takes better. Don't put too close - couple of feet each way.

Q: Parsnips: when do you sow and how?
A: These are notorious for slow germination. I´ve been told to fill up old loo roll middles with compost, water it, sow 3 -5 seeds in the top and put in a cold frame. When they do germinate, you can thin to one seedling and then plant out the whole tube in the final position and you don´t get holes in the row or accidentally forget where the row is...