Why weeding is so important

Weeding at an allotment or in garden is a constant battle at this time of year. As temperatures rise and stay at a constant, plants of all kinds will grow at the same rate.

A weed by definition is…

“A wild (not deliberately cultivated) plant growing where it is not wanted.”

Keeping on top of the weeds means that the plants that you do want to grow in a certain location won’t be fighting for light, water and space.   At this time of year your weeds are establishing themselves and the bigger they get the harder they will be to get rid of.

Carrot Tops

There are a number of ways to get rid of your weeds – these including:

1. Weeding

A tried and tested method is to literally pull them up out of the ground.   Be sure to take out the root as this could re-sprout and you’ll end up with more weeds. Eventually you’ll get to the point where you can run a hoe your through your beds to break up the ground and the roots of any new weeds that pop up.

Composting your weeds has always been a point of contention –  I tend to chuck all of my debris onto the heap.  The only weeds I try not to compost is horsetail/marestail or bellbind/bindweed. These are particularly prolific and resilient weeds.

2. Chemical Weed Killer

I tend to use chemical weed killer for paths and areas that I definitely don’t want weeds to grow. Most weed killers on the market are made to target one specific type of plant, so the rest of your crop will be fine if you choose to go down this route, but don’t forget…You are still using chemicals on plants that you intend to consume.

3. Covering the ground

Restricting light and water is one of the easiest things to do if you have a bed that you don’t want to get weedy, or if you have you a patch of weeds that you want to kill. Using large sheets of cardboard, plastic, landscaping fabric or literally anything that will stop light through will work for you.  When I plant out some of my seedlings, I tend to mulch as I go to try and stop weeds growing through.

You can use grass cuttings, compost from the compost bin, cardboard or anything to mulch the ground. I’ve read about people using old newspaper cuttings as a mulch and this will help you retain a lot of water into the ground too.

Tips on dealing with Hayfever

If you suffer from hayfever, you probably find getting out into the garden a bit of hindrance. Itchy eyes, a runny nose and sneezing fits can ruin anyone’s time at an allotment or in the garden. According to the NHS, one in five people are affected by hayfever every year.

What is Hayfever?

Hayfever is an allergic reaction to pollen. Pollen is a fine powder released by plants during their reproductive cycle. Pollen contains proteins that can cause the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses to become swollen, irritated and inflamed – not very nice!  The best way to deal with hayfever is to try and reduce your exposure to pollen, or at least prepare yourself with coming into contact with pollen.

Drug-free ways to deal with Hayfever

  • The pollen count is at its highest in the morning in the morning and at night. The reason for this is because pollen in the air rises as the temperature increases during the day, at night, as the temperature cools, the air pollen with fall again. If you’re a real sufferer then stay indoors during these times.
  • Pollen sticks to everything including your skin, hair and clothes. Give your clothes a good shake when you go indoors and take showers regularly to deal with the pollen dust.
  • Keep your house and living quarters clean.  Dust in the home can harbour pollen, which can easily be kicked up by a draft or general day to day goings on.
  • At night, when you’re in bed, your nostrils turn into a canal for pollen to flow right into your sinuses – run Vaseline or beeswax under your nostrils to catch some of those alleges from entering your sinuses at night – it’s a little bit greasy, but you don’t wake up in the morning with a runny or blocked up nose.
  • Wearing sunglasses when you’re outside will also help combat pollen from reaching your eyes – you’ll also increase your personal cool factor.
  • If you’re a smoker, quit. Smoking can enhance the symptoms you’d otherwise feel during a normal pollen attack.
  • Keep an eye out for pollen forecasts. Forewarned is forearmed.

 

Dealing with slugs

Slugs are one of the creatures that are in abundance in any garden environment. They eat away at leaves, stems, flowers and roots in the dead of night leaving nothing but carnage in their wake. Naturally so!

slug-close-up-2-1512655As the temperature begins to rise and you start to see things grow at the allotment and you’ll begin to attract all sorts of creatures looking to survive.

There are some natural slug remedies that you can employ to reduce the amount of damage that they can cause.

Beer – to make a beer trap, just bury a jar or a plastic container and fill it with beer. Come the morning, the beer trap will have become a slug pub, as slugs find beer impossible to resist.

Copper – you can purchase copper strips here, which you can then place around the base of any plant. There’re two reasons why slugs don’t like copper strips. Copper is toxic to slugs and other organisms and copper also gives off a static charge when slugs try to cross it.

Grit/broken egg shell – horticultural grit or broken eggshells laid around the base of the plant will help deter any slugs who want to feast on your plants. This is probably the least full proof method of deterring a slug, as a slug can glide over the sharp surface with the help of its slime. The rough surface will provide a longer, more inconvenient experience for the slug.

Chemical solutions to dealing with slugs

According to the RHS, there are two types of slug pellets available on the market.

Pellets that contain metaldehyde:

  • Slug Clear Ultra Pellets
  • Bayer Bio Slug and Snail Killer
  • Deadfast Slug killer
  • Doff Slug Killer Blue Mini Pellets
  • Westland Eraza Slug and Snail Killer

And those that contain ferric phosphate:

  • Growing Success Advanced Slug Killer
  • Bayer Natria Slug and Snail Control
  • Bayer Organic Slug Bait
  • Vitax Slug Rid
  • Doff Super Slug Killer
  • Sluggo Slug & Snail Killer

Ferric phosphate based pellets are approved for use by organic growers and are relatively non-toxic to vertebrate animals. I’d also recommend the ferric phosphate option if you’re a little bit particular about what chemicals you use at the allotment.

I hope you find these tips useful and if you know of any other ways to deal with slugs, be sure to leave a comment and let me know!

Cleaning pots and trays

Cleaning pots and trays is good practice as keeps down mould, blight and other conditions that may have an impact on your plants and seedlings

If you haven’t already, the chances are you’ll be using pots for seeds, seedlings and plants as the weather starts to improve the temperature rises. It doesn’t matter if you use plastic pots or clay pots, over time debris can build up and that debris can harbor diseases and organisms that may cause you problems for your plants.

Cleaning pots and trays at allotment will make you look like a really particular individual.  But, to the seasoned horticulturist, it’ll come across as one of those jobs that will put you in good stead.

Before you start cleaning pots and trays, you may notice a white, powdery film build up around the rim of your pots or on the inside – this is because mineral salts build up from the soil and these salts could potentially dehydrate your plants, from the stem upwards. If you were victim to any sort of blight or fungus, washing your pots will also reduce the risks of you passing onto the next season’s crop.

Cleaning pots and trays is easy – it’s just like doing the washing up. A little bit of warm water, a stiff brush and some washing up liquid or diluted bleach will do the trick. Once they’re all clean, leave them to dry, and you’re all set for the year ahead.

Cleaning pots and trays is also practice if you inherit pots from someone else or if you collect used pots and trays from a local garden center – you never know what those pots and trays may have been used for or if they’ve accumulated hidden conditions that could thwart the growth of your plants, or worst still, kill them off slowly!
Cleaning pots and trays at your allotment

Looking after your allotment tools

Doing  a maintenance check on your allotment tools is one of those satisfying jobs you can do at this time of year that will pay dividends later on.

Cleaning and looking after your tools helps them last longer and in return, they’ll look after you.  As you use your tools they’ll get caked up in earth and soil, and the moisture trapped in the soil will encourage rusting.  Rusting can weaken your tools (as this leads to corrosion in the long term) and you’ll find that your once sharp tools are blunt.

Start by chipping off old mud and wash what you can in some warm water with a little bit of fairy liquid and a stiff brush – I unscrew the head of my broom.

Looking after your allotment tools

You can use a scouring pad to get off any non-persistent layers of rust – but for the tougher areas, you may want to use some steel wool and some WD40.

With a little bit of elbow grease thrown in, you’ll instantly notice a difference.

Looking after your allotment tools

Allow your allotment tools to dry thoroughly and you can maybe help this along with the use of some rag. Applying an aerosol oil or a lubricating oil with a rag will form a barrier between the air and the steel, reducing the chance of oxidation (rust).

Looking after your allotment tools

Rusty and blunt shears and lobbers are useless. If you have stainless steel blades, maybe consult a local steel sharpening specialist if you’d like to sharpen them – but for the time being you can clean, dry and then oil them.

Some brands of shears are designed so that you can unscrew them and then sharpen using  a carborundum stone (available at any reputable DIY shop or garden centre).  When it comes to pruning season, you’ll be glad you carried out this well earned tool MOT.

Looking after your allotment tools

Oiling the shears will also help to keep the mechanism smooth when you’re pruning.