Newbury gardener's hints and tips for growing your own vegetables
DAVID Cole has an allotment at One Tree Park, between Fifth Road and Bartlemy Road in Newbury.
He says: “I am not a professional, my experience comes from helping my father from the age of 12 at Hermitage, where we lived.
“We had three quarters of an acre of mainly vegetables, which nearly kept the family self-sufficient all year.”
After getting married in 1973, the Coles moved to Fifth Road in 1982 and as David himself says ‘the then steward of OTP bullied me into taking my first five pole allotment’.
Fast-forward 30 years and David now has five of these plots.
“My experience is helping my father, then trial and error on my own allotment. If I write things that you have seen Monty Don or Alan Titchmarsh disagree with, the chances are they are correct!”
Allotments have become extremely popular over the past 30 years and David puts this down to television programmes such as the sit-com The Good Life and the reality programme Tales of The River Cottage with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
“From 1982 to 1993 OTP went from around one third occupancy to a waiting list, which has continued to be the situation ever since and this also applies to the other five allotment sites in Newbury.”
Events over the last year have also shown an increase in ‘growing your own’ with people turning to home produce during the lockdowns.
David says: “Newbury Town Council own – and have always given strong support to – all the sites and, especially during the recent pandemic, have gone out of their way to help us, working within government guidelines, when so easily they could have shut us down as some other councils did in other areas.”
If first early potatoes have not yet been planted then they should go in now.
I plant mine, depending on soil temperature, around the second or third week of March and cover them in fleece to avoid the young shoots poking through the ground and catching a frost.
If you have no fleece, ridge the potatoes up as soon as shoots show and if they push up through the ridging, put more soil on top of them.
If there is a risk of frost, you should do this until at least the latter end of May.
Small seed can be planted, parsnips, carrots, beetroot etc.
It is wise to plant onions between carrot rows to help stop carrot root fly, which is guided by smell.
Marigolds can also be used, but they are susceptible to frost.
I personally cover my carrot seed in micro mesh tunnels from the day I plant them until after harvesting as it’s a sure way to keep the fly at bay.
I find planting something to ‘kill’ the smell is a bit ‘hit and miss’.
Towards the end of April I put my runner bean and dwarf bean seed in between newspaper sheets and keep it wet until the beans start to shoot.
Once I see a shoot, I transfer them to root trainers or boxes of compost to grow in the greenhouse until the end of May, when they can be transferred outside.
Beans should ideally be planted outside when the shoot appears between the two seed leaves.
With the changes in climatic conditions, it is possible to put sensitive plants out into the garden earlier, but I always go by the old adage ‘don’t plant out till May is out’ – it only takes one frost to destroy a lot of hard work.
The same goes for marrows, squashes, courgettes etc.
I don’t bother with the wet paper, but do plant them in the greenhouse in pots ready for planting out.
If you haven’t got a greenhouse a window sill, conservatory or similar is fine, as long as they get plenty of sunlight and water and cannot get frosted.
If you are interested in allotments visit Newbury Town Council www.newbury.gov.uk/community-services/allotments
For general information on allotments visit the National Allotment Society www.nsalg.org.uk