Friday, 13 June 2014

How to plant a low-maintenance allotment.

How to plant a low-maintenance allotment | Life and style |
When it comes to choosing low-maintenance crops, opt for
winter squashes,
drying beans,
maincrop potatoes,
globe and Jerusalem artichokes,
perpetual spinach and
All these crops, once planted, require a quick weed and water now and then, and no mollycoddling. If you don't religiously water any of the above, chances are that, when you do eventually visit the plot, there will be something for you to harvest, and it will be of good edible quality (OK, so yields might not be huge, but what did you expect?).

broad, French and runner beans,
courgettes and calabrese
- are also low-maintenance but their harvest window is brief, so you've got to visit the plot every few days to pick your moment.

Parsley, mint, oregano, thyme and chives are good candidates too (fennel also self-seeds everywhere on our site, so we're never without it).

Sinking bottles by the roots of large plants such as squashes and corn will make things even quicker – just fill up the bottle and walk away. The moisture will slowly soak into the rootzone, right where it's needed.

Low-maintenance pest- and disease-control is not going to happen – gardeners need to regularly check over plants and nip any problems in the bud. All you can do is grow crops that show resistance to diseases that are known to be prevalent on your plot, such as tomato/potato blight and clubroot, and follow the "prevention is better than cure" rule as closely as we can. Net all brassicas against pigeons and cabbage white caterpillars. Erect a wire perimeter fence if rabbits are a nuisance. If anyone knows of a low-maintenance slug and snail option, let me know – at the moment organic pellets are my best suggestion. I grow salads and other edible leaves in my back garden where I can give this pest more attention.

Use water copiously on newly-sown seed beds. In the case of planting out, you disturb the root ball and these disturbed roots need plenty of water to re-establish their roots firmly in the ground and remove air pockets. So again, don't spare the water after planting out new plants and continue the watering until the plant has fully established its foothold.
On established vegetables the most important to time to water them is at the cropping time. Potatoes need plenty of water when the flowers are formed and they are in the tuber forming mode. So do not spare the water and drench them once a week to allow those potatoes to grow and form. Beans and peas are thirsty plants when they are forming pods. This is their offspring and at this stage a once-a-week soaking will give a successful crop.
I never water root crops. They have long tap roots and the purpose of these is to seek out water and nutrients deep in the depths of the soil. This gives better roots for harvest and watering them only keeps a myriad of tiny roots at the soil's surface.
Leafy crops such as cabbage and lettuce do need a drink regularly or, if they go dry, they will ‘bolt’ and send up seed heads as stress tells them to protect the species and form seeds.
So in the vegetable patch carefully plan the watering regime, I prefer to get up early in the morning to give them a drink to start their day before the sun evaporates all that moisture into the atmosphere.
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