Posted 16th August
There's little better than growing your own organic fruit and vegetables, and National Allotments Week (14th-20th August) seems like the ideal time to look for ways to produce your own tasty seasonal produce all year round - The Greenhouse People offer their tips on growing seasonal produce all year round
Friend or foe?
'Companion planting' is crucial for making the most of your space and for the quality of your produce. Certain complementary plants will forge mutually beneficial relationships, helping to repel pests, improve pollination and provide nutrients.
- Lettuces, radishes and other quick-growing plants which are sown between hills of melons or squash will mature and be harvested long before the vines need more room.
- Leafy greens such as spinach will grow well in the shadow of corn.
It's plants that are not compatible with each other that are called combatants.
- White garlic and onions. These make excellent neighbours for most plants, but the growth of beans and peas will be stunted in their presence.
- Potatoes and beans grow poorly in the company of sunflowers. Similarly, although cabbage and cauliflower are closely related, they don't like each other at all.
- Fennel is a poor companion plant for everything. The herbs will typically cross-pollinate.
Growing members of the same 'family' close together increases competition for soil nutrients. You can disperse onions, chives, leeks and garlic across your plot, as opposed to keeping them close together.
Inter-cropping simply means growing fast and slow-growing crops together to utilise space.
A good example of this is the 'three sisters' planting technique. Corn, beans, and squash can be inter-planted as they thrive together, and each vegetable will draw on a different key nutrient as a way of maintaining growth.
The acts as a great space saver for small gardens and vegetable plots, and can be applied to other similar plants as well.
Add a fourth sister to the scheme. Sunflowers will act as another climbing support for beans and attract pollinating insects.
The Great British Weather
Sometimes, the unpredictable nature of the British weather can let us down, meaning the plant projects you're tirelessly nurtured could end up turning out less than successful.
However, purchasing a greenhouse for your allotment means you can ignore and evade most of the seasonal changes and weather conditions you'll face throughout the year. Extreme temperatures, excessive rain and droughts will not cause serious problems to greenhouse gardening efforts, and will give you much-needed flexibility when it comes to any form of complementary gardening.
Add an electric or gas heater, along with overhead lighting - this can extend the growing period for warm season plants for even longer.
Planting herbs throughout your plot can help to repel insects with strongly scented leaves. For instance, sage will repel cabbage moths, and French Marigolds are great to grow with tomatoes due to their strong scents repelling aphids, and are also very pretty. The benefits extend beyond protection - the addition of herbs are able to enhance the flavours of other plants too - for instance, growing basil alongside tomatoes and lettuce will enhance the flavours of both.
If you grow herb wormwood, you can make a tea that will repel slugs when poured on plants.
Allotments can offer the perfect place to develop your passion for gardening. During National Allotments Week, there are open events across the country where you can find out more. You can see if your local area is hosting one here.
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