The arrival of May is like reaching the slow climb to the top of a rollercoaster for me. Slowly and patiently I have awaited the descent into summer and the allotment is suddenly bursting into lush green bountiful life.
For now though my attention is turning to beans and that agonising decision of when to plant them out. Runners, French, dwarf - green, purple, yellow - I will have an array making their way up carefully constructed poles towards the far end of this month.
Sweetcorn goes into the ground this month and come Autumn the reward of sweet home-grown cobs picked, cooked and eaten within minutes is like nothing else. Sublime.
New sowings do need to be kept watered if they have a good chance of establishing.
💦But plants are more resilient than you think. Prioritise your time and water new sowings and new transplants, they need it the most. I don’t water any established plants outside like potatoes, anything perennial and even beans and squash once they get going.
💦Little and often is not best when it comes to watering. Much better to give things a good, deep drench every few days – even once a week – rather than a light sprinkle over everything. So, if my time is short, I pick a couple of beds and soak the life out of those. Then do the other beds another day. A heavy soak promotes better root development and better roots means plants are better able to drive down and seek out water themselves. (Pots are a different story, I do my pots at home everyday).
💦Watering during the day, or when it is really sunny does not damage the plants or scorch the leaves. That’s a total myth. Like lots of things, the best time to do it is whenever you have the time to do it. That said it is more pleasant in the cool of the early morning or late evening and it helps stop water being lost through evaporation. I prefer early morning as I think wetting everything at night encourages the slugs and snails out! Actually, I find the best time to water is when it’s raining… 🤯 counter intuitive I know, but if it’s cloudy and a bit drizzly the soil will absorb and retain much more water.
💦Another reason no-dig is good for the allotment is well mulched healthy soil retains more water, so you don’t need to water as much.
Sweetcorn is my absolute favourite home grown treat. A cob picked and eaten straight away is mind blowingly delicious.
I don’t get hung up about planting in a grid formation, because I tickle my silks with my tassel 😳
Let me explain. So, the top tip often shared here is you must plant your corn in blocks.
If you are a farmer growing 1,000s of corn then this would be true. This is because the male pollen that comes from the tassel at the top of the plant MUST reach and successfully pollinate each individual female silk hanging from the immature cob. The mind blowing thing about sweetcorn is that each individual kernel sends up one silk and if you have ever ended up with a cob that looks monstrous and missing the plump juicy yellow kernels you were expecting this is because that particular kernel was not pollinated.
Growers who have 1000s of corn to worry about rely on the help of wind blowing those pollen grains from the tassels down to the silks, so a grid formation helps with this.
As small scale growers we can rely on wind too BUT we can also easily perform this act by hand. So when the tassels are looking dusty enough I pick one and brush it over the silks to increase the chances of fully pollinated juicy cobs.