HERE'S the latest column from our allotment columnist Sean O’Dobhain, from Cwmbran


LAST month we had some fine weather which really helped the allotment crops grow quickly.

The winter squashes - Butternut ‘Hunter F1’, pumpkin ‘Jack O’Lantern’ and ‘Sweet Dumpling’ - are beginning to wend their way around the beds, their long trailing stems covering ground at a remarkable rate.

The courgettes are prolific as usual, seemingly able to turn into marrows as soon as my back is turned.

Squashes tend to look after themselves, but if too many immature squashes are turning yellow and dropping off the plant, this may indicate that they are not being pollinated.

To help the squashes set properly I often take a male flower (on the longer stalk), strip the petals back and dab the male anther full of pollen onto the stigma of the female flower, which are on a shorter stem with an immature squash below the petals. This can maximize the number of squashes on a vine and can help overcome poor pollination rates due to damp weather or a lack of insects.

The Scarlet Emperor runner beans have sprinted to the top of their canes; likewise their neighbours the climbing French Beans are spiralling their way upward too.

Both are covered in flowers and are producing handfuls of long pods. I’ve already gathered in a harvest of early sown broad beans (they freeze well after blanching); another batch have already been raised in root trainers and planted out in the hope of getting a second crop before the autumn.

While June was the optimum time for planting leeks, it’s not too late to get them set out on the plot this month.

If you haven’t already raised leeks in trays from seed then buy some from a local garden centre or see if any are going spare from an allotment neighbour as most people sow too many.

Gently tease the leek plants out of their tray so their roots are showing; I trim the tops and roots a little with scissors as I find this makes them easier to handle but it isn’t really necessary.

Use a dibber to make a hole 15cm deep and drop the leek into the hole – don’t back-fill, just top up the hole with water as this will wash enough soil over the roots to get the leeks on their way.

Plant 15cm apart and protect with a frame of horticultural fleece or enviromesh as both allium leaf miner and leek moth have become a problem in recent years.

As with the leeks, this is a good time to raise or buy some winter cabbage plants. My favourite late season cabbage is Ormskirk Savoy with its dark, crinkly leaves.

Another contender for a good winter cabbage is the attractive looking ‘January King’, both will tolerate cold and frost. Get the young cabbages planted out now, protect against pests and you could be cutting them from November onward.

Other allotment jobs for July:

• Keep on top of the weeding, especially in dry weather.

• Check brassicas often for pests like white fly and cabbage white caterpillars.

• Sow turnips like ‘Snowball’ this month so they are ready in the late Autumn for winter stews.

• As gaps appear on the plot try a few rows of quick growing carrots like ‘Amsterdam Forcing’ or ‘Early Nantes’ which will be ready by September.

• Pick runner beans frequently as maturing pods will ‘switch off’ the flowering process causing fewer beans to form.

• Keep pinching out side-shoots from cordon tomatoes and feed them with an appropriate tomato fertilizer. Pinch out the growing tip too after six or seven trusses have formed.