A page dedicated to all the problems we encounter in our regulalr gardening and allotmenteering activities:

These pages contain personal views, RAGA sets no agendas, so please pick and choose the techniques that work for your type of gardening

The Weather

Pests and Critters

Diseases and Infections

The Weather

Not much we can do bout it except work around it, work with it, learn each year and beat the changes as global warming continues by having the equipment to hand to ensure we are affected as little as possible. We no longer seem to get April showers they are usually in May so we need to evolove our planting times and review the long range weather predictions. I do use the BBC for most predictions and then lok outside my window and at the temperature before selecting the correct atire for the allotment. One thing that helps is a shed for spare clothing and a greenhouse to hide from the rain showers.

When drought calls we are unlikely to ever get the hose pipe rule applied so having water butts is key to sharing the limited taps supplied

Obviously a hat is essential, my large floppy cricket like hat is great in the sun and keeps the rain off most of the time.


In the vegetable garden “bolting” is the term used to describe premature flowering/seeding, hence the equivalent term “running to seed”. This is undesirable because the plant then puts all its energy into producing seed, including the energy stored in the root/stem/leaves that you want to harvest.

Sometimes there is genetic variation in the plants so that some will inevitably bolt. More commonly some aspect of cultivation (such as temperature, day length, water availability or nutrient availability) triggers some or all of the plants to bolt.

A common cause of problems is sowing/planting at the wrong time of year. For instance not all beetroot varieties are suitable for sowing early in the year. If you want to sow an early crop in March then you need a bolt-resistant strain, even if you are using cloches. Boltardy is an easy to remember example but there are several others. Some vegetables just cannot be sown reliably at certain times of the year. For instance it can be very difficult to prevent Pak Choi from bolting if you sow it in early summer. Fortunately there is an easy way to avoid most of these problems – read the seed packet! If your packet of lettuce seed is suitable for planting in early autumn it will tell you.

A word about the British climate. You will have noticed that it is variable. Flaming June comes in April and the April showers ruin Wimbledon. Some years an abnormally hot spell will cause crops to bolt that have never given problems in the past. For crops such as broccoli the most important factor is the soil temperature and you can minimize this by applying a mulch, especially if you keep it moist.

Many plants will bolt if they have become pot bound. If your cauliflower plants have a tight mass of roots that has circled the pot there is little chance of subsequently getting fully developed curds. Sometimes a late Spring will prevent you from planting out when you wanted to. You must keep the plants developing a proper root system by transferring them on to a larger size pot.

The most common bolting problem discussed at the RAGA shop is that of onions, especially when grown from sets. If using normal sets it is important that they have no check to growth. Water them if there is a dry spell, feed them moderately over their entire growing period and support the foliage if you have a windy site with light soil, to prevent wind rock from disturbing the roots. The largest sets are the most likely to bolt so don’t necessarily despise any tiddlers in the pack. The modern “solution” is to buy heat-treated sets. These have been held at a raised temperature for several weeks with the result that the embryo flower inside the set is killed. Their disadvantages are that:- they are not available until later in the year; they are then slower to start growing away because of the water content they have lost; and they are more expensive. Remember that while poor cultivation may not cause heat-treated sets to bolt, it will still prevent you getting a crop to be proud of.

Pests and Critters

So numeous, where to start well there are three distinct types - molluscs, insects and others

1) Molluscs - Slugs and Snails

Our greatest threat and not 100% controleable by any one means.

Your webmasters favorite is the Organic Slug Killer mostly applied to paths, not dngerous to other beasts and rots down into Iron oxide. This is more expensive than the standard blue pellets, but does not harm the useful Frogs, Toads and Slowworms.

The most effective is to go out on a damp night or after some rain, and eradicate them by hand (or other tools to hand). I find a metal tent peg and wooden stake are the best tools. But do be weary of this method as most are already pregnant and carry eggs that are hard to destory, killing the parent required good pressure to ensure the next generation to not get release instead of eradicated.

Regular tratments or hunts are required and they do travel a meter per hour

Other methods are beer traps, nematoads

Last year, the Royal Horticultural Society reported a 50% increase in slug numbers.

2) Insects

The famous White fly, green fly, black fly, butterfly (and caterpillars), Saw fly, Carrot Fly

Black Fly

With higher temperatures comes accelerated reproduction in aphids. Black Fly has been shivering along with the rest of us but those characteristic colonies on the tops of broad beans are starting to appear. Tended by ants that “milk” them for their honeydew they seem to appear overnight on Dahlias, Nasturtiums and French/Runner Beans as well so keep an eye out.

Click Beetles

Click Beetles are a large family of narrow, smallish (typically a centimetre or so long) beetles that are mainly black, grey or brown, but there are a few brighter examples. They have the characteristic trick of being able to right themselves from lying on their back by violently snapping a joint in their thorax with a clicking sound. As beetles they do little harm in the garden eating mainly pollen, nectar and other vegetable matter. So why am I wasting your time telling you about them? Well their larvae are wireworms; the bright orange (thank goodness) mealworm-like pests that eat plant roots. In the wild they are most commonly found on grass roots but in the garden they also attack potatoes and tap-rooted vegetables. The only way to control them is to spot them when you are cultivating the soil. In particular, if you dig out a clump of grass it is well worth having a look for them. They live in the soil for several years so if you find a relatively large one it is possible that it is an old “friend” that has been nibbling your crops for a while.

3) Others

We have Mice, Cats, Squirels, Rats, Foxes,

Diseases and Infections

Pildery mildew, Mozaic Virus, End Rot (tomatoes), Blight (Tomato and potato)