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March Top Allotment Tips

Sowing Seeds Outside

It is amazing what a few days of sunshine can do! After weeks of dreary weather, the good weather near the end of February resulted in allotment sites across the country once again coming alive in anticipation of the new season.Plots of all shapes and sizes are being dug over and prepared, manure is being delivered, new sheds and greenhouses are appearing and repairs are being done. There is a healthy smattering of new allotmenteers too. It also is exciting to see so many buds fattening and close to breaking now. One note of caution, the land here is still rather wet and the water table is high, so patience really is a virtue with regards to any early direct planting.

Early potatoes normally go in the ground in the second half of March. The good news is this can wait, if necessary. The weather and land conditions are the key, rather than the calendar. Nature is forgiving and experienced allotment holders will instinctively wait until the ground is ready.

Keep a watchful eye out for frost if you have apricot, nectarine or peach trees on your allotment. The blossom of these trees comes out particularly early, thus making it especially susceptible to frost. Always have winter grade fleece on standby to cover the blossom at short notice. Severe frost damage to the blossom will result in a poor crop or maybe even a total crop failure.

I’ve been adding well-rotted manure to my established fruit beds, raspberries, all the currents as well as my established fruit trees over the past few days.

 

All are gross feeders and benefit from extra nutrients now as they start to wake up from their winter dormancy.

 

I intend to direct sow parsnips by the end of the month if possible. If not, there really is no rush as April is equally fine to sow. Parsnips are notoriously slow and erratic to germinate and if the soil is too cold, germination will be very poor. Seed tapes are an excellent idea for parsnips and other directly sown crops such as carrots, beetroot, spinach and leeks. The biodegradable paper tapes can be cut to the size you want and generally come in 6m lengths. The seeds are pre-sown at the correct distance apart. This reduces the need for thinning to a minimum, saving precious time later.

Much of our gardening emphasis is still concentrated on the greenhouse or polytunnel. There is a wide array of vegetables to sow and soon to transplant too. Do remember to always handle seedlings with the seed leaves when handling rather than the stem. This can take some remembering as it is natural to want to grab the stem. However as my old college tutor said, most plants can afford to lose a leaf but they only have one stem. So true. We’ve all done it- crushed a vulnerable young stem when rushing around in the greenhouse at this busy time of year.

Outdoors, back on the plot, I am harvesting the last of the overwintered leeks, parsnips, savoy cabbage and swede. With the weather predicted to be cold in early March- let us hope it warms up soon.

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Lee Senior

About Lee Senior

Lee Senior is an experienced horticultural writer, RHS Yorkshire in Bloom judge and part time horticultural manager. He has also had an allotment for over 25 years.

After, initially spurning horticulture as a career option, to pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a train driver, Lee soon realised he couldn’t resist getting his hands dirty to make a living.

Horticultural College training led, to getting an allotment at the tender age of 18 (in the days when you could actually get a plot quickly). My gardening hero, is Geoff Hamilton” says Lee. “It was Geoff who convinced me that you didn’t have to spray everything that moved in the garden. Watching him on Gardeners’ World in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was a revelation. I was lucky enough to meet Geoff and I’ve also more recently had the pleasure of meeting Joe Swift.

Now over two decades of practical experience has taught me to work with mother-nature, not to fight against her and don’t try to tame her, as so many gardeners seem to be on a mission to do.

Small scale food growing is my passion and I can’t wait for my my two daughters, one who is 5 years old and the other who is 3 to hopefully pick up the baton in the future. Nothing beats the flavour and satisfaction of growing your own food. You simply cannot buy the same quality and freshness. Everyone can have a go at growing something says Lee, no matter where they live.

Lee has also written his first book entitled “Walking on the Aire”.The book is based on another of his keen interests which is walking. The book features 14 short family style, walks in Airedale, Yorkshire.

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