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Top February Allotment Tips

Electric Propagator

I find this is a very positive time of year. The sheer raw excitement of being on the cusp of another allotment season knows no bounds! It is noticeable just how much birdsong is now filling the air too in early evening, as the days noticeably lengthen.

Back to reality and most plots in my area are currently too wet to work on. The water table in the north certainly is rather high. It is better to keep off the soil directly when it is like this.

However, allotments are never still and there are plenty of things to be getting on with. Raised beds are a boon at this time of year, particularly for making an early start. By covering some of the beds now with black sheeting, it will encourage the soil to dry and begin to warm up. Black absorbs the rays of the sun quicker, allowing for an earlier start with direct seed sowing under cloches during mid March.

Meanwhile the overwintered garlic is growing strongly and has simply shrugged off the cold weather. This is a plant that is far happier in the cold than during the heat of summer. What a resilient plant and one that I can’t help but admire.

garlic

My seed potatoes are beginning to chit nicely on the windowsill at home. Good light coupled with gentle warmth, offers the best conditions for encouraging those young stocky purple shoots. Towards the end of February, I’ll plant several tubs of potatoes containing the early variety “Foremost”. This is a good multi-use all rounder, introduced well over fifty years ago. I fill the tubs with a mixture of peat free compost and ready to use, farmyard manure.  I always keep a roll of frost protection fleece close by as my greenhouse is unheated. This can be double or even treble layered if the frost is really severe.

In the unheated greenhouse, I’ve been sowing more broad beans “aquadulce claudia” and also the shallot bulb variety “red sun”.

In the heated propagator, I will sow pointed cabbage “greyhound”. As the name suggests it is quick to mature and is dependable. Brussels sprout need a long growing season so the end of February-early March period is perfect to sow them. I like the F1 variety “brigitte”.

brussels sprout brigitte

One of the serious pests I suffered from last year was cabbage root fly. This year, I’m better prepared with a pack of cabbage collars in my shed ready to protect my brassica plants. If I’ve learned anything on allotments it is that the better with pests is never won.

There is still plenty of food to harvest this month from the allotment. We have plenty of leeks, winter cabbage and parsnips remaining. In storage we have onions and garlic as well as frozen broad beans.

I’ve noticed that several of my fellow plot holders are growing Kale and also Russian Kale this year. I’ve never tried Russian kale, which is an attractive plant. I’m suitably intrigued!  It is good to try something new every year and I think I’ll give this a go later in the year. One tip I’ve been given is to steam the leaves for the best flavour and health properties.

kale

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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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