What to do in your allotment in December

Lee Senior's allotment covered in snow

Written by Lee Senior

In December, you have to pick and choose which days to visit the allotment a little more carefully. Having said that, it’s a perfect ruse to get out of Christmas shopping! Crowds of stressed people versus a nice relaxing afternoon pottering around on the lotte – no contest!

Despite the weather, this can be a productive time of year. There’s lots of food to harvest and plenty of tasks to get caught up on. My leeks are in season now along with the traditional Brussels sprouts of course, aided and abetted by swedes, parsnips and very tasty but underestimated Jerusalem artichokes. Do try to keep off the soil when it’s wet or frozen to avoid damaging its structure.

This is a good time to deal with a congested apple or pear tree. Simply cut out dead and diseased wood, remove crossing branches and open up the centre. Another of my favourite winter tasks is planning my seed order. For me, there’s no nicer way to spend a wet and dark December day, sitting by the fire next to the Christmas tree. And it avoids the risk of my favourite seed varieties selling out. Happy growing!

Allotment flowers in December

  • Scatter hardy seeds from packets that are about to, or have already gone out of date, around the plot. They’ll germinate in spring and surprise you with their random colour. 
  • Sow geranium seeds under glass. They can be used to fill containers, hanging baskets and any spare space around your home and allotment. 
  • December is the time to take hardwood cuttings to propagate woody perennials like roses, or herbs like rosemary. Cut a finger-long length of stem just below a pair of buds. Bury the cutting up to two thirds its height in a pot to root.

Allotment vegetables in December

  • Sow hardy broad beans through December. Simply fill a seed tray and put it in the cold frame for planting out next spring. ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ is one of my favourite varieties and it hasn’t let me down in 10 years. Try ‘Luz de Otono’ for beds and ‘The Sutton’ for containers.
  • Start off your exhibition onion seeds using a heated propagator to speed up germination. Show varieties need a long growing season to swell to huge proportions.
  • Remember, your windowsill is a great place to grow fresh greens, pea shoots, sprouting seeds and herbs during the colder months. Mushroom kits can be a great way to get an indoor winter crop too.

Allotment fruit in December

  • Create a new strawberry bed this month. Buy bare root plants now or use rooted runners from your own plants. 
  • Winter prune your apple and pear trees. Remove dead branches and crossing growth to open up the tree centre.
  • Plant bare root plum and damson trees, adding plenty of mulch made from rotted manure or organic matter.

Crops to harvest in December

General December allotment jobs

  • Keep off beds this month to avoid compacting the ground when it’s wet. Use planks to spread your weight if you need to access beds. 
  • December is a great time to do big jobs like maintaining or installing paths, building raised beds and changing your plot layout.
  • Dig over your soil on a dry day. This improves the structure and allows larger clods to break down in winter frost. Remove any roots and rocks that you find in the soil.
  • Check your shed and greenhouse. Look out for damage, clean the windows and tidy the inside. Apply a wood preservative while there’s no greenery in the way. 
  • Look after your tools this month. Sharpen and oil secateurs to keep the metal healthy and rust at bay. 
  • If you’ve taken on a new plot, focus on carefully planning the space. Start with where you want your shed, compost bins, and long term crops like asparagus and fruit trees to go.
  • Clear dead leaves from shed guttering and water butts.

Planning ahead

  • Place your seed order for the coming year to make sure you get exactly what you want before stocks become low.
  • Family asking you for Christmas present ideas? A heated propagator and some seeds from your newly made wish-list might fill your stocking rather nicely!
Lead image: Lee Senior’s allotment in the snow
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About Lee Senior
Lee Senior is an experienced horticultural writer, RHS Yorkshire in Bloom judge and horticultural consultant. He has also had an allotment for over 30 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 had the pleasure of meeting BBC gardener, Joe Swift. Now, over three 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. I feel strongly that we should all respect nature and do our bit txwo help our ailing planet. Small-scale food growing is my passion and I can’t wait for my two daughters 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, no matter where they live and it is great to see how growing food in containers is taking off now,” says Lee. When he isn’t writing for the gardening press, Lee runs his own Allotment Consultancy business, advising individuals and organisations and Councils on how to get the best from their land, either in person or remotely. Lee’s website is: https://allotmentsandgreenspaces.wordpress.com or you can email him directly at: allotmentsguru@gmail.com. Away from horticulture, Lee is a keen walker and he has written a number of successful walking books which are available at his online bookstore: https://www.etsy.com/shop/WalkingintheAire/