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April Top Allotment Tips

Planting Seed Potatoes

A welcome window of settled weather on the run up to Easter, gave allotment holders a much-needed drier spell after the winter deluges. This has been ideal for working on the plot and making a start with planting out. My early potatoes “Casablanca” are in now as are some of my onion sets “Stuttgarter” and broad bean “The Sutton”, both of which began life at the end of January in my greenhouse.

Being up to speed with planting has allowed me to start getting other areas of the plot ready, for my young cabbage and cauliflower plants, that I’m currently hardening off.

The exciting thing about having an allotment is you can grow what you want within reason! Allotments should reflect your individual taste in food and in style. The sheer diversity and industrious methods of allotmenteers never ceases to amaze me. The truth is there are often no right or wrong methods, it is what works for you that matters. The challenge is to create the ideal growing conditions that your fruit and vegetables require to thrive. Many problems can be overcome; if your soil is poorly drained for instance, try growing asparagus in large troughs or containers.

Prioritising how you spend your time on the plot pays dividends now, more than at any other time of year. It is essentially a combination of preparation, planting and maintenance. Weeds are starting to grow and those pesky slugs are again putting in an appearance. We can’t ignore either. In dry periods competition for moisture is critical for young plants and weed seedlings are after that same vital moisture and nutrients.

We must also balance our time between the greenhouse and outdoors. My greenhouse is bursting with young courgette, pumpkin, runner beans, squash and sweet corn plants on one side. On the other I have an exciting mix of aubergine, cucumber, sweet pepper and tomato.  All of these need regular watering of course as well as the notoriously tricky balancing act of temperature control. The sun is surprisingly strong now, yet night-time temperatures can be frosty. All of this is more than enough to keep we gardeners firmly on our horticultural toes! That said, what could be nicer than the excitement and sheer exuberance all the above will bring as the season unfolds.

This month a key target is to get my second early potatoes “Lady Christl” planted, hopefully by mid-month, along with the rest of my onions weather permitting. If things go really well, I may even have my maincrop potatoes in by the end of April. I also hope to plant out those cabbages, cauliflowers and some “Little Gem” lettuce. Yes it is true for the next two months the allotment is going to almost take over my life, that is exactly the way it should be!

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Lee Senior

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 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 two daughters, one who is 8 years old and the other who is 5 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 two books; 'Pennine Way, The Highs and Lows' which is a humorous, personal account of walking this momentous iconic walk. His second book 'Walking in the Aire', features 14 short walks in Yorkshire.

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