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Top February Allotment Tips

By the end of January winter finally tried to establish itself. Just as well really, as it will put a brake on those runaway daffodils and snowdrops!  Incredibly here in Yorkshire, there were a few daffodils flowering by the end of January. How times are changing.

I’ve always had a number of daffodil and tulip bulbs on my plot, for cut flower purposes. When you look how expensive the blooms can be to buy in spring, it is more cost-effective to plant your own bulbs. This way, you can reap the benefits year after year.  The traditional and durable variety, ’King Alfred’ is superb as a cut flower.

Daffodil King Alfred

Historically, allotments have been used for a range of cut flowers including, chrysanthemums and sweet peas. Many prize winners and garden show gold medal winners across the country have allotments. It is not uncommon for some of them to spend the night before the show on their plot guarding them!

My broad beans, ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ and ‘The Sutton’ have the survived the winter very well in rootrainers. I used some old tomato compost from last year to germinate them in. The extra depth of the rootrainers is perfect for all types of beans, allowing for the formation of a stronger root system.

I’ve put the plants outside now to acclimatise them, with a view to planting out in March. I’ve got a roll of frost protection fleece to hand should the weather turn very severe. That said, just a degree or two of frost shouldn’t bother these tough plants.

Indoors it is time to start chitting your early seed potatoes. Simply place your tubers in egg boxes or on seed trays with ‘eyes’ pointing upwards. Chitting is a simple process providing light and cool temperatures to the dormant tubers, so the sprouts are encouraged to grow.

My heated propagator is working overtime now. I’ve a mixture of Sweet Peas ‘True Fragrance’ and cabbage ‘Golden Acre, primo’ and spring onion ‘Apache’ currently in there. The plan is to grow Apache in pots as it is perfect for window boxes and confined areas.

Sweet Pea True Fragrance

There is still time to buy your seed potatoes and get them ready for planting. I’m going to plant a few early tubers of the old variety ‘Foremost’ in tubs in the greenhouse in early March. The rest will go out on to the plot and the end of March or early April depending on ground conditions. There is nothing to be gained by planting tubers out in cold, wet soil.

Back on the plot, I’ve been busy harvesting the last of my Brussels sprouts. They’ve held well over the winter and have given nearly three months of cropping. Meanwhile, Swede ‘Brora’ continues to store well in the soil for picking when required. I’ll hopefully be able to harvest these until the end of March. Perhaps a little surprisingly, Kohl Rabi ‘Purple and White Vienna mix’ is still going strong and there are lots more good-looking roots to pick.

I’ve also had several pickings from Purple Broccoli ‘Purple Sprouting Continuity Mix’. This all season mixed collection of three different varieties of seeds, is living up to its name. Excitingly there is the promise of more to come.

Broccoli Purple Sprouting

As ever, even though outside it may be an arctic tundra, there is plenty going on in the world of allotments and horticulture.

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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 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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