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December Allotment Tips

Allotment in the snow

Allotment in the snow

We have to pick and choose our days to visit the allotment a little more carefully at this time of year. Having said that the allotment is a perfect ruse to get out of the Christmas shopping! Crowds of stressed people versus a nice relaxing afternoon pottering around on the lotte- it is surely no contest!

As mentioned last month, winter is a great time to take on a new plot. There is plenty of time now to plan and organise. Start by asking yourself what you specifically want from it the most. Why not grab a sheet of A4 paper, and loosely draw the shape of the plot. Make a list and a sketch plan of what you would like to grow. After all, the allotment now has to serve you and often the previous tenant will have left things behind that you or your family will not eat.

Set aside a dedicated area for semi-permanent crops, including, raspberries, blackurrants, gooseberries, red and white currants to name a few. A personal must have in my book is the very easy to grow blueberry.

Tree fruit adds another dimension, but even dwarf varieties need space. Other considerations include, where to plant asparagus crowns, where to position your compost bins, raised beds etc. Not forgetting the need to incorporate a crop rotation system.  It all sounds rather complicated but it really isn’t. You will I promise have great fun doing all this!

Meanwhile if you have taken on a plot with a rather old, congested apple or pear tree on it, now is a good time to tackle the problem. The purpose of winter pruning, is primarily to rejuvenate gnarled neglected trees. This invariably means cutting out dead and diseased branches, crossing branches and opening up the centre. Winter pruning is a drastic option and if the tree is well balanced and healthy, summer pruning for fruiting spurs is the better option. It is worth noting that plums should never be pruned in winter, due to the risk of disease.

Another task that can be done in December is to plan your seed order nice and early. To avoid the risk of your favourite seed varieties selling out, it pays to order seeds and sundries as soon as you can to stay ahead of the crowd. There is no nicer task, sat by your fireside, next to your Christmas tree on a wet and dark December day.

Back outdoors, leeks are in season now along with the traditional Brussels sprouts of course, aided and abetted by swedes, parsnips and the very tasty but underestimated Jerusalem Artichokes.

A Merry Christmas and peaceful New Year to all.

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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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