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December Allotment Tips

It certainly hasn’t been allotment weather here in the north. We have had three weeks of almost incessant rain recently which has virtually curtailed all visits to the plot.

The sensible thing to do is keep off the soil when it is this wet. You will do more harm than good. And your boots will end up inevitably smothered in mud, glorious mud.

That said I have managed a couple of quick sorties to help prepare my December allotment tips. We have also had very strong winds and this meant a check was needed on all things standing to check that was still the case. It was just as well too as the bottom hinge on my shed door had worked loose. Upon opening the door it suddenly started to hang alarmingly limp and I hastily had to make a repair. Who knows if I’d left it any longer if there would have been a door or indeed shed at all, left behind to fix.

During one of the drier interludes, I also made several trips from my plot to the allotment car park to transport some manure, by wheelbarrow. The freshly steaming manure is a generous winter gift from a local farmer and is much appreciated by all of us on the site. However, there was a minor hiccup here too with the barrow developing an unsuspecting flat tyre! If anyone has tried to push a barrow with a flat tyre, you will know the significance of this. It was quickly remedied by use of a foot pump which made life a whole lot easier. It is sometimes the simple things that make the life of an allotmenteer a happy one. A fully working wheelbarrow is surely a must on any allotment.

The wet weather has made it ideal for any newly planted bare rooted fruit trees to make themselves at home. This week I’ve planted a Plum tree “Victoria” and a Damson tree “Merryweather” -the planting experience gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “puddling in”… It is worth making a good job of the planting as these are hungry, long term plants. Plenty of home-made compost and well-rotted manure is the order of the day.

If you are like me –you sometimes get itchy horticultural fingers at this time of year. I’ve been sowing sprouting seeds on the windowsill to help fill the void. Broccoli Green Sprouting and Alfalfa are my current favourites though there are plenty to choose from. What I like about sprouting seeds is they are quick and nutritious. Plus your windowsill is put to good use and there is no need to step outside!

Back on the plot -as we approach Christmas it is exciting to try and ascertain what may be ready to harvest for Christmas dinner. Generally all plant growth is slow now and it should be easy enough to assess the chances of, sprouts, cabbage and kale. Parsnips are a little trickier but the girth of the neck of the root should give an indication if you will have enough for the big day. Swedes and Jerusalem Artichokes should present no problem, largely looking after themselves.

However, well you are doing, every allotment should have something to pick fresh on Christmas morning. And that is especially satisfying and one of the highlights of the allotment year…

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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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