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January Allotment Tips

Allotment in the snow

My allotment is currently frozen solid and almost resembles an arctic tundra as I write.

The end of the Christmas period heralded the coldest snap of the winter so far. And to spend time on the wintery allotment is magical indeed. It is deathly quiet and unspoilt for one thing. Everything is on hold-shut down almost , in a state of temporary suspended animation. This state won’t last for long!

Spring will soon be sprung, sooner than we think or perhaps dare hope for. As allotment holders we unwittingly almost by default become good amateur weather forecasters too. Indeed as we welcome in 2015-the consensus so far is, it has been a mild winter to date.

Aquadulce Claudia

I’ve been heavily sowing the impressively hardy broad bean “Aquadulce Claudia” in plant cells in the greenhouse over the past few days. There will be a few losses on the way. However, most will make it and should be cropping by the end of May and early June, or even just before with luck.

On the land, I’ve also been working on preparing a new seed bed, as much as the recent frost (and rain) has allowed. I’ve been lightly forking the soil, removing the roots of any perennial weeds such as “mares tail” as I go. To finish I covered the bed with black polythene, weighted down. This will help warm up the soil quicker, capturing the sun’s rays, while keeping off much of the winter precipitation.

Later this week- I will be covering one of my rhubarb crowns with a large pot, to exclude light. Even a heavy old dustbin will do. This long established practise is known as “forcing”. The rhubarb is blanched and is ready to pick very early in the season. The rhubarb crowns are best discarded after this.

Another job on my list is to prepare planting ridges to plant out my new rows of asparagus crowns when they arrive in a few weeks’ time. The crowns don’t like sitting in prolonged moisture. The ridges are the classic way to encourage the water to run-off. Asparagus is not a crop for the complete beginner, although it is not particularly difficult. Perhaps fussy is the word to describe it. That said, I wouldn’t be without it- it is on my must have list for any allotment. I have even seen it grown very successfully in large containers.

There is much still in season to pick fresh from our plots this month. This includes: Jerusalem artichokes, brussels sprouts, kale, leeks, parsnips, swede and winter cabbage.

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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.

4 thoughts on “January Allotment Tips”

  1. Lee Senior Lee Senior says:

    Thank you Graham.
    Blight is certainly unwelcome indeed. May I suggest you consider the new blight-resistant tomato variety exclusive to Suttons which is Crimson Crush. I’m trailing it this year for the first time and I will be writing about it at the end of the summer. I think this could be a little bit special and just what many of us have been waiting for.

  2. Avatar Graham Robinson says:

    Hello Lee,
    Thank you for your response which is deeply appreciated and noted.
    The guy that used to come and help a bit in the garden told me to sow said beans at that time as it heavily reduced the risk of getting black fly infestation.
    My major fear this year is a repeat of last years tomato catastrophe where I lost every single tomato plant and fruit both in and outside the greenhouse to the damned blight, which I know affected so many people.
    Thanks again for your help.

  3. Lee Senior Lee Senior says:

    Hi Graham,

    Thank you for your comment.
    You are quite right that broad beans will germinate in the ground as late as the end of November. They can also be directly sown outside again from mid-March onwards in decent weather. That is my preferred option for sowing them too. What you have done is correct unless the weather is very cold.
    Only during the colder months of December to late February do I sow the seed in a greenhouse. There usually isn’t enough warmth in the soil during winter outdoors to get a high percentage to come up. It depends on the winter, but often loses are high with the seed rotting in wet and cold soil as the weather closes in.

  4. Avatar Graham Robinson says:

    Having read the following in your article above,

    “I’ve been heavily sowing the impressively hardy broad bean “Aquadulce Claudia” in plant cells in the greenhouse over the past few days. There will be a few losses on the way. However, most will make it and should be cropping by the end of May and early June, or even just before with luck.”

    I wonder if I do wrong with my broad beans (variety as above). I have a suite of “18 inch depth raised beds” vegetable, salad and other, garden together with an 8 x 6 greenhouse (don’t know how to post picture to show the plots). I sowed the broad beans in 3rd week of November last and every one has so far come through the ground and are thriving.

    What confuses me is that the article states they have been started in the greenhouse. Is that the proper way?

    Graham (Amateur Gardener into 3rd season of experience).

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