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.
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.