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January -Top Allotment Tips

How to Grow Mushrooms from Spawn

As the New Year dawns on the Allotment and I can’t wait to get my hands dirty again!

At this time of year I spend a fair bit of time assessing if anything needs to be done differently this time around. We allotmenteers should constantly be striving to learn from last year but we can only do the best we can with the time we have available.

I enjoyed sowing some super hardy Aquadulce Broad beans in rootrainers yesterday. Rootrainers are perfect for broad and runner beans as they allow a deeper root system. This in turn allows quicker establishment upon planting out. The rootrainers go in my heated propagator on the windowsill- to speed up initial germination. Once they germinate it is important to remove then quickly into position with as much light as possible. A cold frame or unheated greenhouse is ideal.

Ok I now have a confession -I am partial to Pea shoots! I’ve been growing the variety “Twinkle” specifically for this purpose in an old margarine tub for a nutritious, tasty winter snack. And while not strictly grown on the allotment they are a great accompaniment. Perfect for repeat sowing, pea shoots are trouble free and ready to eat in just three weeks. To harvest –I use scissors and then a second crop will follow soon afterwards..

Still indoors and another way to keep the fresh, grow your own theme going all year round is by growing your own mushrooms from a kit. There are many different types to tickle your fancy and experiment with. I stick with the “white button mushroom”, but there are “shiitake”, “chestnut” and oyster” types available to grow this way too. I’ve had lots of good successes over the years. The kits are surprisingly easy to use; simply avoid sunlight, too much heat and don’t overwater. Everything you need is in the kit. Contrary to popular belief, I soon found the mushrooms didn’t have to be gown in the total dark. A revelation! The first time I grew mushrooms it was particularly exciting as I’d never eaten anything I’d grown before that didn’t have green leaves on the plant! What a great way to further extend the repertoire of food we amateurs can grow at a time when the land outdoors can be a no-go due to the weather.

If I can get out on my plot this month I will be checking the tree ties on my fruit trees. In particular I’ll be checking for any signs of rubbing which will damage the bark. Also are the ties not too tight or have worked loose which can happen over time.

It is still bare-rooted tree planting season. Rabbits and even deer can visit allotments quite frequently. I always use a tree-guard to offer vital protection in the first few years.

I’d also like to do a bit of preparatory work on the soil and create an outdoor seedbed. At the moment as I look out of my window onto flooded fields- that prospect looks a long, long way off.

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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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