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January Top Allotment Tips

Wow, It has been a while since I picked frozen sprouts directly from the plant! That was the wonderfully festive experience I enjoyed on Christmas Day morning and on a number of days since.

Brussels Sprouts

We have had plenty of fairly hard frosts here in the north, with some snow flurries at times. I do enjoy seeing the allotment in a winter wonderland it adds a whole new dimension.


Unfortunately, one of the padlocks on my shed seized with the weather and had to be changed. This meant no access to any tools. This in turn lead to great hilarity when trying to harvest parsnips from the frozen ground. Note to myself, that a trowel is no use as an auxiliary spade! I got there in the end, though it may have been sensible to come back another day. The superb flavour of both the sprouts and parsnips was certainly worth it. Frost really does seem to bring out the flavour in winter veg.

The weather has put a stop to the remainder of my winter digging. However, this does not mean keen allotmenteers are deterred from their very own allotment fix for too long. I’ve been spending some time getting my greenhouse and shed into shape for spring.

Clean the Greenhouse

Winter is a great time of year to give the greenhouse a good clean. A greenhouse disinfectant is perfect for dealing with this. Unfortunately, pests and diseases can linger in those nooks and crannies, giving them an unwanted head start when the weather warms up. Equally, I have also removed all traces of last years summer plants and removed the compost and pots.

I’ll re-use some of the spent compost for sowing broad beans and early peas. They really don’t mind this. The pots will be washed and disinfected. It is amazing how there are always slugs and snails hiding under them. Hopefully, the birds will be able to mop them up if you put them outside on the soil.

A greenhouse heater is a good investment if you are keen to start seed sowing early. Keeping the greenhouse frost-free great expands the range of seeds you can sow between now and April.

January AllotmentSeeds to Sow

On the January allotment, Aubergine ‘black beauty’, broad bean varieties ’aquadulce claudia’ and ‘the sutton’, Leek ‘lyon’ the new early pea ‘proval’ and Shallot ‘simiane’ can all be sown.

Supplies & Materials

My shed is benefiting from a tidy up too. There is always clutter to remove and it is amazing how much bigger the shed looks when I’ve finished.

It is not uncommon for the shed to be home for all manner of insects. Last year, I discovered a queen wasp. This year for the first time ever, I found one overwintering in the greenhouse.

I like to do an audit on what supplies and materials I need for the forthcoming year. Essentials include; garden canes, cloches, frost protection fleece, slug protection, labels, twine and many more.

Order Your Seed Potatoes

January on the allotment is the ideal month for ordering seed potatoes. For this reason, when they arrive, do begin the chitting process as soon as possible. In addition, First and Second early varieties, in particular, produce heavier yields from chitted tubers. I use a frost-free windowsill and even a heated greenhouse if space is tight.

Towards the end of the month, I will be covering one of my rhubarb crowns with a forcing 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 treatment as it does weaken them.

I wish all my readers a peaceful and safe New Year as we all look forward to better times ahead.

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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.

14 thoughts on “January Top Allotment Tips”

  1. Katie Brunt says:

    Hi Andrew, we are glad the monthly allotment tips have been helpful to you. February’s will be on the blog very soon.
    Best regards,
    The Suttons Team

  2. Andrew ROLT says:

    well well well, I didn’t know forcing rhubarb weakened the crowns. Thankyou.
    I never covered / forced my first plants, and they were very productive. Just as my fathers allotment practice.
    I can now understand when I started forcing it may have led to a decline in cropping.
    Moving to another location maybe was why they died away.
    Subsequent plantings, (last three years, plenty of hums /feed), and forcing, plus I guess some higher summer temperatures/ lack of regular watering, (on chalky soils close to a south facing wall), has led to successive losses and poor cropping.

  3. Katie Brunt says:

    Hi Jennifer, thank you for your comment. Some ideas for a small area at the front of a raised bed are below.
    1. Perpetual Spinach seed or plug plants, this is disease resistant, undemanding and crops all season as cut and come again.
    2. Leeks are also disease resistant and easy to grow but no crop until Autumn.
    3. Fiery salads such as Rocket pest resistant and vigorous.
    4. Courgettes grow well if there’s room to trail over the edge of the raised bed.
    We hope this is helpful to you.
    Best regards,
    The Suttons Team

  4. Katie Brunt says:

    Hi Robert, sounds like good advice! Thanks for sharing.
    Best regards,
    The Suttons Team

  5. Katie Brunt says:

    Hi Helen, sounds like good advice, thanks for sharing!
    Best regards,
    The Suttons Team

  6. Robert Osborn says:

    You could thaw the padlock by wrapping it in a piece of cloth and pour hot water on it while holding it with the trowel, when open lubricate again preferably with a graphite powder.

  7. Jennifer Allott says:

    I am disabled and have a small
    raised bed to grow veg. I manage 2 plants of runner beans and 4 raspberries. There is a small space in front of these. I tried pointy cabbage with limited success due to insects carrots no good, beetroot no good, purple sprouting broccoli is huge and I am waiting for the sprouts, ,4 plants with some insect damage. Have you any suggestions for2021. I thought about leeks but haven’t tried them before.

  8. Helen Stewart says:

    Frozen parsnips? I have fond memories of my mother going down to her veg patch with a kettle of boiling water to thaw the ground so that she could pull them up!
    Works on leeks too. Try it.

  9. Katie Brunt says:

    Hi Dawn, it sounds like you have your rhubarb under control and we are really pleased you are enjoying the growing journey!
    Best regards,
    The Suttons Team

  10. Katie Brunt says:

    Hi Ann, we are so pleased our allotment tips are helpful to you! We do a monthly allotment tips blog at the start of each month so you can come back at the beginning of February for more. These are our latest blog posts too:
    Have a great day!
    Best regards,
    The Suttons Team

  11. Ann Gregory says:

    Very good,and looks like a real plot, after having to facilitate 4 hedgehogs in my huge GARDEN
    (that’s why I look to allotment sites,it is good to see an allotment holder who’s plot is not pristine and like In homes and garden,good common sense…xxx…

  12. Dawn freeman says:

    I have 6 clumps of rhubarb of which I force 3 each year alternately, I take two possibly three pulls and then do not touch for the rest of the year. The forced is the best and gives more than enough for our family. Regards Dawn

  13. Katie Brunt says:

    Thanks Harry, glad they are helpful to you!
    Best regards,
    The Suttons Team

  14. Harry says:

    Love All The round seasonal tips for allotment holders

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