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March Allotment Tips

Planting Seed Potatoes

My allotment is on hold! The meteorological spring may well have been the first day of March but the soil is still rather cold and very wet. Horticulturally, we are still some way off spring here in the north of England. When your allotment is wet like this, it is best to keep off the soil. Otherwise you will do more harm than good, even if you are itching to get started like I am.

I have used old scaffolding boards to stand on in the past, to get potatoes in the ground when it has been wet later in spring. It was no fun, though the potatoes grew. However, there is no need to worry too much yet- we have plenty of time to do all the things we want to do. Patience is a virtue in these situations.

Brussel Sprouts need a long growing season if you are to have tasty home-grown sprouts for Christmas. With that in mind I am sowing some seeds now to allow the plants time to become a good size when they are planted out. Can you believe we are planning for Christmas already…Sweet Corn Seeds

Much of our allotment activity in March is in the greenhouse and polytunnel. If you can provide frost-free conditions then this is an exciting time. I’m sowing summer cabbages both rounded and pointed types now and sweet corn later in the month.

In good-sized pots, I’ve already sown the carrot variety “Ideal”. This is a fast grower and I grow it in the polytunnel ready for picking delicious finger carrots in around ten weeks. I don’t even bother thinning the seedlings. I just let them get on with it.

If it does dry up down on the plot, as March wears on, I will be planting out shallots directly in a pre-prepared area, covered with fleece or cloches. I’m also continuing to sown broad beans in situ.Broad Beans

I will be adding an organic fertilizer to my soil as I go. It is important to build up soil nutrient levels at this time of year, with the main growing season just ahead.

Finally with a bit of luck, my early potatoes will be in the ground by the end of the month. Now that is optimism!

There is still ample fresh food to pick from the allotment; purple broccoli, winter cabbage, leeks (the last of), Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips and swede are all still in business. Pick them as soon as you can. As soon as the weather improves, most will run to seed.

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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.

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