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November Top Allotment Tips

The so far mild autumn has meant it is has been a good year for pumpkins on the allotment. Our four year old daughter has been the beneficiary of this as we carved out some weird and wonderful lanterns for Halloween. The variety we used was F1 “Becky” which is a perfect all-rounder. Pumpkins are multi-use, perfect for the allotment ethos of not wasting anything if possible. The flesh was delicious when we used the surplus as a pumpkin pie.
Butternut Squashes have done well too. The winter varieties should store for three to four months if they are undamaged.

Maybe it seems misguided to be talking about sowing and planting anything in November. However, it is a perfect time of year to make an early start for quite an array of crops.

The past few days I’ve been sowing my overwintering broad beans “Aquadulce Claudia“ directly in the ground. As my soil is well-drained the plants usually survive relatively well. Rarely do I cover my broad beans with fleece, though there is nothing wrong with doing this during especially harsh wintery weather.

I’ve also sown the overwintering pea “Douce Provence”. Last year this pea survived the winter very well indeed. here I did give cloche protection and fleece during bad weather and I suffered few losses. So fingers crossed for the same again this time around.

I’ve been busy planting the last of my garlic too. The variety ”Germidour” is my undisputed champion here. This beauty provides ultra- reliability and great storage properties that lasted through till March or April last year. Garlic can be planted as late as December in mild weather and it relishes the cold.

The last of my overwintered onions “Senshyu Yellow” are now finally in too. They have rooted quickly in the mild damp weather and are looking good.

One essential task is to cover the cloves and onion sets, with netting to protect from foraging birds, looking for grubs and worms to tide them over the winter. Once roots are formed they can be uncovered. However for the first month or so, it is essential to provide protection.

Meanwhile my asparagus foliage started yellowing at the end of October so I’ve been cutting the spent stems had back to ground level with sharp secateurs.

I’ve started a runner bean trench off too- filling it with spent foliage from cabbages and sweet corn and the last of the courgettes. It is a good idea to dig a trench like this now to allow the winter weather to break it down and worms to drag the material underground. I never cease to be amazed how quickly the material disappears! Runner beans of course, like plenty of moisture at the roots in the heat of summer. It is time well spent doing this now.

All of this just goes to show-the allotment cycle never really stops. Without realising it maybe, we are building already for next year. I can’t wait!

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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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