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Top December Allotment Tips

brussels sprouts

The run up to Christmas is a time to focus on gifts for gardeners and allotmenteers. There is a mouth-watering range of tools and accessories that plot holders use and there is always scope for more!

There are plenty of growing kits around too. For those like me, who feel the need to grow food all year round, mushroom kits seem to have my name on them this year! I quite fancy a couple of kits on my windowsill over winter. The Shiitake and King Oyster types are a real delicacy. Mushrooms grown this way are not difficult. They will further add to my all year round list of food grown.

Mushroom Kits

Back on the plot, I’ve been harvesting a bumper crop of kohl rabi ‘Vienna Mix’. These spherical shaped roots can be used raw in salads or in stir fry. My preferred use is in a shepherd’s pie with the last of the pumpkins and also swede, for a real hit of early winter of allotment veg flavours.

Meanwhile, the Brussels sprouts are forming nicely. The main task with the plants now is to remove any yellowing leaves to improve air circulation. They look a lot better after this treatment too.

My overwintering onions and garlic have rooted nicely. I’ve removed the netting now as birds will no longer be able to dislodge them. The onions in the greenhouse have grown so fast with the mild weather; I’ve now had to put the trays outside to slow them down.

I’ve been digging over some parts of my soil to leave fallow over winter. As well as improving the structure, it exposes slug eggs to birds. Magically, a solitary robin always seems to appear over winter and perhaps this is one reason why.

At this time of year it is important to do regular checks on your greenhouse, polytunnel and shed. Any minor storm or rain damage that goes unrepaired can quickly escalate into something more serious.

Christmas may now only be just around the corner, yet excitingly, there are still seeds that can be sown now. In my unheated greenhouse I’ll be sowing the broad bean ‘Aquadulce Claudia’. As an alternative, in milder areas why not try ‘Luz de Otono’.

Broad Bean Luz de Otono

If you use containers or small beds, ‘The Sutton’ is a time-served dwarf variety that produces beans of good flavour. Historically, overwintering broad beans were sown as early as November. Now as the climate changes, December is a better option. We don’t want the beans to get too big, too soon, while still in trays. If this happens they risk becoming leggy if the winter is mild.

In between Christmas and New Year I always sow a seed onion for eating, typically ‘Bedfordshire Champion’. For showing purposes the aptly named variety ‘Exhibition’ needs a long season and can be sown from late December to the end of January. Start the seed off in gentle heat in a heated propagator.

Onion Exhibition

Whatever you get up to this December, I hope you have a Merry Christmas and Peaceful New Year.

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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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