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Top December Allotment Tips

With the shorter days of winter, there are far less opportunities to visit the allotment. Even so, the allotment is a perfect excuse to get out of the weekend Christmas shopping!

Talking of the festive period, the snowfall that reached parts of the UK at the end of November was a reminder that winter has firmly arrived. I’ve had a rat infestation under my outbuilding to prove it. Rodents of course, like most living things, seek protection and shelter from the cold. It is worth checking your sheds and greenhouses for pests in general.

Inadvertently we can be housing greenhouse pests overwinter on decaying vegetation or pots. This allows them to strike again next year. Cleaning staging and pots with disinfectant are good practices to break the life cycle.

Gifts for Allotmenteers

Excitingly, there are a multitude of gifts available for gardeners and allotment holders. I really like the free-standing, raised large wooden planter. It is perfect for herbs and shallow-rooted crops such as lettuce, radish, strawberries, spring onions, turnips and more. Crops can be grown at a comfortable working height off the ground. Another item that caught my eye is the two-wheeled wheelbarrow. The practical, heavy-duty aspect of this wheelbarrow makes this another perfect allotment-related gift. For smaller budgets, the various seed tins are a good bet.

December Seed Sowing

As we approach the shortest day my seed sowing tends to focus on indoor sprouting seeds. These days there is an exciting range of fast growing seeds, perfect for the windowsill. Alfalfa sprouting seeds, Cress and my ultimate favourite, Pea shoots ‘Twinkle’ are all super easy to grow.

In the cold frame or cold greenhouse, Broad Bean ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ and the hardy round pea ‘Douce Provence’ can be sown. I prefer to cover them with fleece or cloches during extreme frost for extra protection, even they are grown under glass. The pea variety is excellent for exposed windy allotments as it requires no staking. Plant it outside in early spring in well-drained soil.

I like to plan my seed order nice and early to reduce the risk of my favourite varieties selling out. It is a pleasurable indoor job when the ground is too wet to work or you simply want a rest from the cold.

Topical Tasks

Congested apple or pear trees can be tackled during the dormant period. Winter pruning should aim to rejuvenate gnarled neglected trees. Usually, this entails cutting out dead and diseased branches, crossing branches and opening up the centre.

If the tree is well balanced and healthy, little work should be needed save for summer pruning for fruiting spurs. Plum trees should never be pruned in winter, due to the risk of silver leaf disease.

It is a good idea to inspect and clean your guttering on sheds and greenhouses before it begins to cause problems.

Winter is also a great time to check over and sharpen or repair your tools and machinery. There is nothing worse than a blunt spade or hoe. Secateurs that don’t make a clean cut are of no use and snagged cuts can allow fungal disease to enter the host plant.

Mowers, strimmers and cultivators all benefit from a periodic service to keep them running at their best.

Produce in Season

The recent frosts and cold weather has been beneficial for the winter crops if you are a believer that frost improves the flavour of leeks, parnsips and sprouts. They certainly don’t seem to mind it and I’ve already enjoyed a few leeks and Jerusalem artichokes. I’m going to head up to my plot on Christmas morning to harvest fresh veg for lunch including cabbage, sprouts and swede as well as the above.

May I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and Peaceful New Year.

We hope you have enjoyed our Top December Allotment Tips and stay tuned for more in January.

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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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