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Top February Allotment Tips

Rhubarb Growing

Finding time on a weekday in winter to visit the allotment can be problematic if you work full time. Happily, the days are noticeably lengthening now. Indeed late afternoon or early tea time is a possibility for quick trips to the plot to get things moving. And the exciting thing is there is plenty to do now.

My established Rhubarb crowns “Victoria” are typically bursting into life. Whatever the weather, these crowns seem indestructible. I’ve got so many, that I like to force some by covering them with a large pot. It is better to discard the forced plants after cropping as the crowns are significantly weakened.  I’ve never grown Rhubarb from seed. However it is perfectly possible to also grow “Victoria” and some other varieties this way as an alternative to crowns.

During dry interludes this month, I’ll be adding some well rotted manure around my fruit trees. Asparagus similarly benefit from this as do fruit bushes, such as currants. Any longer term crop such as this can easily become short of nutrients.

My cold frame is full of newly sown early peas “Douce Provence” a hardy round seeded type, and broad beans “The Sutton” and “Aquadulce Claudia”. If the weather stays reasonable, I’ll be hardening off the latter as the month unfolds. I will need the space in the frame and the beans don’t mind. It seems to help them; as if they become too tall and leggy, they can fall over or lean when planted out on the plot.

Meanwhile, I’ve been sorting out a small sandpit on my plot for my youngest to play in. This is purely self interest and a cunning attempt by me to occupy her while on the allotment. The theory is, I can actually get something done when she (and her sister) visits the plot. That said, the kids are keen to get stuck in, literally… in all weathers. Children love digging holes and sowing seeds! The sandpit is self-contained with a lid on importantly to deter the local cats and other visitors from using it as a litter tray.

At home on the windowsill, early and second early potatoes are chitting. This is a further almost symbolic sign spring isn’t too far away.

In the greenhouse my sweet peas have overwintered beautifully. Last month, I pinched out the tops to encourage branching. This has worked a treat.

In early February I’ll be planting my shallot bulbs “Golden Gourmet” in the unheated greenhouse. I generally plant shallots around a month earlier than my onion sets. I admire the extra durability and reliability that shallots give and they are surprisingly handy in the kitchen too.

Next month, the seed sowing season starts in ernest.

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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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