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Top January Allotment Tips

March Allotment Tips

The New Year brings with it new hopes and aspirations on our allotment and in life generally. Some things such as the weather are out of our control. Yet others such as finding more time to visit our plots are within our own grasp. My New Year resolution therefore isn’t original but is critical to how successful our plots are.

After the fun of harvesting food for Christmas Lunch, now is the time to order the seeds you’ll need for 2019. I like to get my order in early to ensure that I get my favourite varieties.

In the case of brassicas it is needs must, as I’ve got a noticeable problem with clubroot. The easiest way to tackle this nowadays is to use a clubroot tolerant variety. Some of these are as follows; broccoli ‘monclano’, Brussels sprouts,‘crispus’, savoy cabbage ‘cordesa’ and cauliflower ‘clapton’. Cabbage ‘cordesa’ is Suttons first clubroot resistant cabbage and is currently available as plug plants. All the others can be grown from seed or as a plug plant.

Cabbage Cordesa

Cabbage Cordesa

If you fancy growing strawberries from seed, the alpine variety ‘Regina’ is sweet-tasting and is great as a tasty snack. A long season is required and the time to sow is January to early March. Sow the seed in a propagator providing heat of 18-21C. Aubergines need a long season and they too can be started now, in a heated propagator.

Strawberry Regina

Strawberry Regina

The mild weather has allowed time over the holidays to do more work on my plot. I’ve been able to spread some well-rotted manure on some beds. This is a warm and satisfying job. The manure was teeming with juicy worms of many sizes. Doubtless the local bird population had a Christmas Lunch all of their own when I left!

Due to the mild weather, some weeds have continued to grow this winter. I’ve removed several juicy dandelions on the cusp of flowering! There are also a healthy number of annual speedwell weeds. Those attractive dainty blue flowers give the illusion of spring and beg the question where has winter been thus far? At least Mares Tail dies off for the winter!

Inside the shed, a bit of an untidy mess has developed, thanks to a busy last summer. I’m currently in the process of tidying said shed. This involves throwing away those damaged and unwanted items we all seem to accrue. I’ve discovered part of the roof leaks too. While checking on this, I discovered a queen wasp, motionless, but still alive. The wasp had chosen the top of a side panel under the roof apex, as a little hideaway to survive the winter. While removing it the legs of the wasp started moving. I wonder how many sheds on allotments currently have the same.

On the windowsill in my house, it is already a hive of activity. I’m quite a fan of sprouting seeds. Now in the depths of winter sprouting seeds come into their own. These days there is a greater range than ever. Quietly there is a revolution going on, in growing veg in small spaces.

Broccoli Green-Sprouting is great for getting a nutritious hit of broccoli all year round. An old margarine tub, filled with compost is ideal for sowing the seed. Place the container on a bright windowsill and the young seedlings will be ready to harvest in 2-3 weeks. It is a similar story with Kale shoots. These provide a healthy, surprisingly sweet-tasting snack in 3-4 weeks. If you don’t like mature outdoor kale, growing young shoots this way is well worth a try.

Kale Shoots

Kale Shoots

There are a number of other sprouting seeds (micro-greens) that I’ve tried over the years too. Old favourites include; alfalfa, cress, fenugreek, mustard and my personal pièce de résistance is the pea shoot ‘twinkle’.

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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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