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Top November Allotment Tips

bio-degradable leaf sacks

My allotment has an increasingly mid autumn feel to it. Gone are the summer tender crops, most of which I’ve been able to compost. Instead much of my soil has become covered in a carpet of leaves, which I’ll use to make simple leaf mould.  By gathering the leaves and storing them in something as simple as a bin liner, they will rot down in around twelve months. A garden blower or vac can be handy for this, especially the petrol versions as most allotment sites don’t have electricity. If you have a petrol lawnmower, (or a hand lawnmower) run this over the leaves. This will chop them, speeding up the decomposition process.

Taking of autumn colour, the blueberry variety “Rubel” never fails to give a really fiery red grand finale before dropping its leaves for winter. I grow this in my ornamental border at home too such is the attractiveness and welcome height it provides. It is important with blueberries to grow them in acid soil for best results. If that isn’t possible then a large pot filled with ericaceous compost should be fine.

Blueberry Rubel

There are still a number of crops suitable for sowing in November and December. The round seeded hardy pea “Douce Provence” is perfect for late autumn or early winter sowing under glass. I grow them on over winter in my cold frame or unheated greenhouse to plant out on my plot next March. If the weather turns very frosty I’ll cover them with fleece, but otherwise they will cope with average winter cold without additional protection.

Pea Douce Provence

Traditionally every November also sow hardy winter broad beans and these are a little more resilient than the peas. “Aquadulce Claudia” is the best tasting bean in my opinion with a genuine “old fashioned” bean taste. It is also conveniently the hardiest variety. I sow a row directly in early November, supplemented by further sowings in the unheated greenhouse in trays or pots. These can put outside in pots to prevent them getting too tall too quickly if the winter is mild.  I only use fleece as a last resort in severe conditions as broad beans are very hardy as long as the soil drains well.

On the windowsill at home for a tasty nutritious snack Kale seeds take some beating. When grown alongside pea shoots “twinkle” they make a fine tasty sandwich. The seeds can be sown all winter on a light windowsill in moderate heat.

Outdoors on the plot is worth checking to see if any newly planted onions or garlic have been disturbed before they’ve  have time to root. Sometimes I come across a few onion sets lying on their side or even pulled out of the soil completely by birds or mice. These can soon be replanted.

Finally, I always ensure I dig over any patches of compacted soil at this time of year. This will aerate the soil and expose slug eggs to birds and other predators to snack on over the next few weeks. With a bit of luck, some severe frosts may destroy a few too.

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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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