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Top December Allotment Tips

Suttons Brussels Sprout Seeds - F1 Continuity Mix

With the ground currently so wet in many areas, there is little that can be done directly on the soil. Certainly, it is far better to keep off saturated soil. If you have no option but to walk on it, do use boards to make an impromptu path to minimise damage.

Raised beds are an excellent option if your soil is poorly drained and regularly suffers waterlogging. There are so many kits available these days, to make instant raised beds. Even if DIY is not your thing, they are so easy to put together. If I can do it, anyone can!

Testing, Testing!

As ever there are plenty of seasonal tasks to be done, whatever the weather. One timely task over winter is to test the PH level of your soil with a PH Meter. A neutral soil gives a reading of 7. An acidic soil will have a reading below 7. If your soil is alkaline your reading will be higher than neutral.
Most crops prefer a PH reading of around 6.5, or just below neutral.

There are exceptions such as blueberries. They need noticeably acidic conditions with a PH of no higher than 5. Blueberries should never be watered with tap water for that reason.

Brassicas on the other hand enjoy a slightly alkaline soil. Ideally the reading should not be less than 7 and it can be as high as 7.5. A spin off benefit is lime helps to slow down clubroot. Brassica’s with a lot of yellow leaves can be due to a lime deficiency.

If you need to increase the PH of your soil in other words the alkalinity, one way is to add garden lime.

If you want to test soil fertility levels as well as the PH then a soil testing kit is a handy thing to have at your disposal over the winter. This will test the N (Nitrogen), P (Phosphorus) and K (Potash) levels in your soil as well as the PH.

Quite a few allotments and gardens have bonfire ash left untouched from November, which can be a useful addition to the soil. I prefer to add it to the compost bin first as it can be quite alkaline. Avoid spreading it where you intend to grow potatoes as it may encourage scab. It is important not to add lime and manure at the same time.

Seasonal Tasks

During drier interludes, I’m continuing to gather more fallen tree leaves to make leaf mould. This will also discourage slugs from hiding in the soil and you may even catch a few.

This is a good time of year to shape and prune any overgrown pear or apple trees you may have inherited on your new plot. The aim is to remove any diseased or decaying wood and open up the centre if it is congested. Good airflow is essential in the summer for the health of the tree and its fruit.

In the greenhouse, I’m continuing to sow Broad Bean ‘The Sutton’. Around the Christmas period, I’ll be sowing some onion seed ‘Ailsa Craig’ in a gentle heat. Onion seeds need a long growing season, especially if you are growing for showing.

The windowsill at home can be a hive of activity at this time of year. When the weather is too miserable to go out, why not grow fast growing shoots instead? Pea shoots ‘Twinkle’ is ready in three weeks and a second harvest is possible. Kale shoots are surely the easiest way to benefit from the health properties of this plant in just four weeks! Bean sprouts and sprouting seeds and Fenugreek are also good choices.

There is an exciting bounty of fresh vegetables to harvest in December. Brussels sprouts, carrots, winter cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, parsnips, swede and turnips are all in season. Supplementing this, in storage are apples, garlic, onions, potatoes and shallots. There is little excuse for any allotment holder not having fresh veg on Christmas Day!

I’d like to wish all my readers a Happy Christmas and Peaceful New Year.

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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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