Seasonal Tips

Tips for December

Things to do

Send us your ideas for what we should be doing in December.

Tips for November

Things to do

Plant bare-root fruit trees, bushes and canes before the ground becomes to o cold and wet.
Pick autumn raspberries.
Sow broad beans
Remove nets from fruit cages but leave them over brassicas such as Brussels sprouts and cabbages.
Plant garlic and rhubarb.
Prune apple and pear trees and soft fruit bushes while they are dormant.
Dig over beds, remove perennial weeds and add well-rotted compost and manure.
Cover beds with cardboad or plastic to protect the soil from heavy rain.
From Allotment Month by Month by Alan Buckingham pub. Dorling Kindersley

Don’t abandon your plot just because the clocks have gone back!

Remove perennial weeds, but do not work on the ground if it is too wet.

Tie in soft fruit canes.

It is not too late to plant onion sets, garlic, and broad beans and peas.

The work you do throughout the Winter, will bring its reward next Spring.

Tips for October

Things to do

Harvest summer vegetable and lift potatoes and beetroots before the first frost.
Cut pumpkins and winter squashes and cure them by leaving them in the sun to harden their skins and ripen their fruit.
Cover autumn salads and Oriental leaves with cloches or fleece to protect from frost.
Sow broad beans seeds for next year.
Plant garlic, onions, rhubarb and bare-root fruit bushes, such as gooseberries and currants.
Plant grapes vines and strawberries
Take down and store supports for beans, peas and tomatoes.
Clear away dead plant material and compost it – except diseased plants and perennial weeds which you should burn or take off the site.
From Allotment Month by Month by Alan Buckingham pub. Dorling Kindersley

If you are planning on overwintering broad beans and / or peas, you can either sow them direct, or start them in pots now.

Autumn planted onion and shallot sets can be planted in October, but inspect them regularly because the birds love to pull them out!

Tips for September

Things to do

Harvest remaining Summer vegetables and the first of your Autumn crops
Pick late plums, mid-season apples and pears, and autumn- fruiting raspberries
Sow the last of your Oriental and salad leaves of the year
Plant spring cabbages and Japanese onion sets to overwinter for next year
Clear away dead foliage
Add everything you can to your compost heap as long as it’s not diseased or has seeds
Check apples, pears and plums for brown rot and discard infected fruit
Plant strawberries, spring cabbages, onion sets.
From Allotment Month by Month by Alan Buckingham. DK

Watch out for blight on tomatoes, and bag and remove any that are affected by blight, so that it does not spread to your neighbours.

Winter lettuces, orientals and rocket can all still be sown now, but you may need to protect these crops as they go into winter.

Following the recent rains, be extra vigilant looking out for tomato blight and remove any infected crops from the site immediately.

Many crops are very late due to the poor summer, but we may still have two months of growing yet. It’s not too late to try a last sowing of chard, spinach, and hardy oriental greens, and start thinking where to put the onions and broad beans you will sow next month.

Choose a dry day for lifting main crop potatoes; and store them out of sunlight or warmth in paper or hessian bags.

Tips for August

Things to do

Keep on weeding (and watering if this rain ever stops.)
Pinch out and feed tomatoes.
Give extra support to peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers as the fruits get heavier.
Plant out new strawberry plants.
Keep earthing up potatoes, to stop them from turning green.
Dry out garlic, shallots and onions.
Spread well–rotted mulches after rain to keep moisture in the soil.
Harvest regularly before courgettes turn to marrows and beans get stringy.

Sow Italian vegetables such as radicchio and cima di rapa, and orientals such as mustards, pak choi and mizuna.

It is also possible to still sow beetroots and carrots – and some say they are sweeter when sown in August.

Tomatoes : Continue feeding with Tomato feed (available in the Trading Hut), or seaweed liquid (organic option). Pinch out side shoots to concentrate the plant’s energy to forming fruits.

Beware : Blight is a high risk, so do what you can to avoid it. Blighted tomatoes are blackened and inedible. If you are growing tomatoes outside, and notice brown spots on the stems, take action quickly to stop the spread of blight to your neighbours. Bag blighted plants, seal the bag and remove from the site as soon as possible.

Potatoes : You will be lifting potatoes by now. Try not to leave even the tiny ones in the soil because they can re-emerge next year carrying diseases. They are delicious and quick to cook. Eat them straight away!

Tips for July

Things to do

Water, water, water!!

Remove any weeds that will take water and nutrients from your crops

When tiny fruits have started to form, feed tomato plants with comfrey tea or other liquid fertiliser each week. Pinch out the side shoots and stake the plants.

Only lift as many first early potatoes as you are going to use immediately, as these varieties do not store well. Earth up the rest of the crop to stop them from turning green and give them a thorough soaking once a week, this is much better than sprinkling them every day.

Harvest black, red and white currants, gooseberries, summer fruiting raspberries, cherries and apricots.
Lift garlic, shallots and onions and allow to dry in the sun or under cover.
Sow the last beetroot, French beans, peas and Florence fennel for this year.

Potatoes : First early potatoes can be lifted and the potatoes harvested. Only lift the amount for immediate use as these varieties do not store well. The remainder of the potato crop will benefit from being earthed up, and now the potato plants will require a thorough soaking once a week, this is much better than sprinkling them every day.

Tomatoes : Continue to feed tomato plants with liquid fertiliser each week. Pinch out side shoots. Stake the plants.

Weeds : Continue to hoe out annual weeds.

Tips for June

Things to do

June is one of the busiest months of the vegetable gardener’s year. Warmer weather and longer daylight hours make it the time to plant out any seedlings you have been raising – just make sure you protect them from slugs.

Like all plants, weeds put on a growth spurt in June taking up much-needed water and nutrition from your crops – so keep on top of them.
Mulch to suppress weeds and keep moisture from evaporating form the soil.

Net brassicas to prevent butterflies from laying their eggs and soft fruits to protect them from birds.

Carrot fly will become active as the weather warms up but cannot fly above two feet, so surround your carrots with mesh of that height.

Earth up potatoes so they don’t turn green die to exposure to the light.

Feed asparagus and leave the ferns to turn brown.

Build supports for beans and peas.

Feed tomatoes as soon as the flowers set and the tiny fruit appear.

Comfrey Tea Fertiliser
Comfrey tea is a free, organic and very smelly fertiliser which is rich in potassium and nitrogen. You will see lots of comfrey around the site at this time of year – if you don’t have any, ask your neighbours. Comfrey is very invasive, so if you are planning on planting it choose the variety Bocking 14, which is sterile so won’t self-seed.

Harvest comfrey leaves from established plants – wear gloves as they can irritate the skin. Fill a bucket about half to three-quarters full of comfrey leaves and place a brick on top of the leaves to press them down. Fill the container with water and cover to keep the flies out (and the smell in). The water will turn dark and very smelly in about 20 days. Dilute it by at least 50% percent before using. Comfrey tea is potent so a little goes a long way.

Wilted comfrey leaves can also be used as sheet-mulch manure. Place two or three layers around the base of plants or bury them in the soil 5cm deep next to crops including tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, currants, gooseberries, and fruit trees; the high nitrogen and potassium content of the leaves will be almost immediately available to crops. Don’t use on leafy crops such as lettuce and spinach – the nitrogen boost may cause them to go to seed prematurely – or on rooting crops, such as carrots.

Tomatoes – feed with diluted liquid tomato feed once a week starting from when the first flowers show (feed is available in the Trading Hut Shop).

Watering : During June you will almost certainly start to water your crops. Watering is one of the hardest gardening tasks to get right, and one of the easiest to do wrong! In all watering tasks, aim for a good soak when needed, rather than a quick blast regardless.

Water the base of the plant not the foliage (which will attract slugs/ could cause sun damage to foliage), use a can with a rose or a very gentle spray on seedlings and young plants.

Weeding : use a hoe on warm, sunny days, or hand pull between rows.

Carrots : Carrot fly will become active as the weather warms up, so take preventative measures now by screening the area around your carrots with a 2 foot high barrier and enviro-mesh (available in the Trading Hut Shop) Carrot flies do not fly above two feet, so your carrots will be protected. It is the smell of the carrot which seems to attract them, so try not to disturb the carrots until you harvest. Very thin spread of the seed helps. If you have to thin your carrots, try doing it in the evening, when the carrot fly are not so active.

Netting : when planting out young brassicas, net them to prevent the Cabbage White butterfly laying her eggs, and to avoid pigeon damage later in the year.

If it has been a cold Spring, at this time, if you have already planted out tender plants, cover with cloches or fleece, until it warms up.  If you haven’t already planted out, wait for warmer weather, the plants will catch up.

Tips for May

Things to do

Sow leafy crops, such as lettuce, spinach and parsley, while it is still cool.

Until the risks of frost are over do not plant out tender plants, such as beans, tomatoes, courgettes and the like. If you want to plant these vegetables out before the risk of frost is over then they need protection under glass or fleece, which is available from the Trading Hut Shop.

Young plants are very vulnerable to hungry slugs and snails, so wait until they are a bit tougher and consider organic slug pellets, or digging a pond to encourage frogs and toads.

It’s now too late to start, from seed, plants which require a long growing season, i.e. tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, so if you haven’t got these already growing, see if you can find them at the Plant Sale.

Tips for April

Things to do

With two Bank Holidays coming up, now really is the time to get busy. You can be sowing: in pots – courgettes, pumpkins and squash, cucumbers, herbs, brassicas, corn, beans and basil.

You can directly sow on the plot: beetroot, parsnips, carrots, turnips, broad beans, chard, spinach, coriander, leeks, lettuce, mizuna, parsley, peas, radish and salad onions – and there is still time to sow onion sets, shallots and garlic.

Later in April, you can sow beans, corn, squashes and brassicas directly on the plot.

Now is the time to plant potatoes, but keep an eye on the weather forecast, we can still get frosts, but you can cover the emerging shoots with fleece (available in the Shop).

You can sow indoors: courgettes, tomatoes, chillies and peppers, pumpkins and squash, cucumbers, herbs, brassicas, corn, beans, basil.

Try not to be in too much of a hurry to plant and sow seeds if the conditions are not right for example heavy rain or frost. Nature always has its way of catching up!

Tips for March

Things to do

Now is the time to get your beds ready for sowing.

By the end of March, there will be potatoes to plant, and all manner of seeds to sow, so now you should make sure that your beds are ready, and mulched with compost and/or manure. Many plot holders still don’t have compost bins, now is the time to get them made, ready for all of the weeding, trimming, mowing and peeling to come.

Look out for wildlife when digging your compost heap to use as mulch, or for digging into your beds. Please look out for slow worms! They are a gardener’s friend and they may be sleeping in your nice warm compost.

This is also the time to cut back hedges and vegetation from the paths, before nesting begins.

Gardeners never stop, but if you have had a few weeks away from your plot, now is the time to get back to it, to avoid being left behind by the rush of Spring growth.

By the end of March, there will be potatoes to plant, and all manner of seeds to sow, so now you should make sure that your beds are ready, and mulched with compost and/or manure. Many plot holders still don’t have compost bins, now is the time to get them made, ready for all of the weeding, trimming, mowing and peeling to come. The best way of making compost bins is to use pallets. It may be possible for the Association to arrange a bulk delivery of pallets, if you would be interested in this, please get in touch:

Dorothy suggested that new plot holders may like to be in touch with each other to share ideas, plans and ways of working : e.g. Dorothy is using a ‘no dig’ method to cultivate her new plot. If you would like to join a circulation list for new plot holders, please let us know:

Tips for February

Things to do

Pruning of apples, pears and grape vines should be carried out this month, if you haven’t done so already, but stone fruits (plums, cherries etc), should wait until the Spring or Summer, to avoid possible viruses.

February is the time to start sowing tender seeds indoors (tomatoes, peppers, chillies) as they need a long growing season. On the allotment, you can plant shallots and garlic this month and, providing the weather is kind, you can be sowing broad beans and peas at the end of the month.

Tips for January

Things to do

Keep coming to the plot! This is a wonderful time of year for bird watching, and for tackling jobs like digging out bramble, tidying up and winter pruning – watch out for a Winter Pruning Workshop next month.