It’s the season for choosing – and making a start on the sowing | The voice of the allotment

Barry Cuff shares what’s happening on an allotment you might expect to be bare in January, along with an annual potato trip.

Allotments suffered badly from the mid month gales during February; chicken houses, sheds, polytunnels and greenhouses were all damaged or destroyed. Sturminster Newton allotments suffered considerable damage from the storms. But plot holders, like farmers, are a resilient lot. When you are at the mercy of the weather you simply ahve to take the rough with the smooth, and come back fighting. On our own plot damage was restricted to 3 broken panes of greenhouse glass, and some newly-leaning purple sprouting broccoli!


Barry Cuff is still harvesting his purple sprouting romanesco from his Sturminster Newton allotment

Still harvesting

By the end of February we were still harvesting parsnips, carrots, leeks, purple sprouting romanesco, sprouts and winter radishes.
Our first chicons of Witloof chicory were cut mid-month from roots lifted back in November.
Both areas with green manure (see box below – we use Phacelia and field beans) look well, and these will be dug-in during March. Our entire plot, apart from the green manure, has had farmyard manure applied over the course of the winter. Digging will continue into March as the last crops are harvested. Some areas will not be dug – these will be planted later with brassicas, sweetcorn, legumes and cucurbits (squash, pumpkin, courgette etc).

The seeds of this year’s harvest
We have now sown – in the greenhouse – red and white cabbage, lettuce and onions, all in plug trays for planting out later. The peppers sown in January are doing well in the bedroom window!

A double row of broad beans were planted out on the 23rd, and look well so far. We grow half a line each of two varieties; Witkiem Manita and Masterpiece Green Long Pod. These should crop over a long period.

With very few frosts our garlic is growing well (planted November and January).

General housekeeping

All our carry-over seed has been tested for germination, and any packets with low vigour and germ discarded. Most open packets keep well as long as they are stored correctly.

The grass paths have been cut twice this winter as there has been little frost to check growth.

What is ‘green manure’?

Green manures are fast- growing plants sown to cover bare soil. Often used in the vegetable garden, their foliage smothers weeds and their roots prevent soil erosion. When dug into the ground while still green, they return valuable nutrients to the soil and improve soil structure.

Increasing numbers of households are looking to grow their own vegetables and fruit due to the rising cost of living. This is reflected in a growing list of applications for plots on the two sites at Sturminster Newton. If you’d like to add your name to the list, contact Barry on 01258 473280

by Barry Cuff

Sponsored by: Thorngrove Garden Centre

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