January forced a rest on the allotment | The Voice of the Allotment

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Between the rain and the frozen ground there’s been little to do this month, says Barry Cuff, but now’s the time for some potato shopping

Choosing from the 70 varieties on offer from Mill House Nurseries at Owermoigne
Image: Barry Cuff

For the first time in many years we have not been able to carry out much work during January. Roughly five inches of rain and 12 days of frost have kept us off the soil. We have managed to cut down the raspberry canes and prune the currants and gooseberries. At least all the bare ground had been manured back in November and December, including the areas of green manure killed off by the hard December frosts.
Of course we continued harvesting the hardy vegetables – sprouts, leeks, parsnips and carrots – as needed. We picked our first purple sprouting broccoli mid month and despite the weather there were still some usable oriental mustards and Mizuna for salads. We dug the last blue moon radish as well. We have really enjoyed these Asian radishes (Blue Moon, Red Moon and Accord round Daikon) and intend to sow a larger area in August.
From the store we have been using onions, potatoes, winter squash and garlic, and from the freezer peas, French beans, broad beans, and sweetcorn.
Our November-planted garlic has survived the winter and is looking good. However, for the first time in about 30 years we have no spring cauliflowers; all were lost during the hard frosts in December. We now believe these were lost to a combination of below-freezing temperature and Boron deficiency which can occur on high pH soils. The deficiency causes the stems to become hollow, which affects the water availability to the plant. We have now ordered a supply of Boron foliar feed for the coming season!

Shopping for spuds
We made our annual trip to Mill House Nurseries at Owermoigne to buy our seed spuds for the coming season; there were about 70 varieties to choose from, all laid out loose in trays. This year we chose Maris Bard for our first early, and bought our tried-and-tested favourites Charlotte, Picasso and Rooster, along with a new variety Sagitta which did exceptionally well last year. Each year we try a line of something new so we bought five tubers of each of Caledonian Rose, British Queen and Marvel. The nursery also sells loose legume seed, and for £3 we bought about 1,800 seeds of Hurst Green Shaft peas, which is very good value.
We now look forward to the beginning of the growing season.

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