2012 New Year’s visit to the allotment: January updatePosted by Fiona Nevile in Allotment, Vegetables | 8 comments
I was very busy before Christmas stocking The Cottage Smallholder shop and making up orders, so I didn’t have time to go to the allotment regularly. In fact I probably haven’t been up there for a couple of months. We’d planned to go down for some Christmas veg but in the end ran out of time.
I had also found fleece to make cloches to protect the more tender salad crops. This mighty plan had fallen by the wayside too. We keep on promising each other that we would pop down at the weekend but Danny’s armchair football passion and the great cottage reorganisation plan has got in the way.
I’d begun to worry that after all our hard work from July to November, vegetables might be just sitting there and rotting. So today I was determined to check what was going on allotment wise and took a detour there on my way back from Newmarket.
I swung open the heavy gate and stepped onto the grassy path that leads to our plot. Within seconds I was enjoying the calm that seems to radiate from this allotment site. It’s strange but most worries and niggles are left behind as I walk up the concrete hill, turn left and pick my way up to where our plot lies on a warm slope beside a large chicken run.
The broad beans had germinated and were now small yet strong plants. The garlic is doing well – we planted lots of garlic in the autumn – at least 120 cloves to give us a decent harvest this year. Everything looked lush and healthy. Yes there were a few weeds but, in our absence, the plants had developed and grown well.
I examined each border carefully and was astonished how many vegetables were now ready to eat. Turnips, beetroot, carrots, cauliflowers, cabbages and kale are waiting to be harvested. Buds are beginning to form on the top of the purple sprouting broccoli plants so they’ll start to be guzzled in a couple of weeks if the weather stays mild. The collards are looking sturdy but need another month or so to mature.
The salad beds were packed with lettuces, chicory, frissé lettuce, wild rocket, mixed salad/stirfry leaves and claytonia. The winter spinach looks great and the summer spinach is still going strong.
Winter vegetables are often ignored by a lot of vegetable growers which is a shame as there is nothing better than tucking into your own super fresh produce when the days are short and cash is a bit tight after Christmas.
Once they have established in the autumn, the plants need far less care than the summer crops. As the winter has been so mild to date, the salady crops have survived well too. Winter lettuces, chicory, frisse lettuce, rocket, peppery salad/stir fry leaves, radishes, baby carrots and cute mini beetroot.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the whirl of summer weeding and watering and leave thinking about winter veg until it’s too late. A lot of seeds need to be sown relatively early in the year – sprouting broccoli plants for example are generally set out in July with the seeds being sown in May.
If you’d like to try growing a decent range of winter vegetables I would highly recommend How to Grow Winter Vegetables by Charles Dowding. I’ve found the book to be invaluable as it contains definitive instructions and timings for sowing, planting and protection. It also draws on the author’s broad knowledge and experience of growing vegetables to fill the hungry gap April – June with something a bit more exciting than just rows of leeks and cabbages.
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