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The Allotment Gardening Year

Part of the Allotment Gardening For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Working an allotment garden in the UK is an all-year-round commitment. Make your plot as productive as possible by following this month-by-month guide, and get the most from your soil.

January

  • Check out catalogues for seeds, fruit bushes and any other crops you’ve got a mind - and the space - to grow. January is often the sales season at garden centres, so get re-stocked and save yourself some money.

  • Sort out clean pots ready for the sowing season, and check that your propagator works, if you’ve got one.

  • Pick your winter crops, such as Brussels sprouts, cabbages and leeks. As soon as the soil is clear, give it a good dig over and add some organic matter where appropriate.

  • January is still early to sow most vegetable seeds, but you can plant your first onions now.

  • Have a good tidy up on your plot, removing any debris.

February

  • Complete all your digging this month so the soil has a chance to break down a bit before you plant your crops.

  • Cover areas of soil to be sown with seeds next month with black plastic or fleece to warm it and prevent it from getting too wet.

  • Sow more seeds indoors in trays. You can start off tomatoes, onions, celery and peppers, amongst others.

  • Plant fruit trees and bushes as soon as the soil thaws out.

March

  • March is the main month for sowing many crops indoors. You can also plant some outside at this stage as well (broad beans, for example).

  • Dig up the last of the crops which have been in the ground over the winter (including parsnips and leeks, for example).

  • Plant asparagus in well-prepared, weed-free soil.

  • Towards the end of the month you can plant out the first potatoes. Also plant onion sets, shallots, garlic and Jerusalem artichokes.

  • Apply fertiliser around fruits and vegetables and mulch around fruit trees and bushes.

  • Start feeding all plants in pots and make sure that they don’t dry out.

April

  • Look out for early-emerging pests. Organic or chemical controls can help you avoid the problems of slugs and snails attacking young seedlings, aphids – or blackfly – covering broad beans, and greenfly attacking the new shoots of plums and currants.

  • Keep going with sowing seeds outside – April is often the best month to sow because the soil is getting warmer. Continue to sow seeds in the greenhouse.

  • Plant your potatoes.

  • Keep weeds under control by hoeing around your fruit and vegetables.

  • Under cover, sow fast-growing tender vegetables such as courgettes, French beans, marrows and runner beans.

May

  • Continue to look out for pests. Deal with slugs, snails and aphids, and put codling moth traps in apple trees at the end of the month.

  • In dry weather, water newly sown and planted crops.

  • Plant out leeks, brassicas such as cabbage and calabrese, and celery and celeriac.

  • Continue to sow salad crops and herbs regularly.

  • Sow more French beans.

  • Put the tender plants that are growing in the greenhouse outside to get them used to conditions before planting out at the end of the month (this is known as hardening off). If you don’t do this, the change in conditions can ‘shock’ the plants and check their growth.

June

  • Plant out tender veg: either your own-grown plants, or just buy ready-grown ones.

  • Protect strawberries from damage from slugs, from getting dirty with straw or mats, and from birds with netting or fleece.

  • Keep weeds under control by hoeing.

  • Keep removing the side shoots of tomatoes and feed them once a week. Make sure that you don’t allow tomatoes in growing bags or pots to dry out.

  • Stop cutting asparagus in the middle of the month. Mulch the rows with compost and give some fertiliser to build up the roots for next year.

  • Thin out apples, plums and pears if the branches are laden with small fruits.

July

  • As soon as strawberries have finished cropping, cut back the foliage and remove any runners that grow from the mother plants.

  • Cover blueberry bushes and other soft fruit with netting or fleece to protect them from birds.

  • Cut down early peas and broad beans that have been harvested. Leave the roots in the soil to add nitrogen to it.

  • Be prepared to spray potatoes against blight. Lift and harvest your early potatoes.

  • Continue to sow salad crops, and keep weeding among all your crops.

  • Prune blackcurrants as soon as the berries have been picked.

  • Mulch around squashes and pumpkins with compost or manure and keep them watered well.

August

  • Sow Oriental crops such as pak choi and Chinese cabbage. Also sow spring cabbage and fennel.

  • You should have lots to harvest this month – pick it while it’s young and fresh.

  • Pull up any crops that have finished and sow fast-growing salads in their place, or if you’re not using the ground for crops until winter or next spring, sow green manures.

  • Sow overwintering onions and plant special new potatoes for Christmas.

  • Summer prune apples and many other fruit bushes and trees.

September

  • Continue to sow Oriental vegetables, salads and herbs. Sow endives for winter.

  • Pinch out the tops of tomato plants to prevent fruits being formed that won’t ripen.

  • Pick sweetcorn and squashes as they mature.

  • Start to harvest apples and pears as they reach ripeness.

  • Dig up potatoes as soon as they finish flowering and if the foliage starts to yellow.

  • Stake Brussels sprouts and other overwintering brassicas to help them stand up to winter gales.

October

  • Harvest all squashes before the first frost damages them. Finish lifting and storing potatoes.

  • Dig over bare soil. Put all green plants and annual weeds on the compost heap.

  • Plant garlic and broad beans.

  • Cut back Jerusalem artichokes and pull up sweetcorn.

  • Pick the last tomatoes from plants in the greenhouse.

  • Clean out your greenhouse, if you have one, and make the most of any under-cover growing space.

November

  • Order seed catalogues and fruit catalogues.

  • Clear the soil of crops that are past their best.

  • Pick up and pull off yellowing leaves from brassicas.

  • Harvest leeks, celery, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips and the last of the carrots and beets.

  • Check the ties on trees and cover brassicas with netting to prevent bird damage.

December

  • Dig over any bare soil. Empty the compost heap and dig this into the soil.

  • Prune your fruit trees and bushes.

  • Clear rubbish off your site and have a general tidy up.

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