Planning, preparation and potteringPosted By: rocket veg Category: Growing Veg, Seasonal Tips
Apart from a few crops which have over-wintered and provide a welcome promise of things to come, it’s the dead time of year on my allotment – lots of bare earth, muddy paths and leaden skies overhead. However, now is the perfect time to potter about, take stock of things and make plans for the coming year, as careful preparation now will reap rewards in the form of delicious crops later on.
I’ve just finished sorting all my packets of seed and making a list of what I will need this year. In spite of being marked with a ‘use by’ date, most varieties of veg seed will last for several years, with the exception of Parsnip – notoriously tricky to germinate, so I always buy fresh seed each spring. I store my seed packets in a small wooden crate which I have fitted with a few simple dividers, each compartment housing the seed to be planted in a rough order from early spring till late summer. I secure families of seed (brassicas, squash, lettuces and so on) with elastic bands, but I expect your system of seed storage works just as well.
I also like to plan where I intend to plant various crops. When I began work on my current allotment over ten years ago, I drew a simple outline plan which I copy each year and mark on where things will go. This not only helps with ensuring rotation of crops (Legumes – Brassicas – Potatoes – Onions and ‘roots’) but has built into an interesting archive, as simple record of my successes (and a fair few failures…)
Ideally the beds where the new season’s veg are to be planted should have been dug over and manure or compost added in the autumn. Once done, a top tip is to cover the ground with black woven material which will not only keep the soil weed-free, but will encourage worm activity and help warm the ground as temperatures rise in spring – prefect for encouraging swift germination when it’s time to sow the first seeds in open ground`. If you haven’t already covered your precious plot of land it’s not too late.
Digging a bean trench
One great mid-winter job is to dig a trench ready for planting climbing beans. ‘Runners’, as well as French climbing and Barlottis love rich, moisture-retaining soil The traditional way to provide this is to fill a shallow trench (30cm deep/45cm wide) with all manner of compostable material – ‘green’ kitchen waste, leaves, manure etc do the trick and I always line the base of my bean trenches with a few layers of newspaper first and then add fresh material over the coming weeks. Backfilling the trench with soil and planting beans come later.
One of the joys of allotment gardening is the opportunity to potter with a purpose, carrying out a few small tasks as you wander around – tidying the stack of canes; adjusting the old tiles which weight down the covering over the beds; talking to my hens - you get the general idea – a satisfying way to pass some time. If the weather is half-decent this coming weekend, give it a go.