An allotment is perfect if you enjoy gardening, growing, cooking, or eating. You can cultivate various fruits, vegetables, and herbs for the kitchen and ornamental plants for a productive and visually appealing plot.
The cold weather means fewer things to grow on your allotment, but there are still plenty of jobs to keep you busy. Here are some ideas for jobs to do around your plot during the winter months.
- Harvest Vegetables
Since Winter 2022 starts on December 21st, you can harvest various vegetables for Christmas dinner, including parsnips, leeks, and winter cabbages, which can all be left in the ground until needed.
Crops are challenging to harvest from frozen soil, so cover the ground with straw if temperatures drop.
If you have some fruit trees in your garden, pruning them now will help them produce more fruit next summer. You should also remove any dead wood from the tree, so it does not rot.
You can prune your apple and pear trees in December. Pruning is a wonderful way to control their form and growth while increasing their yield. This month is also suitable for pruning blackcurrants, gooseberries, redcurrants, and whitecurrants.
- Protect your brassicas with net
Cover your veggies, such as kale, winter cabbages, and other brassicas, with netting to keep hungry birds away.
Remove any yellowed leaves to prevent fungal diseases like grey mould and downy mildew from taking hold.
- Plant bare-root fruit trees.
December is an excellent time to plant bare-root canes, bushes, and trees.
- Plant Vegetables
To begin, plan the vegetable plantings for 2023, ideally alternating crops by not planting in the exact location as the previous year.
Begin ‘chitting’ early potato tubers in trays in a cool, light, frost-free environment by mid-January.
Plant aubergines, summer brassicas, and Spinach on a windowsill by late January for planting outdoors in late February.
- Focus on your Fruit Trees.
If you are planting rhubarbs, place a bucket or forcing jar over it so you can harvest on time.
Remove dead wood and low-lying branches from gooseberries, redcurrants, and whitecurrants. Cut the main stems’ growth from last year in half. All branches shooting at the sides should be pruned back to one to three buds from the root.
Ensure you prune grapevines before mid-January and then plant bare-root fruit trees.
If you are having issues with overwintering pests, give your fruit trees winter washes.
- Plant Flowers
Plant some sweet peas, and remember to clip the tip once four pairs of leaves develop or when plants reach 3.5 cm. Put it on a sunny windowsill, cold frame, or greenhouse.
- Take Care of the Ground
Remove weeds. It’s easy to forget about weeds when there isn’t much growing to see. However, they can cause severe damage to plants by taking up nutrients and water. They can also spread diseases such as mildew and rust.
Finish your winter digging of beds and cover the beds to warm the beds for the seeds you’ll be planting.
Spread manure to areas as required to increase fertility and improve the soil structure.
Clean polytunnels and greenhouses, pots and seed trays ready for the coming growing season
- Plant Vegetables
Depending on the weather, you can proceed to plant vegetables. In your outdoor garden, you can plant broad beans, spring garlic, peas, Jerusalem artichokes, and Spinach.
If you have a cold frame or greenhouse, you can plant the following: Radishes, early lettuce, cabbages, and early leeks in deep pots.
On your sunny windowsill, plant the following: aubergines, sweet and chilli peppers, tomatoes, and mustard (in a small seed tray).
- Continue Prunning
Pick the tender shoots your rhubarb has started sprouting.
This February, complete pruning of apple and pear trees, blackberries, redcurrants, and a quarter of blackcurrants’ elder growth at ground level.
Cut back to some buds above the top wire if the raspberries have grown above their supports.
To kill overwintering aphid pest eggs, spray dormant fruit trees and bushes with a plant oil-based winter tree wash.
- Keep Weeding the Ground
If the weeds have invaded your plot, continue to clean it up and re-cut the grass path edges.
Remove debris from the plot and apply weed suppressant to the cleansed soil.
Later in February, if the soil isn’t too moist, begin digging in overwintered green manures (e.g., Grazing Rye, Overwinter Mix, or Winter Tares between August and November), as the frost would have killed them off.
Although the weather in March might be unpredictable, the soil will begin to warm as the days lengthen. You may be able to prepare the land for planting later in the month when we have bright days. Weeds will also appear more in March, so hoeing is vital to prevent weeds from taking hold. Mulching can also be done around newly emerging plants.
Add lime to brassica beds to raise the pH of the soil. This will aid in the prevention of club roots and boost growth. Also, feed pelleted chicken manure or other nitrogen-rich fertilizer to cabbages and other brassicas.
If you don’t have the time or room to cultivate from seed, purchase trays of young plants. However, be careful when watering your seedlings, so you do not overwater them.
If you are planting potatoes, plant them when the shoots are 2cm long at the end of March if the weather is warm. Also, plant shallots and onions at the end of the month.
- Concerning your fruits
Keep pruning the berries. Pick the tender rhubarb shoots as required.
If you want to plant more bare-root fruit trees and bushes, March is the last month to do so.
Dealing With The Challenges.
Pests & Diseases.
The only significant issues you will face are slugs and snails, which are a year-round concern. Removing trash and arranging your plot will minimize their hiding spots, allowing the cold to reduce the numbers of this hungry insect.
Mice and rats can be a nuisance. They will attempt to access your stores and any broad beans or garlic you have planted. Take the standard steps to avoid them. Pigeons are also a concern for brassica crops, which must be netting-protected.
While bright foliage grows very little over the winter, odd colours and a wilted appearance could indicate a more severe problem.
An excessive watering schedule is a likely cause of a lacklustre plant, so change your timings while growth is at its slowest.
Both overwatering and underwatering can be overcome by studying the plants and watering them right.
Allow the soil to drain and dry until most available water has been consumed before feeding again.
Also, rather than relying on the calendar to determine how much water to give your plants, consider their frequency, amount, application, and water quality demands.
Weak and Splindy Plants
Plants naturally go toward a light source to collect critical nutrients for healthy growth.
If your plant’s foliage appears weak, spindly, or begins to bend, it is most likely straining to get enough sunlight.
As a solution, remove any shade that may impede the plant’s growth and try moving the pot to a more sunny location.
Although direct sunshine is ideal, an artificial light source is an excellent alternative if the room is limited.
Before deciding on a location for your greenhouse, examine light patterns in the summer and winter so you can use the sun all year.
Large, bold leaves are one of the most appealing characteristics of any plant, but they can start to seem dreary when your plant is overly exposed to sunshine.
Some of the primary indications of a plant that is receiving too much light are as follows:
- Slow growth
- Leaf scorch
- Thick, small leaves
Consider adding shade cloth, shades, or even a coat of paint to reduce the amount of light reaching your plants.
Plan the arrangement of your greenhouse carefully to ensure that your plants thrive regardless of the season.
Growing your own food can be fulfilling in a variety of ways. It’s a very satisfying feeling to watch your seeds grow through their many phases and finish up as fresh veg on your table.
Furthermore, you can be confident that your food has not travelled long distances, has been farmed organically (if that is your preference) and is exactly what you want to consume.
You’ll most likely uncover new recipes when you figure out what to do with your surplus of crops! If that isn’t enough, an allotment will keep you fit for much less money than joining a gym, which benefits your physical and emotional health.
Brian Sheridan has an allotment in Edgbaston and is a competitive grower. Brian is also a keen photographer and loves cooking. Brian and his wife Mary will also be running a stall at Edgebaston artisan market this year, selling products made from the allotment, including his award-winning relish!