The Allotment Year


Often the coldest month

January might be the middle of winter but as the days lengthen the garden starts to grow. Now is a great time to plan for the coming gardening year and to order seeds and plants. Enjoy the fresh air, on dry sunny days, and check your winter protection, stakes, ties and supports are still working after any severe weather. Also put out food for birds and leave some garden areas uncut, a little longer, to provide shelter for wildlife in your garden.

Top jobs this month

  1. Clean pots and greenhouses ready for spring
  2. Dig over any vacant plots that have not been dug already
  3. Inspect stored tubers of Dahlia, Begonia and Canna for rots or drying out
  4. Prune apple and pear trees
  5. Start forcing rhubarb
  6. Plan your vegetable crop rotations for the coming season
  7. Make a polythene shelter for outdoor peaches and nectarines, to protect against peach leaf curl


Spring is in sight

This month there are signs of the approaching spring, with bulbs appearing and wildlife waking up as light levels and temperatures increase. There’s plenty to do indoors this month to prepare for the season ahead.

Top jobs this month

  1. Prepare vegetable seed beds, and sow some vegetables under cover
  2. Chit potato tubers
  3. Protect blossom on apricots, nectarines and peaches
  4. Net fruit and vegetable crops to keep the birds off
  5. Prune winter-flowering shrubs that have finished flowering
  6. Divide bulbs such as snowdrops, and plant those that need planting ‘in the green’
  7.  Prune hardy evergreen hedges and renovate overgrown deciduous hedges


Spring arrives

Spring usually arrives by mid-March and the frequent sunny days provide the opportunity for an increasing range of gardening tasks. It’s time to get busy preparing seed beds, sowing seed, cutting back winter shrubs and generally tidying up around the allotment.

Top jobs this month

  1. Protect new spring shoots from slugs
  2. Plant shallots, onion sets and early potatoes
  3. Top dress containers with fresh compost
  4. Hoe and mulch weeds to keep them under control early


Sunshine and showers

Spring is finally in evidence as flowering trees start to bloom. Expect the inevitable April showers this month but with sunny days too. It’s an exciting month, with indoor-sown seeds well into growth, and it’s also time to start sowing outdoors. Just watch out for frosts…

Top jobs this month

  1. Keep weeds under control
  2. Protect fruit blossom from late frosts
  3. Sow hardy annuals, herbs and wild flower seed outdoors
  4. Start to feed citrus plants
  5. Prune fig trees



Summer’s on its way

As bulbs fade and herbaceous borders grow in leaps and bounds, it is now clear that summer is approaching. Sowing and planting out tender vegetable seedlings can begin, depending on regional weather variations, and you can take softwood cuttings.

Top  jobs this month

  1. Watch out for late frosts. Protect tender plants
  2. Earth up potatoes, and promptly plant any still remaining
  3. Water early and late to get the most out of your water, recycle water when possible
  4. Regularly hoe off weeds
  5. Check for nesting birds before clipping hedges


Summer arrives

June 21 is the longest day of the year, and the extra light and warmth encourages the allotment to put on an exuberant burst of growth. But this extra light and warmth also means weeds will sprout up from seemingly nowhere. Keep on top of them by hoeing regularly in dry conditions.

Top jobs this month

  1. Hoe beds regularly to keep down weeds
  2. Be water-wise, especially in drought-affected areas
  3. Pinch out sideshoots on tomatoes
  4. Harvest lettuce, radish, other salads and early potatoes
  5. Stake tall or floppy plants



Summer is progressing

This is often one of the hottest months of the year and a great time to sit out and enjoy your allotment. Keep plants producing by regularly harvesting, and you’ll enjoy a longer cropping period. Make sure you keep new plants well watered, using grey water where possible, and hoe off weeds, which thrive in the sunshine.

Top jobs this month

  1. Water tubs and new plants if dry, but be water-wise
  2. Pick courgettes before they become marrows
  3. Treat apple scab
  4. Order catalogues for next year’s onion, garlic and shallot sets
  5. Harvest apricots, peaches and nectarines


Sultry late summer

August is usually one of the hottest months of the year – making watering essential. Try to use grey water wherever possible, especially as water butts may be running low if it has been a dry summer. August is traditionally holiday-time, so you might need to enlist the help of friends and family to look after the allotment while you are away.

Top jobs this month

  1. Don’t delay summer pruning fruits trained as restricted forms
  2. Watering! – particularly containers, and new plants, preferably with grey recycled water or stored rainwater
  3. Collect seed from peas and beans for growing next year
  4. Harvest sweetcorn and other vegetables as they become ready
  5. Continue cutting out old fruited canes on raspberries
  6. Lift and pot up rooted strawberry runners
  7. Feed beds with green manures


Late summer progresses into autumn

September is generally a cooler, gustier month than August and the days are noticeably shorter. You’ll be busy reaping the rewards of all the previous hard work and harvesting your crops. Make the most of the remaining warmth while you can!

Top jobs this month

  1. Pick autumn raspberries
  2. Dig up remaining potatoes before slug damage spoils them
  3. Keep up with watering of new plants, using rain or grey water if possible
  4. Clean out cold frames and greenhouses so that they are ready for use in the autumn
  5. Cover leafy vegetable crops with bird-proof netting


The autumn chill sets in

Although we had some warmer days over September, the autumn is now definitely here for real, and it feels colder. It’s a beautiful time of year, with the trees changing colour. Sometimes it may seem pointless raking, when the wind blows even more leaves onto the ground, but just think of all the lovely leafmould you can make! It’s also time to start preparing for early frosts.

Top jobs this month

  1. Divide established rhubarb crowns to create new plants
  2. Plant out spring cabbages
  3. Harvest apples, pears, grapes and nuts
  4. Clear beds as crops are finished and add green material to compost bin
  5. Plant broad beans for early crop next year


Winter is on its way

Leaves are falling rapidly, and wind and rain are on the increase. Tender plants will need protecting from frost, gales and freezing rains. Move plants into a sheltered spot, but if you can’t, it is worth wrapping plants or pots. Remember winter can be a tough time for birds in terms of water and food, so keep supplies well topped up.

Top jobs this month

  1. Cover brassicas with netting if pigeons are a problem
  2. Stop winter moth damage to fruit trees using grease bands around the trunks
  3. Dig over beds and incorporate plenty of organic matter
  4. Continue to harvest leeks, parsnips and carrots
  5. Plant bare rooted fruit bushes


Winter frost

As we approach the shortest day of the year in December you will need work to keep you warm outside, such as digging and tree pruning. Hopefully there are not too many jobs left to do this year so you will have time for some fireside garden planning.

Top 10 jobs this month

  1. Check your winter protection structures are still securely in place
  2. Prune open-grown apples and pears
  3. Vines before Christmas to avoid bleeding
  4. Harvest leeks, parsnips, winter cabbage, sprouts and remaining root crops
  5. Take hardwood cuttings
  6. Keep mice away from stored produce


Stephanie Hafferty

Homesteading, the no dig garden and plot to plate recipes

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