A year on the plot

Picture from the collection

by Tony Hollander

Original content by Stuart Skyte. If you have sugestions for extra content, please send them to the webmaster.

As well as good gardening skills, effective allotmenting requires good time management. There is always so much to do and so little time in which to do it. This section sets out a month-by-month plan of action on the allotment so that you will will always know what to do when.

January

  • Order your seeds, onion sets and seed potatoes if not yet done
  • Start off garlic and shallots in pots in a cold frame
  • Give a potash dressing to strawberries, gooseberries and currants (white and red)
  • Sow sweet peas in a heated greenhouse
  • If you have a heated greenhouse, you can also sow French beans in pots
  • Start chitting your seed potatoes in pots in a cold frame

February

  • Start sowing cabbage, lettuce, peas and cauliflower in a heated greenhouse
  • Plant new rhubarb crowns just below the surface
  • You can start sowing parsnip seed, but it may be too cold to germinate
  • Plant broad beans in pots for an early crop
  • Check your stored potatoes from last year; rub off any sprouts appearing
  • Tie in new blackberry shoots as they appear and before they get too long
  • Start successional sowing of summer spinach
  • Start successional sowing of radishes
  • You can start sowing your onion sets now if the ground is not too hard or wet
  • Sow your first peas in pots in the cold frame or under fleece direct into the ground
  • Cover your strawberry patch with fleece or a cloche to warm up the ground
  • Prune blackcurrant bushes

March

  • It should be safe to plant parsnip seeds
  • Start successional sowing of chard, beetroot and spinach
  • Plant strawberries and raspberries
  • If you've sown early lettuce, they probably need thinning now
  • Lift all remaining leeks from last year to give you time to dig over the land for new planting
  • Plant sunflower seeds in pots in your cold frame
  • Cover rhubarb crowns to "force" them
  • Cut back autumn raspberries to the ground
  • Plant out onion sets
  • Sow cauliflower, summer cabbage and sprouts for summer transplanting
  • If warm enough, sow leeks in a seed bed or in pots
  • Dig, dig, dig to get your plot ready for spring planting
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Picture from the collection

"Cosmos Filtering The Sunshine" by Thalia Carr

April

  • Plant early potatoes by the end of the first week and maincrop varieties by the end of the month
  • Prune gooseberries and currants
  • Sow early carrots
  • Sow courgettes, pumpkins, squashes, tomatoes, sweetcorn and beans in pots in the cold frame
  • Plant peas and mange-touts in pots in the cold frame
  • Plant out sweet peas started off in the cold frame
  • Weed, weed, weed before they take over

May

  • Continue with successional sowing of most vegetables and salad crops
  • Earth up your potatoes
  • Tie in new shoots on autumn raspberries
  • Apply mulch to discourage weeds and retain moisture
  • Plant out seedlings from your cold frame once frost danger has passed, ie towards the end of the month. These include beans, courgettes and squashes
  • Tie in sweet peas as they grow
  • Watch out for pests on fruit
  • Plant sweetcorn
  • Hoe, hoe, hoe - especially bindweed after a wet spell

June

  • Plant dahlias
  • Start picking strawberries and gooseberries
  • Continue to earth up potatoes - just in case
  • Harvest asparagus
  • Thin out seedlings of beetroot, carrot and lettuce
  • Tomato plants can be planted out on your plot
  • Pinch out the growing points of peas which have flowered
  • It's your last chance for planting runner bean seeds
  • Plant out leeks from your seed bed
  • Strong runners on strawberry plants should be chosen for propagation
  • Start digging up early potatoes (8-10 weeks after planting)
  • Feed tomatoes regularly
  • Sow early turnips for an autumn crop
  • Net blackcurrant bushes
  • Sow Florence fennel on the longest day
  • Keep fruit bushes and trees well watered and weed-free
  • Cut back strong herbs such as mint and chives before they flower
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Picture from the collection

"Eschscholzia Caespitosa" by Clare Hollander

July

  • Sow parsley for the winter
  • Feed, feed, feed most vegetables
  • Depending on the growing season, you can start lifting onions and shallots towards the month-end
  • Keep cutting sweet peas
  • Replace your strawberry bed if three years old or more
  • Finish transplanting your leek seedlings
  • It's your last chance to sow successional seeds of most things
  • Clear any beds where crops are spent - you'll need them for leeks!
  • Keep feeding

August

  • Ask neighbouring plot-holders to water courgettes and tomatoes if you are going away.
  • Courgettes should also be picked
  • Cut Jerusalem artichoke stems to a foot from the ground
  • Sow maincrop turnips
  • Stop tomatoes growing when there are four trusses (unless bush variety)
  • Hoe, hoe, hoe
  • Start sowing successional rows of winter spinach
  • Sow red cabbage in a sheltered spot for planting out in spring

September

  • Dig up maincrop potatoes
  • Sow winter salad
  • Harvest sweetcorn as it ripens
  • Pick early varieties of apple and pear
  • Save and label seeds from annuals and perennials
  • Plant spring cabbages
  • Clean and store canes and other supports as they become free
  • Take cuttings of currants and gooseberries
  • Start lifting Jerusalem artichokes
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Picture from the collection

by Sue Ledwith

October

  • Sow winter lettuce in your cold frame
  • Putting a cloche over French beans still growing will extend their cropping season
  • Cut back asparagus foliage, weed bed and apply a layer of manure or compost
  • Prune gooseberries
  • Sow spring bulbs
  • Lift gladioli (if you do this)
  • Remove any yellowing leaves from Brussels sprouts and stake the plants if necessary
  • Sow early peas and broad beans for the spring
  • Lift any remaining beetroot
  • Harvest squashes and pumpkins
  • Plant field-grown fruit trees

November

  • Dig, dig, dig
  • Start pulling leeks when needed
  • Keep a close eye on winter lettuce, especially for slugs
  • Ensure you have the seed catalogues you need
  • Prune fruit bushes as appropriate for variety

December

  • Start planning next year's crop rotation, reviewing what worked well and what didn't in the current year
  • Lift parsnips when needed, ideally after frost
  • Ho, ho, ho
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