It’s the time of the year when gardeners can easily get itchy fingers! It’s far too early to start sowing or planting seeds outside, especially this far north.
But if you have a greenhouse with a heater or an indoor propagator or even a warm window ledge you can start to get seeds moving. Think chilli, think peppers. Maybe early onion seeds. Of course the show leek growers will be doing their own thing already.
You have your last chance for pruning fruit trees but as this winter has been so mild, you may find that they are budding up already and you have missed your chance. January was no month to be out and about with wind, rain, floods!
Have a look on this link for what you can be doing this month.
Over on our Facebook group, there are many good ideas posted.
How about considering companion planting this year to help with distracting pests and attracting beneficial insects?
Or how about looking at storing produce and building a root cellar?
Or easy crop rotation on the allotment using the colours of the rainbow?
Or building a wooden pallet planter? Now there’s a place to explore to gain ideas for using pallets!
Do come over and join us on Facebook for informal questions and chat!
Picture taken in Prudhoe by Russ Greg
Standing water on your allotment poses the question of where the water has come from – is it just the result of heavy rain leading to standing water or is it flooding from a source outside you allotment?
After Heavy Rain
If you have standing water after a period of heavy rain and it is not flood water, you can only wait for drier weather in order to be able to work on your allotment again. This will be the case on many allotments on sites away from roads and rivers.
When you are again able to work, consider the following courses of action.
- Dig thoroughly to ensure that the soil is able to drain well again. This may well require double digging to ensure that there is no solid layer that prevents drainage. This can be done as you prepare to plant an area.
- Improve the soil structure by working in copious amounts of hummus such as compost and manure as you work. This will help drainage in the future.
- Include green manures in your crop rotation and dig these in as another source of hummus.
- If you are on a slope dig a drainage ditch so that water has somewhere to drain from your growing area.
- Add a balanced fertiliser to your growing area before planting.
- Choose permeable surfaces when laying paths to allow rain to soak in rather than choosing pavings.
- Choose crops that are more suited to wetter conditions for the season as especially on Prudhoe clay it will take time to dry.
This may slow your production down but will not prevent you having a useful growing season and is no reason to say that you are unable to cultivate your allotment.
- After flooding, wash down hard surfaces and collect up debris to prevent drains blocking, soil surfaces being covered, and pollutants or contaminants lingering in the garden. Wear gloves and overalls to minimise contact with pollutants.
- Keep off the soil until it is workable as this will avoid compacting it and worsening the conditions
- After flooding, edible crops ready to or near to harvest are best not eaten: no assurances can be given that root crops will be safe to eat, so they should be discarded. Plants eaten raw should be discarded too.
- It is prudent to avoid growing salads and other uncooked crops for two years in case disease spores remain in the soil.
- HOWEVER so many crops can be grown in containers and grow-bags, as the Royal Horticultural Society suggests, that you can still provide a lot of edible goodies from your allotment. So do not be downhearted.
- The following year after flooding, it should be safe to grow crops that are to be cooked and you have all that spent compost to use for soil improvements.
- Whilst you are not growing edible crops you can follow the routine above for improving your soils.
- You will also be able to plant flowers to encourage wild life and bees during the year when you are not growing food. These provide future material for your compost heap and if you select the right ones, items for local horticultural shows. You will of course not choose edible flowers such as nasturtiums in this situation.
By following suggestions 5 and 8 above, you will be able to show that you are cultivating your allotment and so meet the requirements of your tenancy rules.
Discussion and comments can be read here on floods on allotments (this is quite a well respected site) and the effects of water-logging on long term plants can be seen here. This latter will help you to recognise what is happening to long term bushes, shrubs and other plants.
The Prudhoe Gardeners’ Association Hut is now open again for the paying of rents and selling of the new stock of seeds as well as other gardening sundries.
You will all be asked to sign the new and updated allotment association rules. These have been updated by Prudhoe Town Council using guidelines from the National Allotment Society and working with the Prudhoe Gardeners’ Association. They are written in an easy to understand style.
You will find that these rules spell out how much cultivation of your plot is expected within a given timescale, how much cultivation is expected over the long term as well as covering water use, fires on your plot, permitted livestock, care of hedges and paths, permitted structures on plots and general everyday behaviour.
One of the most common reasons for people being asked to leave their allotments is for non cultivation so you should read and understand the rules. They are not unreasonable as the cultivation of your plot will help you to cover the cost of your annual rent. And also we hope that these clear rules will ensure that no-one has to take on an allotment in a poor state.