Real Men Sow

6 Ways To Make the Most of Your Allotment During Winter

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I do enjoy the onset of winter. I love the seasonal change, the cosy evenings in front of the woodburner and the chance to put my feet up and forget the allotment for a while.

You might not want to rest for too long though, as there is still plenty to do (when is there not!). Here are 6 ways to get the most out of your plot during winter.

Manure early
The organised amongst us allotmenteerists will get their plots put to bed as soon as the growing season is finished. There are good reasons for this, but none more so than maximising the time that manure has to work its magic on the soil.

If you leave the manure on the surface of the bed, it also works to protect the precious soil below from the harsh weather. I’m semi-organised on the plot, and tend to get my muck on before Christmas, but the earlier I can do it the better.

For double protection, try laying cardboard down in between the soil and manure. The cardboard will rot down with the manure, ready to be dug in later on in the year.

Make a runner bean trench
Runner beans like very rich soil that is full of nutrients, and creating the perfect environment for the plants will help provide a cracking summer harvest.

Fill your trench with kitchen scraps, compost, manure or any old plants you’re done with. This stuff will rot down and make sure the runner bean plants get all the nutrients and trace elements, as well as help to keep moisture around the roots.

Here’s Ailsa demonstrating how to make a runner bean trench.

Overwinter onions, garlic and broad beans
I was recently converted to overwintering after realising its such a good use of otherwise empty space. Winter sees little on the allotment, so its a real morale booster to see things growing despite the weather. And by the time you need the space in Spring, the overwintered veg will be finished and ready to pull up.

Onions, garlic and broad beans are three veg that overwinter well, and can be put in the ground as late as November.

Harvest effectively
Getting to know your winter crops is vital as they all have different properties. Kale (pictured) is cut and come again so needs regular harvesting so that is can keep regenerating, whilst leeks will happily sit in the ground until you require them.

Frost can also sweeten some crops. Check out this post on harvesting common allotment crops for more tips.

Look after your winter crops
Winter veg are tough and hardy, right? That’s why they exist in the winter!

During autumn and winter, its easy to concentrate on clearing and preparing soil rather than tending to your crop, but there are a few tricks I’ve picked up to help your winter crops through the tough times.

Here is a post I wrote a couple of years ago which lists lots of tips for looking after common winter veg.

Plant Fruit
Now is a good time to plant bare-root fruit bushes such as gooseberries, but they can be planted at any point during the dormant season of November to the end of March.

If you’re thinking of planting some fruit on your plot, here are some beginner tips for buying bushes, and here are a few more for planting them out.

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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