I do enjoy the onset of winter. I love the seasonal change, the cosy evenings in front of the wood burner, 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.
1. Improve Your Allotment Soil with Manure
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. When I say ‘magic’, I mean nutrition, manure is especially good for those with heavy clay soil as it helps to break this up.
When is the Best Time to Put Manure on The Allotment?
I’m semi-organised on the plot and tend to get my muck on before Christmas, but the earlier you can do it the better.
If you leave the manure on the surface of the bed, it also works to protect the precious soil below from the harsh weather. 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.
2. 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.
Using your best garden spade, dig your runner bean trench and then 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.
3. Overwinter Onions, Garlic, and Broad Beans
I was recently converted to overwintering after realising it’s such a good use of otherwise empty space. Onions, garlic, and broad beans are three vegetables that overwinter well and can be put in the ground as late as November.
Winter sees little on the allotment, so it’s a real morale booster to see onions, Garlic, and broad beans 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.
4. Effectively Harvest Your Allotment
Getting to know your winter crops is vital as they all have different properties. Kale (pictured) is cut and comes again so needs regular harvesting so that it 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 Tips for Harvesting Common Allotment Vegetables for further help.
5. Look After Your Winter Crops
Winter veg is tough and hardy, right? That’s why they exist in the winter!
During autumn and winter, it’s 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 ‘Tips for Looking After Common Winter Veg’ which lists lots of tips for looking after common winter veg.
6. Plant Fruit Bushes
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 your fruit bushes out.