The New Year has started and that means New Year resolutions. How can you produce a more productive plot this year? Which new varieties can you give a try? One of the great things about an allotment in winter is the clean sheet on which you can improve on last year’s results or indeed repeat if you had success.
Our News feature below gives you some suggestions of new varieties to Marshalls with some exciting exclusives in there too. You can sow vegetables late this month under glass to give them a good head start.
On clear dry days, it’s good to put up new supports or replace any tired and worn structures on the vegetable patch. On bad days check your tools and supplies and have a good pre-spring clear out. Check on stored seeds too to see if they’re good and healthy.
Enjoy the season ahead!
Jobs to do
Start early-summer cauliflowers now by sowing seeds in individual modules or 9cm (3 ½ in) diameter pots. Keep the soil moist by plunging modules or pots in a tray of water each day. Keep to 21°C (70°F) until seedlings then take outdoors during the day, bringing them indoors at night, until ready for planting in April.
Manuring soil when not frozen
On a clear and dry day give vacant areas of soil and good deal of manure or bulky compost. Make sure the manure is well-rotted. Very fresh manure can be too concentrated in nitrogen and burn roots of developing crops. When adding manure or compost evenly distribute it in the soil to encourage even growth. The benefits of manure include;
- Added nutrients to the soil
- Improved soil texture for just the right amount of moisture retention for roots
- Encourage beneficial earthworms
- Encourage beneficial bacteria
Check stored crops for damage or rot and ensure they are well-ventilated. Remove any damaged produce and compost before rot spreads to other crops. Try to keep individual crops separate from each other and not touching. It’s really important that the individual crop have a good amount of ventilation so that humidity doesn’t build up which can attract rot and diseases.
Chit seed potatoes
Once you receive your seed potatoes you can prepare them before planting in March. This simply means exposing the seed potato tubers to light and keeping them in a cool position like an east-facing window sill.
This enables the base of the shoots (called the eyes) to become strong and stumpy rather than long and weak, so that once you plant the seed potatoes they’ll produces stems that are strong rather than weak and spindly. Get them a go!
Cover dormant rhubarb crowns (parts of the part where roots and stem meet) with a 10cm (4in) layer of dried leaves or straw. Exclude from the daylight with an upturned container or purpose-made rhubarb pot.
In 3-5 weeks light-coloured, succulent and sweet stems will be ready for the picking.
If you’ve grown chard either in containers or directly in the soil you can enjoy harvests in any month of the year which is great especially when greens are lean over the winter.
Harvest chard leaves regularly so that the remaining leaves stay well-ventilated and healthy. This way you’ll be preventing disease-attracting humidity from building up around the leaves. Firstly pick out any rotting, dying leaves then pick every third leaf for harvesting at any one time.
If you grow summer-fruiting raspberries, you will have tied in the leafy stems that will produce fruit for next year. They’ll have lost their leaves by now leave tall strong bare canes.
If you notice any more weak or spindly stems crop up from the base of the plant, prune them out so that the raspberry plants can divert their energy on strengthening the existing strong canes that will fruit for you in the summer.
Now is the perfect opportunity to add the perfect mix of materials for good compost if you're tidying up your vegetable patch before the New Year.
The best compost comes from a balanced mix of carbon-rich material like dead plant stems, branches, twigs and newspaper with nitrogen-rich material like green stems and leaves. Cut down the larger materials into small sections to really speed up the process.
In 2016 we will visit somewhere different each month to see vegetables grown in different ways and in different situations.
We intend to share information and images of growing crops in inspirational and innovative ways. If you’ve got images of your own you want to send in to support what we’ve found that month, please send to our Facebook page (see the link at the bottom of this newsletter.)
This month we go to Barnsdale Gardens, Rutland to see what they are growing there...
Excellent Brussells sprouts, architectural and attractive in the allotment as well as great on the plate.
A well-kept allotment in winter is so rewarding, especially on those bright, crisp, days when it’s a pleasure to be outdoors.
Fruit trees will be most prolific when the fruiting stems have been pruned back to short stumpy sections to initiate flower buds for next year.
Raised beds are great; they are attractive as well as really useful. The soil warms up quicker in raised beds which is good for developing roots.
Cardoons make a fantastic perennial crop that you can harvest each year. The architectural leaves and stems overwinter nicely adding texture to your vegetable plot.
Take a look at our three recommended varieties and some great tips to get them growing to their best.
Three great varieties to try;
Cabbage Supervoy: NEW TO MARSHALLS Winter-tough bright green Savoy-type, with tender blistered leaves. This is a great winter-hardy variety that shows good disease resistance and vigorous growth.
Cabbage Winter Jewel: A great spring cabbage. It has fantastic disease resistance giving a consistent crop throughout the year, left to mature it produces a head which can be eaten like a sweetheart cabbage.
Cabbage Alaska: The dense, blue-green heads can be ready from December onwards and stay in excellent condition for many weeks.
Get the right soil environment (pH)
When preparing the soil beforehand you can test the pH using a specialised kit. Then you can make sure the soil has an adequate level of alkalinity by adding lime . For particularly acid soils you’ll want 1.3-1.8kg per square metre. For soil that is more neutral, you’ll want to aim for about 0.4-0.6kg per square metre.
Get the right soil environment (soil density)
Brassicas favour compacted and firm soil so it pays to make sure the plants are well anchored. If you are preparing the soil, do sow a few months before planting. This will give the soil time to settle and consolidate, which is more favourable for growing brassicas.
Grow the right crop in the soil beforehand
Grow broad beans or a crop of green manure the season before of clover or winter tares. Once they’ve produced a thicket of green stems and leaves, simply dig into soil and the they’ll add essential nutrients into the soil.
Don’t grow brassicas in the same spot year after year
Each year there is an increased risk for a build-up of soil borne pests and diseases if cabbages are planted in the same spot. One such disease is club root which causes discoloured leaves and wilting when the brassica plants are growing. Yes, the problem is surmountable but prevention is better than cure.
Protect brassicas with netting and collars
You can prevent damage from garden pests like pigeons by providing netting- it’s a natural and organic way of keeping the pests away.
Brassicas are also victim to cabbage root flies whose maggots attack the roots in spring and summer. This results in a poor crop of brassicas that may wilt and die. You can nip the problem in the bud though by applying collars to the base of young plants. The eggs simply dry up and die on this protective barrier.
Water and feed brassicas
In the previous season dig in plenty of organic matter to improve the soil texture and to introduce nutrients into the soil.
Just after planting, treat the soil to a layer of mulch (a general purpose compost is fine). This has a dual-purpose of conserving water in the drier summer months and feeding the growing brassica plants. Don’t allow mulch and brassica plants to be in direct contact – leave a little space around the plants. Water plants daily from planting and twice daily (morning and evening) during hot periods in summer.
Marshalls Spring catalogue 2016 – Out Now!
Take a look at our 2016 Spring catalogue – this year with lots of exciting new varieties for you to try. Choose from our wide range of spring-planting potatoes and onion sets, quality seeds, ready-to-grow young plants and the best in soft-fruit, patio fruit and tree fruit.
- FREE strawberry plants with every soft-fruit order over £20.
- FREE trial of Foundation Probiotic Soil Treatment with every seed order.
- Buy 10 packets of seed and get the cheapest FREE
New seed varieties to try in 2016.
We’ve some really exciting new seeds to introduce to you this year, some currently exclusive to Marshalls. We select our varieties with the home grower in mind, focusing on choosing varieties with attributes like good resistance to diseases, good standing ability and ease of harvest.
Here are just some of our new varieties available by seed;
Currently exclusive to Marshalls
Tomato Montello F1 Grow in containers, baskets or grow-bags indoors or out and this neat bush variety gets to 90cm in length producing masses of trusses; you don’t even need to pinch out side-shoots.
Cabbage Gunma F1 Flat-topped variety, use the uniform, layered leaves as wraps as an excellent alternative to gluten-based products. Neat, compact and sweet.
New to Marshalls
Cucamelon Mexican Gherkin Grown like a regular cucumber, this exotic variety produces masses of bite-size fruits that are fun, refreshing and almost citrusy. Great for children's pack lunches.
Runnerbean Tenderstar Breeding break-through variety bringing together the best qualities of French and runner beans. Prolific and producing the smoothest and fleshiest beans from red and pink flowers.
Beetroot Chioggia Mesmerising beetroot variety with attractive, almost hypnotic, concentric rings. Roots are sweet, tender and succulent, and the leaves, equally delicious, are perfect for steaming.