The seasoned gardeners and growers among you will know February is the ideal time to prepare your allotment for some of the earliest outdoor sowings in March. There may be a chill in the air, but spring is just around the corner and now is the time to get started, so we asked our Allotments Officer, Mark, for some of his top tips.
Doing the groundwork
Preparing beds before sowing can begin is one of the most important February allotment jobs. In doing so you’ll help to aerate, drain and warm the soil. When digging over, be sure to incorporate plenty of homemade compost or composted manure to warm and enrich the soil. Setting up cloches in February is also a good idea to help prepare your beds for sowing.
(There are also tasty harvests of winter salads, like mizuna, rocket and kale, to be had in February.)
Beginning your planting
February is traditionally the month for planting new rhubarb crowns. Dig a hole – incorporating lots of manure – and settle the crown well into place. If you want ‘champagne rhubarb’ from a mature rhubarb crown, cover it with a big flowerpot (with the holes covered), or alternatively use a bucket or old dustbin. But remember, you shouldn’t harvest the crown again the following year, as it will need time to recover. Champagne rhubarb has grown in popularity because it’s tender and sweeter than normal rhubarb.
Remember, there are plenty of indoor sowings you can start before transferring then to your allotment later in the year. This includes sowing tomatoes, globe artichokes, and sprouting broccoli in a propagator, and brussels sprouts, leeks, onions and spinach under cover.
Pruning your fruit trees and bushes
Now is also the time to prune your autumn raspberries down to the ground and take out old wood on blackcurrants to encourage fruiting. Check your trees and bushes for any wind or frost damage as well. The winter months is also a good time to top-dress fruit trees and soft fruit bushes with a general purpose fertiliser. Make sure you leave a 15cm bare circle around the base of the trunk of your trees, or you will get suckers shooting from the base, which will weaken the main tree.
Supporting your health and wellbeing
Tending to your allotment is a great way to stay fit and active, especially during the colder months. Stretch out those muscles that have had a long rest over the winter and get your daily dose of vitamin D to help maintain a healthy body and mind.
We all still need to socially distance at the moment and continue to follow government guidance (you can find the official guidance on tending to you allotment during the coronavirus pandemic here) but tending to your allotment safely and growing your own fresh seasonal produce really will provide a huge sense of achievement – especially when you see those first shoots pop up from the ground.
Share your growing tips
You can share tips and tricks with other growers through the Newcastle Allotment & Garden Show Facebook group or by tagging @urbangreenncl in your posts on Twitter and Facebook.