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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


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By Mrs FM

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Alan J Hartley



Settling In To An Early Winter?

After a ridiculously wet end to Summer and Autumn, one or two people are saying that we might get a winter like we had back in the early 60’s. I was only young then, but I sort of remember it, or at least the tales the family told in subsequent years! We had a couple of cold nights in the middle of last month, (October) but not really much of a frost with it barely doing any damage. However at the end of the Month we had a couple of nights that were definitely on the cold side and they took much of the tender stuff. Fortunately, I had already taken my Banana and Palms, into my Greenhouse at home. Last year I had no Green House and was forced to keep my tender plants in my Garage which was far from ideal as some plants such as Citrus need light as well as warmth over winter to keep them going. This is not the case with Bananas and Dahlias, however. Chrysanthemums don’t really need the light either until they start to shoot in February. Indeed, more people are trying to keep their Dahlias and Chrysanthemums in situ, outside, by covering them with things like an insulating layer of woodchip and ground cover membrane to keep out cold, and the wet which is the real killer for them.
I lined my new Greenhouse with Bubble Polythene nicely in time for the cold nights, so for once I was all prepared. I am still undecided whether to install temporary electrics for a fan heater to be put on in the coldest nights still to come in January/February. It is said that a Greenhouse will keep out about 5 Deg F of cold and Bubble Polythene will keep out another 5 Deg F. So, for a few weeks, until after Christmas at least, my plants should be alright and then I will have to think again.

The cold nights finished off my Squash plants, so they were harvested although they were not really ripe. They should ripen in my Garage as long as I can prevent them from rotting. Cutting the stalks a little way from the fruit will help prevent rotting. If you just break them off by hand the end of the Squash sometimes gets damaged and then they won’t keep.
My Parsnips look good, but I haven’t started digging yet as they say you should wait until they have had a good frost on them to sweeten them.
The cold nights took the leaves of the Jerusalem Artichokes, but they were flowering anyway which is usually a sign that they are ready for harvesting. However, the tuberous roots will keep well in the ground all Winter to give a constant supply of another root vegetable.

There are still a few “Growing Jobs,” that can be done even this late in the year and one is sowing Tree Seeds that need “Stratifying,” or treating with cold. After falling to the ground, many native seeds need to undergo a period of intense cold as they would naturally in winter to prepare and encourage the seeds to germinate when they are put back into warmth, or when the Spring comes and things warm up naturally. Some people like to place seeds into a home Freezer, or cold Fridge to get seeds to germinate out of Season, but nothing really beats putting them into a good, old fashioned, Cold Frame over Winter and letting nature do things properly. With this in mind I have sown a few tree seeds including some nuts that I managed to save from my two small Red Hazel trees - one of which is of the twisted, or contorted type. Seeds do not always come true so it will be interesting to see if they a) turn out to have Red leaves and b) if any of them have twisted stems. I also put in some berries from my Mulberry, my rather attractive Red Sambucus, (or Elderberry) and my Euonymous Latifolius, (or Spindle Tree.)
Apart from sowing Seeds I have been putting in some Hardwood Cuttings. At work I took some cuttings of two types of Cornus and these were the Red stemmed Cornus Alba Elegantissima that also has attractive green and white variegated leaves and the pretty green stemmed Cornus Flaviramea. I also put in some cuttings of various Fruit bushes including Black Currant and Red Gooseberry.
Now that the leaves have dropped from the Deciduous trees it is also the right time to move them, so I am going to move a small Red Hazel at work from its temporary site to a better position where it will have more room to grow. The Twisted Hazel on my Allotment is getting nicely established now, but I am unsure what will happen if I take cuttings from it as the tree has been grafted. This may have been done to limit its size, give it more vigour, or even to encourage it to twist, or contort more. So any cuttings that I root may well grow completely differently to their parent.

On another subject altogether some people grow Wallflowers on their Allotments before transplanting them to their gardens, as bare-root plants can be expensive to buy at this time of year and are sometimes not sold in the best of condition. However, recently, I have seen them on sale, grown in trays, which means that they are kept in better condition while on sale. Indeed there seems to be an ever growing selection of flowers for winter planting on sale in trays these days, although some don’t flower until early spring. Always popular are Pansies, Violas, Polyanthus and Primroses, but also, old fashioned Bellis and Sweet Williams are being offered along with Biennials like Fox Gloves and Clary Sage. Sometimes you can even see Forget-me-nots and Calendula at some outlets.

As December approaches there will be even less to do on the Allotments with all the planting done and it will be just a case of harvesting the last few winter vegetables, clearing up all the dead plants and then doing various maintenance jobs until the Spring comes.


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