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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


Plough Field Allotments at Amerton

Gardening Tips
By Mrs FM

Unusual & Old
Fashioned Fruit

Herbs & Other
Edible Plants.

Environmental Issues And Going Green.

Vines And Other Climbing Plants.

Fish Ponds

Books By
Alan J Hartley



Time For Maintenance

December means harvesting things like Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Chard, Parsnips, Jerusalem Artichokes and Leeks, but also on the better days, it means getting stuck into all the maintenance jobs that you have been putting off. Fertilising your allotment while your growing beds are empty, or at least emptying, is one job that now is the ideal time for. Spread and dig in some farmyard manure and ideally, the manure will have been allowed to stand in the open for a few months, but at this time of year it doesn’t really matter if it is fairly fresh as you won’t be planting anything into it for a good while. This means it will be able to weather over winter on your plot just as well as it would in the farmer’s fields. The neighbours at home don’t appreciate me using manure on my garden though, so I am going to feed the Garden with Organic Chicken manure Pellets and then give it a Mulch over the top with Recycled and Spent Potting Compost to keep down the smell from the pellets! Personally, I don’t think that there is much to choose between the smell from the pellets and the manure, but the pellets are cleaner to handle and psychologically the nicer choice.

One job that I finally got round to doing recently was cutting down all my Chrysanthemums (including my Korean) and my Herbaceous Perennials. A lot of people like to leave the old seed heads on the plants until it’s nearly Spring with the idea that the birds can feed off the seeds in a natural way instead of putting out bird seed on a feeding table. Other people say that leaving the old and dead plant growth intact gives some protection to the crown of the plant against the harshness of winter. Both are good ideas, but I simply like to tidy things up and get my compost heap filled up early in the winter so that come the Spring it is just about ready to empty on to, and dig into, my growing beds in preparation for my young vegetable plants. I lost count of just how many bags of rubbish went onto the heap, but by the time I had cut down and shredded my Autumn Raspberry canes and added those to the heap along with some large pots of spent compost from my greenhouse at home that had contained Aubergines and Peppers, the compost bay was looking nicely full. Obviously as time goes by and it all starts to decompose the level in the heap will drop markedly making room for a lot more. It will also give me a little winter job occasionally as it will need turning a couple of times before Spring comes to keep it working and make it rot evenly throughout.
Incidentally, as I had never grown Aubergines, or Chilli Peppers before, I was surprised at how well and easily they grew. In the past I have never done very well with Tomatoes in my greenhouse due to my erratic watering, but neither the Aubergine nor Peppers seemed to mind that so much. Next year I will also try some Sweet Peppers as they are expensive to buy in the shops.

With no surprise, the cold nights last month took the tops of my Yacon plants which are related to Dahlias, so I harvested their edible roots getting quite a nice crop in the process. You can buy “Buds,” over the Internet to start off, to give a new crop for the next season, but I like to prepare my own. Although the roots will stay in the ground for a while after the first frosts, the “Crowns,” need to be dug up, or else the “Buds,” will die from cold in the same way that Dahlias are not fully hardy. However, unlike Dahlias you don’t need to keep all of the large Tubers intact, but instead only need a small part of the “Crown,” that contains the “Buds.” that will over-winter in pots of compost in a greenhouse to be started into growth in early spring to give next years plants. Each “Crown,” will easily cut up into small pieces giving maybe half a dozen “Buds.” As I say, they do need to be kept frost free and last year I nearly lost the lot because I left it very late to dig up the Crowns from my Allotment and some very cold nights nearly did for all of them.

With everything that was going on this year I neglected my grape Vines on my Allotment and many of the posts gave way from a combination of rotting and all of the frequent stormy weather that we had. Consequently, I have bought a whole load of new, treated, posts to replace the old, homegrown, Hazel stems along the whole length of the vines. The Vines were thickening out quite nicely, so when they were properly supported I was able to completely remove all of the training wires between the posts and just tie the vines in to each post. If I say so myself, they really do look the business now and have the appearance of a little bit of a French Vineyard about them!
The Grapes didn’t get picked when they should have, but a friend recently took them for Wine making as they were still on the vines, but unfit to eat and still OK to make wine. They say that a bit of mould after frosting makes them better for wine!

After sorting out my Grape Vines I am getting stuck into replacing other broken posts and tying in my many fruit trees including the new Peach Tree. It is the wrong time to prune stone fruit such as Peaches, Plums and Cherries, so I can’t actually trim the Peach, only tie in the selected branches and then leave the others until Spring before cutting them. You can prune Apples to shape them up now, but do remember that if you cut off all of the tips of the branches you will be removing the fruit buds and will get no fruit next season. You should just trim the odd straggly branches to shape up the tree and remove any branches that are damaged, or crossing.
While working on the fruit trees I will replace the Grease Bands, or sticky traps on the stems to prevent the crawling pests from getting into the buds of next years fruit. They should have been done a week, or two ago, but better late than never and it is said that even putting them on just before Spring is not too late to do some good. You can also hang special moth traps to snare another pest, but I don’t usually bother with those.
After sorting out all my fruit this month, next month, January will bring colder weather and I will have to resort to spending more days in my Greenhouse at home and spending time on the computer browsing the Internet looking for interesting things to grow.


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