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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




At the end of November and start of December it started to get a bit cooler and by mid December it got quite cold with some sharp frosts at night and day time temperatures that were barely above freezing. This lasted for about 2 weeks before the weather broke. However, I didn’t want to abandon my Plot completely “for the duration,” like some “fair weather,” gardeners do, but some days I found myself struggling for jobs that I could sensibly do.

Every year, at the end of the Season, one of the regular Winter jobs on my plot is to replace the odd post supporting a Tree, or Vine. The posts that I use are all pressure treated with preservative and guaranteed to last for 15 years, but they never do. It seems that I am lucky to get 5 years out of them before they rot through and break off. In theory I should take them back under guarantee and get replacements, but I don’t think the Agricultural Supplies Shop would be very impressed if I walked in every year clutching some rotten posts. This year has been particularly bad though, with a number breaking. The most awkward one (In the Picture) was supporting a mature Kiwi Vine that was very heavy and difficult to re-erect. I should have replaced the posts earlier, but there was a bit of a shortage as they were still catching up with the backlog and supply issues caused by Covid the previous year. The shortages had also forced up prices of the posts nearly doubling them. However, I was able to cut one of the broken posts and use it to replace another, shorter one, on my Tay Berries. It was quite opportune really, as I needed to cut back the old stems on the plants that had fruited and tie in the new ones ready for next years crop so putting in a new post meant that I could restring the supporting wire to get it tight. It is quite a thorny job to do, but if you don’t do it you get a tangled mass of dead shoots that make picking the fruit next to impossible.

As it is the time of year to cut things down and tidy things up, another thing that I recently gave some thought to involved a lovely Red Leafed Hazel Tree that is in my Garden and has been there for about 5 years from a young plant. I had been meaning to cut it down, or rather Coppice it for a year, or two now, but have only just got round to doing it. The Neighbour behind me said it was cutting out her light so I agreed to cut it down. She is delighted, at the moment, but probably doesn’t realise that when it starts to shoot again the new shoots will go skywards very fast and make a dense clump instead of being just a single stem. However, when they reach about 8 feet, or so, I will harvest them for Bean Poles and I will be able to cut a few every year from then onwards. Cutting down the main, bushy trunk, did give me a clear space though, which let me get at the young shoots coming up from below ground that in any other tree you would call “Suckers.” Every year I manage to get up a handful of these partially rooted cuttings, but this time I dug up 11 that I potted. They didn’t have much root on them, but the main thing was that they had started to root and so should put down some more roots over winter just like “Bare Rooted,” trees would if you bought them at this time of year. These I can then grow on as they leaf up in the Spring and then they will be added to the planned Tree Sale later next season.

From time to time I have also been doing a bit more potting of various things that keep going into my Green House to grow on, or just over winter. My Brother gave me a bag of Onion Sets that had been reduced as it was getting too late to put them in before Winter. So, I did as they always do at work, and potted them up in Trays to start them off and give them a bit of a boost before they then get planted out after putting on some roots and tops. The trays join my Pots of Chrysanthemum Stools and Yacon Tubers that I have been potting along with my tender plants like Citrus, Palms, Cannas and Banana. I decided that I was still going to heat my Greenhouse to hopefully keep it frost free this Winter even with the increased price of energy. The Green House is partially insulated with Bubble Polythene, but the Heater does still use 2 or 3 pounds worth of Electricity on a cold day. However, we usually only get a few days of real cold weather every winter and if you bear in mind the rising cost of Semi Exotic Plants, I think you can justify the cost of the energy. The main thing is to have the Heater set on a “Frost Setting,” where it only comes on as the temperature starts to drop towards freezing. Having the Green House just a few degrees warmer though will run away with the energy. Most of the Tender plants that I have mentioned will cope with low temperatures as long as, firstly they are not too wet, and secondly, it is only for a short period and not prolonged.

There is still a bit of Harvesting that can be done even though it has got so cold. It is always said that the flavour of Parsnips improves after they have been frosted and Leeks can be dug out at any time as long as the ground is not frozen solid. When I last looked both were coming on nicely, although the tops on the Parsnips have gone down now with the cold. The tops of the Jerusalem Artichokes were cut away a long time ago, but the tubers will be fine underground and can be harvested right up until they start shooting again in the Spring. Basically, Jerusalem Artichokes are a Potato alternative that has a bit of attitude. Root Artichokes have a slightly nutty flavour, but are worse than boiled cabbage, or baked beans! Hopefully, the Yacon Tubers will be alright for a while in the ground as well, although their Tops have also long gone.
The cold nights were a bit too much for the cape Gooseberries with all of them succumbing. Normally the berries are protected by their paper cases, but unusually, the Berries have spoilt due to the hard Frosts.
Winter Cabbages are still in the ground as are the last of my Beetroot, although I think that the Beetroot will spoil now with the hard frosts. I forgot to sow my over wintering, “Aquadulce,” Broad Beans as I usually do, so I will have to put some extra in, in early Spring. The over wintering ones mature just that little bit earlier in late spring so they don’t get pestered by Black Fly, unlike Spring sown plants. You can spray them with a soap/garlic solution, or, when the plants are well developed, simply pick out the tender Tips that the Black Flies go for.

At around Christmas I will sow some Onion Seeds in a tray on my Kitchen Windowsill like I did last year. After they come up they will be pricked out into Modular/Cell trays and then go into my Green House for a few weeks until it warms up a bit as Spring comes. Finally, they will then be transplanted outside into my Plot where they will mature. I tried them from seed last year with mixed success, but hopefully will do better this time. They will ripen a couple of weeks after those grown from Sets, but will be a lot cheaper.
On the subject of Seeds – this is the time of year when you get bombarded with Seed Catalogues and E-mails detailing next years range of Seeds and all sorts of offers. It is easy to get tempted by all the beautiful pictures of Flowers and interesting Blurb that accompanies them and I suppose, being honest, we all buy things that we don’t really want. Many seed packets then just get put away in a tin for a few years until they are finally thrown away. However, some Allotments operate Seed Swaps that work quite well. Our Allotments haven’t been going long enough to get the idea established, although, one, or two Plot Holders, do occasionally put out Bags of Seeds on the Notice Board and a few do take advantage of the offer.
During Lockdown many of the Seed companies were struggling to cope with the extra demand and indeed, the company, where our Allotments puts in a bulk order of Seeds every year, actually stopped taking orders at one point because they couldn’t cope. However, with things getting back to normal now, after Covid, we had our Bulk order sent back to us in record time this year.
I also finally got round to buying a Packet of Roscoea seeds as when I had looked earlier in the Year everywhere had sold out. This was not one that had caught my eye from a Catalogue, but from a TV Gardening Programme. The presenter raved about its Orchid like flowers and that although it was a member of the tropical Ginger Family, if the plants were put in deep enough, they were fully hardy in the UK. Apparently, they come mainly from China and only 17 varieties are known at the moment, although more are being discovered as time goes by. They are a perennial forming a tuber, but how they will do in our changing Summers I don’t know as they don’t like it too dry. I suppose it will be one of many packets that I sow in the Spring.
Whether I will be tempted by any more Seeds during Winter when there is not much doing on the Allotments I don’t know, but it is always fun looking!


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