Your allotment can give 12 months of fun and food, here’s a @allotmentalice’s speedy guide to some of the things you can grow and eat!
Plant: Save stacks on shop-bought garlic by sowing your own bulbs. Break into cloves, make a shallow hole and drop in a clove, so the tufty top is slightly showing.
Eat: Juice purple-sprouting broccoli with pineapple and spinach for a winter blues boost.
Purple sprouting broccoli
Task: Mulch your soil with cardboard and plastic tarp – or cover areas with cloches to warm the ground up for early sowings.
Tip: Plan your plot. Measure and draw it onto graph paper (2cm for every 1m) – and write down what did well, what you’d like to grow again, and any 2020 experiments you’d like to do!
Plant: It’s the last chance to plant bare-root fruit. Choose a well-drained, fertile spot in sun or partial shade and dig a large, deep hole to accommodate the sprawling roots.
Eat: Chicory makes a lovely, crisp winter salad marinated in balsamic vinegar, olive oil and thyme.
Task: Prepare your beds for spring by digging in lots of homemade compost, or layer on top and let the worms do the work.
Tip: Consider crop rotation to reduce soil-borne pests and diseases. Plant potatoes in year one, followed by legumes, onions, roots in year two, and brassicas in year three.
Plant: Hurray, it’s time for some early showings outdoors! Get started with chard, lettuce, spring onion, beetroot and parsnips.
Eat: Roast your radishes with garlic, rosemary and oil until caramelised.
Task: Worms will be getting more active so think about composting. Use greens (leafy clippings, kitchen peelings) and browns (cardboard) to get the right balance.
Tip: Some days you’re in short sleeves, other days you’re in woolly gloves – err on the side of caution and keep fleece on stand-by in case frosts threaten.
Plant: Get some friends together and see who can grow the tallest sunflower. Sow direct 3cm deep, around 60cm apart, and keep well-watered. Add a handful of fertiliser, and by July you should be measuring your successes.
Eat: Toss boiled new potatoes in olive oil, Dijon mustard, crushed garlic and thyme.
Task: Pledge to ditch the peat this month! Find out more online at @peatfreeapril.
Look out for more information about Peat Free April on Candide!
Tip: Succession sowing crops such as spinach, lettuce and peas little and often (rather than a whole packet in one go) will mean you can harvest at regular intervals.
Plant: Direct sow French beans outdoors under tepees of tall canes.
Push one bean into the soil at the base of each cane.
Eat: Top and tail 1lb gooseberries and soften in a saucepan with a little butter. Mash and whip in 1/2pint double cream and sugar to taste.
Task: Keep rows of new seedlings in check by ‘thinning’ – taking out the smallest and weakest plants, or every other seedling, so the bigger ones have space to mature.
Tip: Combat carrot fly by sowing outside of its egg-laying periods: mid-April to the end of May and mid-July to the end of August. Sow sparingly to avoid thinning (which attracts the flies), partner with pungent crops such as alliums, or cover with fleece.
Plant: Sow sweetcorn in blocks outdoors, with 45 cm between plants to encourage wind pollination.
Eat: The first peas – pick and eat straight from the pod!
Task: Mix up some garlic water to keep slugs and flea beetles at bay. Crush three or four cloves into a watering can and pour around your plants.
Tip: Celebrate the magic of GYO and its benefits by getting involved in National Growing for Wellbeing Week via @GYOWellbeingWk.
Plant: Pencil-thick leek seedlings can be ‘dibbed in’ this month. Use a dibber to make a hole (around 6in deep) and pop in your leek. Fill the hole with water rather than soil to give them room to swell.
Eat: Harvest your strawberries and enjoy them Wimbledon style in an Eton Mess.
Task: Save water by installing a water butt. You can also do this by watering in the morning (so there’s less evaporation) or watering directly to the roots through cut-off bottles.
Tip: While the garden is overflowing it’s easy to forget to plan ahead, but July is the perfect time to begin sowing autumn and winter crops such as broad beans, garlic, cauliflowers, chard and herbs.
Plant: There’s still time to get some late crops in before autumn such as spring onions, beetroot and Chinese broccoli.
Eat: Fire up the BBQ and char-grill sweetcorn. Make a flavoured butter with crushed garlic, chopped chilli, the juice of half a lime, 1tsp honey and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
Task: Mulching can lock in nutrients and moisture: try a thin layer of grass clippings from your mower or cut up comfrey leaves around the base of plants.
Tip: Get involved in National Allotments Week from August 10-16.
Plant: Green manures add nutrients and structure to your soil and help suppress weeds over winter. Sow mustard, phacelia, or winter tares and dig in the following spring.
Eat: Make cucumber raita for dipping by grating half a cucumber and squeezing to get rid of the excess moisture. Blend with 500g yoghurt, one handful of mint leaves and two handfuls coriander and serve with a sprinkling of paprika.
Task: Dry herbs for winter by hanging them upside down in a dark place for a week. Crush the leaves into airtight, labelled containers or freeze.
September is a great time to dry rosemary
Tip: Make a hot bed so you can sow later and earlier. Create a frame with pallets and fill with fresh compost and straw. Cover with fleece, tarp or glass to allow things to heat up before sowing direct or sinking pots into the soil.
Plant: Plant a grapevine and grow your own wine! Plant your vine deep in well-dug earth that has been enriched with well-rotted compost. Keep well-watered in the first year.
Eat: Florence fennel should be fattening up nicely. Slice small bulbs into salads or roast with tomatoes and potatoes. Leave the ‘stump’ in the ground for feathery cut-and-come-again foliage.
Task: Construct a cage using posts and chicken wire to collect soft leaves for leaf mould. Use as a mulch around plants in year one, and a soil conditioner in year two.
Tip: Sort out your old seeds. Most seed packets can be saved for next year with the exception of parsnip. Allium and pepper seeds last 1-2 years, legumes and pumpkins for around three, and cucumbers and tomatoes for up to five.
I love sorting out seeds!
Plant: An autumn sowing of broad beans, such as ‘Aquadulce Claudia', can give you super-early crops come spring. Sow in single rows, 6cm deep and 45cm apart.
Eat: Create a winter salad with grated celeriac dressed in olive oil, mustard, cider vinegar and fresh orange juice.
Task: It’s time to lift crops to store indoors. Roots such as carrots and celeriac can be packed in boxes of sharp sand, apples and pears wrapped in newspaper and placed in single layers, and garlic and onions hung in net bags.
November is a great time for apple picking
Tip: Climbing beans such as borlotti beans are wonderful young and green in their pods, but even better dried. Take down the plants and hang up in a shed until the pods turn crisp, and extract the beans.
Plant: It’s the last chance to get shallots in but if the ground is frozen, start undercover in root trainers to transplant later.
Eat: Who said sprouts were just for school dinners? Pep them up for the festive season by boiling for 8-10 minutes then mashing gently with butter, cream and nutmeg. Warm through with a handful of cooked chestnuts.
Task: Force rhubarb for tender pink sticks by covering with a dustbin or large pot.