Your allotment will create work all year around so it’s always a good idea to have an annual schedule, even if it’s just a very brief plan. Planning is key.
Just some of the tasks to consider by month:
January is for clearing and prepping. Tidy and discard of any rotten or damaged crops, not forgetting your stores. Harvest any sprouts, parsnips, cabbages and leeks. If you can wait, try to hold of the desire to sow seeds. January can be a very cold month, despite signs of sunshine, so protect any crops with fleece or straw. Order seed potatoes and get the trays ready to chit them in.
February begins to warm up so we can start to think about the early vegetables we would like to sow, spring onions and early types of lettuce are a popular suggestion with the addition of shallots and garlic. Top dress the plot along with any fruit trees. Finish any winter pruning and cover beds with plastic sheets to begin warming it in preparation for sowing.
March is the time when everything starts to pick up and with days getting longer you can look forward to spending more time working on your plot. Plant out early cultivators of potatoes but not too many, we can still get frosts. Transplant any peas, broad beans or lettuce you may have started off earlier. Clear off any old strawberry leaves and give a top dressing of fertiliser. Complete preparations of seed beds for direct sowing.
April can be a tricky month, with a run of sunshine we can be lulled into a false sense of security, so just keep in mind a frost is still possible. Complete planting for onions and make successional sowings of parsnips, lettuce, spinach, radish, early peas. Any cold greenhouse tomatoes you may have started can now be transplanted. Put poles in place for any runner beans and prepare seed beds for next months sowing. Check for any pests or diseases.
May marks the end of Spring and, typically, with the beginning of hotter days we must be mindful of keeping crops well-watered. Where possible water early in the morning or in the evening, not in full sun as leaves can scorch. Harvest your earlier planted crops and prepare beds ready for the next batch of sowing. Make sure weeds are kept to a minimum by hoeing between crops and add straw underneath strawberry plants to keep any fruit from getting mildew.
June means you can start harvesting any of the soft fruits you may have, where vegetables such as cauliflower, rhubarb and spinach can also be picked. Train any climbing beans and add more supports where needed. Thin out seedlings and net any young plants that the birds may take a liking to. Keep an eye out for aphids and thrips but also carrot fly and cabbage root fly.
July can be a typically busy time on an allotment. Watering is vital for drier July’s and continuing with harvesting is a must. Early tomatoes will be ready for those summer salads and garlic and shallots can be harvested too. Start to sow overwinter crops of kale, spring cabbage and a hardy onion. Maintain hoeing and begin to pull soil up around the base of sweet corn and brussels sprouts to encourage extra roots. If we have a wet July, potato blight can hit, copper fungicides can help protect if sprayed in June.
August is a month to help fellow allotment owners for those away on holidays and the hope is they will do the same. Keep picking runner beans to ensure an autumn crop, lift potatoes, prepare to lift onions. Sow out any last seeds such as radishes and lettuce. Start to prune any espalier apple or pear trees and make any final pruning to soft fruits such as peach, cherry and plum trees.
September is the month to reflect on what has worked and what has failed over the season, before we begin to plan for the next gardening year. Onions and potatoes need to be harvested so they don’t get damp and cold in the autumn soil, store onions in a light place with potatoes in the dark. Collect up any late season strawberries and raspberries. Pick any green tomatoes and pop them in a shoebox to ripen up. Dig up any plants that have done their job and add to the compost heap.
October creeps in and we’re getting ready for a thicker jumper and nice warm soup for lunch, that of course we can make from our very own crops. With Halloween falling it seems only apt that we harvest our pumpkins to carve, with any leftovers being turned into a pumpkin soup. Lift any early leeks, remove any last potatoes and pick the final peas and runner beans. Now is the time to sow any winter lettuce and perhaps some hardy peas and broad beans. With beds slowly emptying it is time to give them a rough dig over, there is no need to breakdown clumps, this will happen over the winter.
November means darker and colder nights, so time spent at the allotment needs to be productive. Take the chance on the first crisp day to clear away any remaining finished crops. Harvest winter cabbage, brussels sprouts leeks and parsnips and sow a hardy pea. Collect up any leaves around the plot and add to the compost heap or leaf mulch stack. Then let the digging of the beds begin.
December is typically the month we spend extra time with friends and family, celebrating, drinking and eating. Owning an allotment gives you the perfect chance to gift any of your harvest to loved ones or, to savour all your hard work at the dinner table on Christmas Day. Take the opportunity to potter at the allotment, check tools and carry out any maintenance or repairs, ensure your store is rodent free and order any seeds for next years crops.
Over the year you will want to ensure what waste you create goes back into the allotment and aids all your hard work. It is best to segment your compost area into three bins, bin one, bin two and bin three. It’s easy to make these with wooden pallets. Once bin one is full you will need to turn it into bin two, rotating the contents of the bins allows it all to break down and for any worms to do their job, you can help this by covering the bin up with a plastic sheet. You will then begin to fill bin one up again. As you have probably guessed by now, bin two then gets turned into bin three and bin one into bin two. This will then provide you with some great compost to use on your plot which is thoroughly rewarding. Ensure your bins get a good mix of leaves, grass clippings, and other debris generated but try to avoid anything too woody and most definitely no weeds such as docks, stinging nettles or ground elder.
An allotment is a year-round job, which takes a great deal of commitment and care, however, it is also extremely rewarding too with lots to learn along the way.