Prepping and Planting

Soil preparation is at the bottom of the to-do list for now as it is all about concentrating on clearing the way for Spring and preparing for growing season.

There’s nothing to sow or plant outside this month as there are no guarantees with the British weather, however there are a few things that we have started off under glass.

Available light is a big issue that we face in January. A top tip is to cover cardboard with aluminium foil and stand it to the north side of our seed trays to reflect extra light and to help prevent leggy, drawn seedlings without the expense of special horticultural lights.

Harvesting

The allotment felt quiet throughout January but there were still plenty of jobs to do, and it’s the perfect time for harvesting our parsnips, leeks and winter lettuce.

Parsnips take about 16 weeks to mature and harvesting occurs when the roots reach their full size.  We look for parsnips that are very white, as the whiter the flesh the sweeter the parsnip.

Leeks can be harvested when the stalks are about an inch across, we store our fresh leeks unwashed and untrimmed in the fridge where they will keep fresh for around 1-2 weeks.

Lettuces are a relatively quick growing crop and even if they are sown in August, they can be ready as soon as October. They are so easy to grow and can be started indoors for early transplants directly into the garden.

Preservation Tips

Nothing from the allotment tends to go to waste, we like to plan our meals around what we harvest.

If we harvest considerable yields of root vegetables in the summer for example, we use alternative storage methods which means we can appreciate our crops throughout the winter.

If storage space under cover is limited, we make clamps that are a traditional and effective method of storage. Below is an example on how to make a clamp.

  • Choose a sheltered, well-drained site. Near a house wall would be suitable
  • Dig a trench around the area to aid drainage
  • Make a 20cm base layer of light, sandy soil or sand and cover with a layer of straw
  • Remove the top growth from roots to avoid crops rotting
  • Make a pyramid with the roots, using the largest at the bottom
  • Cover the whole pile with a 20cm (8in) layer of straw, followed by a 15cm (6in) layer of soil to keep out the frosts. Leave a tuft of straw emerging from the soil as a chimney for excess heat and moisture to escape
  • Aim to make the clamp around 1m (3¼ft) high and pat the soil smooth with the back of a spade to help water run off.

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We have just harvested 3 products, what would your suggestion be to preserve them in the best way without a fridge or freezer?

We would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

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