January at Plot 4

 

There are still vegetables to harvest, the Chard, Cabbage and Broccoli are still looking good and will no doubt make their way into a few soups, or onto the plate with a winter stew. This year I have grown cauliflower for the first time, the Romanesco variety. Cauliflower has become the vegetable of the season, its been like finding an old friend, whether served with a cheese sauce in a gratin, or in a curry, it has become ever present in our diet. The Jerusalem artichokes are also waiting patiently in the ground and will come into their own as the cold sets in, providing an alternative to the ubiquitous potato.

After the festive month, January is time for a new start, a fresh approach. The seed catalogues have started to drop through the door and I’ve started to form a list of potential seeds to grow next year. By the end of the month I hope to have ordered and started chitting my seed potatoes, finalised the seed purchases for the new year, and I think I might start to sow a few peas and broad beans in the relative warmth of the greenhouse.

The cold and wet weather ahead, means the jobs at the allotment will probably be limited to sorting and tidying. Both the shed and the greenhouse need a good sort out, and the whole plot has developed a bit of a scruffy look as the weather and different commitments have conspired to limit my time at the allotment. Still, a new start in January means a chance to rework my time to ensure the plot is shipshape for the anticipation of the growing season.

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.

 

Time to Prune

Last week I started the process of pruning our apples. We’ve got two established trees, which have been pruned on a fairly regular basis since we inherited the plot. The Beauty of Bath (a fabulous early variety with slightly pink flesh) has always responded well to a prune, but the other tree (an unknown hybridised variety) has generally been the ‘poor cousin’ and if I’m honest has been neglected over the years. So this year I’ve started with this tree; fuelled, if I’m truthful, by the fact that this year (for once) we had a decent crop of lovely sharp and refreshing fruit from it.

pruned apples
I’ve always been a bit hesitant about how and what when it comes to pruning, but found a six point guide to general winter pruning in a Garden Organic publication and have used it this year.

  • Prune out any dead, diseased or damaged wood back to a healthy bud or stem
  • Continue to keep the centre of the bush uncluttered – prune out any weak-growing, very upright or crossing shoots and branches
  • If some of the lead branches are weak growing they can be lightly trimmed back to stimulate more growth
    Remove any worn out and unproductive wood (generally more than three years old) by cutting back to a suitable replacement shoot
  • Remove any congested or overcrowded laterals or shorten to four to six buds to encourage fruiting spurs to develop. Retain about a third of the newly-formed laterals
  • If fruiting spurs become overcrowded, thin them out leaving one or two fruit buds per cluster

It’s a relatively simple process and rather satisfying once complete. Given the wind and rain of the last week or so, I’ve had to leave the second apple tree (and the other fruit trees on the plot) until I can get up the tree without being blown out! Mind you, nature has done a bit of the pruning of dead and weak branches for me.

January at Plot 4

After a month ending in the excesses of Christmas it will be a relief to get back to the plot a little more during January. It’s a month of new starts and beginnings and as such I’ll be spending some of the days when the winter weather prevents a visit to the plot planning the growing year ahead. As yet I have no real plans, no must have new crops; but I’m sure after a few minutes perusing the seed catalogues that will change. By the end of the month I hope to have ordered and started chitting my seed potatoes, finalised the seed purchases for the new year, and I might have even planted a few peas in the relative warmth of the greenhouse.

There are still vegetables to harvest, with the prospect of frosts meaning that our parsnips will have developed their cold induced sweetness. Chard, Cavalo Nero and Broccoli are still thriving and will no doubt make their way into the a few soups, or onto the plate with a winter stew. The Jerusalem artichokes are also waiting patiently in the ground and will come into their own as the cold sets in, providing an alternative to the ubiquitous potato.

The start of a new year offers the opportunity for a fresh look at things, as well as the chance to look back at what has worked in the year that’s just finished. For me this not only means at the allotment, but also across my life. So when I’m planning my seeds and where to put them I’ll be also thinking about how my life will develop in the months ahead. What do I want to do this year? What do I see myself doing this time next year? How can I ensure I have time for mindfulness? I’m not sure of the answers to these questions, but am determined to find some of the answers over the next few months and continue to develop my recipe for a changed life.
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