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Terry's Tomato Tips

Heritage tomatoes on a tray with overlaid text reading "Terry's Tips: Everything about tomato growing"

Autum 2023

Late October 2023- the last of the root crops are being harvested to stop the rats / slugs and other wildlife from eating them; the apples are nearly all picked and what isn’t needed is going to the Share your Spare scheme with the local food pantries and community kitchens, which our allotments have joined. It’s been great to have an easy outlet for gluts of produce this year. Beans canes and pea supports have been pulled out and the plants jumped on to squash them down a bit and then covered in cardboard and left to the worms to work their magic. Compost bins are emptied onto the other beds and again covered with cardboard. The winter greens are all netted against the pigeons. Overwintering lettuce and cabbages have been planted in the cold greenhouse which is now cleared of tomatoes and cucumbers. The green manure is holding its own just now, but when it goes over it will be left in situ and covered. Then it’s time to tackle the bramble and hawthorn hedges.

April 2023 and green manures

It’s the middle of April and its still quite cold, it’s not yet warm enough to transplant the seedlings grown at home nor for direct sowings. I have been slowly uncovering my beds, lilting the cardboard coverings and despatching the slugs, spot weeding of couch grass and ground elder. I set up beer traps on the beds I plan to sow in the next couple if week. I have been emptying all my ready compost bins onto the beds. I never have enough compost and I tend to use green manures whenever possible; those that were grown in late summer / early autumn were covered in cardboard when the frosts came and the plants died back. Now I lift the cardboard and clear any stems that haven’t been taken into the soil into the compost bins. I am thinking of using summer green manures this year, sowing soon to give the soil a boost on some beds where I can plant my beans and corn through it in a couple of months.

If you have never used green manures, here is some information on why to consider using them.

Read more: April 2023 and green manures

March Growing Tips: From Val's Plot

I am starting to uncover some of my beds from their cardboard coats, removing the slugs that have nestled under them as I do so. I dig out any nasty weeds such as ground elder and bind weed, but try not to disturb the soil too much, and put on bags of Dalesfoot compost where it is needed. I use raised beds and so mend any rotten boards or put back bricks that have wandered over the year. I have now planted my onions, shallot and broad beans out onto the beds. Next up is preparing the pea beds, making new cages to take the netting which is the only way to stop the wood pigeons from devouring them. Modules of peas and beetroot are in my greenhouse. I have a box of seeds ready to start sowing later in the month.

It’s always a juggling act at this time of year, with my crop rotation plan in one hand, the last of the parsnips, leeks, savoys and kale all still growing, I try to decide where I can leave the cardboard down and plant through – suitable for corn and pumpkins. It is an exciting time as I start to sow and plant out, as well as harvest. My cold greenhouse has Wheelers Imperial spring cabbage coming along nicely, I am cropping the last of the over wintering lettuce and some radishes I sowed recently are popping through. In a couple of months, it will all get cleared for the tomatoes and cleaning the glass is on the list of job to do.

Winter on the Plot

At the beginning of December I stood on the plot and it was still very green. The green manures were still growing and the mustard had flowers that insects and bees were visiting. There were still rasperries on the canes and the brambles had green and red berries. So some of my usual jobs would have to wait. I merged some of my compost bins to give me more space and also to try and keep some heat in them so they would continue to rot down. I harvested sprouts, parsnips, black kale, autumn radishes and some white turnips. I started to clear some of the cabbage beds, collecting the last of the small heads and then covered the beds with cardboard weighted down with some bricks.  A couple of weeks later the first of the cold spells came and we had a week or so of frozen ground. As it stared to warm up a little I cut down the green manure that had succumbed to the cold weather leaving in on the ground and covering it with cardboard.

On the next couple of visits I cut back the autumn raspberries, cleared the worst of the ground elder and bindweed from the beds and covered them with a thin layer of wood chip. Then i made a start on the bramble hedge which run the full length of the plot, cutting out all the dead growth and cutting it well back so I would still be able to walk round the beds. I woodchipped underneath the brambles to make a path around all the nearby beds. All the canes and brambles were taken to the bonfire site on the allotments where they will dry out and get burnt on our twice a year bonfires, for bonfire night and solstice. The cold greenhouse is full of overwintering lettuce, from which I pick the otuside leaves to take home, and of wheelers imperial cabbage. Last year I grew some in the greenhouse and then I cut them back to the ground but left the roots in while I planted out tomatoes. I found when i cleared the tomatoes that these stumps had produced new growth and so I am now harvesting fresh spring cabbages! I also planted some new whellers imperial, red and curly kale in the greenhouse in late September and they are growing nicely.

The apples tree I planted about 4 years ago is doing well, a fantastic crop this year, and I have now pruned this back to get rid of the leggy shoots and to try and make a good shape of a tree. Next up will be pruning the currants and berries in the fruit cage. Meanwhile I have put in my order in for West Riding Organic compost and Dalefoot compost through the allotment society; sorted out my box off seeds and ordered a few new packets to fill the gaps and put all the seeds I didnt want and the ones that I had saved far too many of into envelopes for the seed swaps coming up.

February Growing Tips: From Val's Plot

This is the month where I plan to catch up with all the structural work that I haven’t got around to yet. I have been examining my raised beds and repairing or replacing the rotten edge boards, mending the shed from the rat attack, topping up the wood chippings on the paths and cleaning the greenhouse glass. I have been picking different types of Kale – black, curly and Uncle Bert’s (a heritage variety), savoy cabbages and parsnips. My leeks were a disaster last year as many bolted and then the later ones didn’t take off.
On the growing side, I have started to cut back the autumn raspberries and will prune my currants and apple tree and put a bucket over one of my rhubarb plants to get the early forced rhubarb, although the warmer winter weather means that the rhubarb is much more advanced than usual. I have made a start on digging out the couch grass and ground elder from my fruit cage, and when that is done I have an old strawberry bed to clear and dig over. I planted a new strawberry bed last autumn and the transplanted plants look fine.
My few seed potatoes from the earlier potato trials – a mira/ valor cross are ready to be chitted. In the greenhouse I have sweet peas a few inches high, and I have sown some sweet peppers, hot wax peppers and jalapenos, a few tomatoes and some trays of broad beans on my propagator.
I have sorted out my seeds into the months in which they need to be sown and I have started to think about the crop rotation and my growing plan for this year, so it feels like I am getting organised! The compost order has come to the allotment now so I have a mix of West Riding Organic seeds and potting composts and some of Dalefoot, vegetable, tomato and double strength, bags. So roll on March and the main sowing period begins.

Terry's Tomato Tips

Heritage tomatoes on a tray with overlaid text reading "Terry's Tips: Everything about tomato growing"

Children's Section

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From Val's Plot

Drawing of alloment plants with clouds and blue background. Overlain text saying"From Val's Plot: Seasonal reporting from and everyday plot"

Jack First's Advice

person watering alloment plants with traditional mental watering can. Overlaid text reads "Organic growing advoce from Jack First"