A Kent allotment in winter

PUBLISHED: 16:45 29 October 2010 | UPDATED: 18:05 20 February 2013

A Kent allotment in winter

A Kent allotment in winter

The Butcher family make their Langton Green allotment plot ready for winter

A Kent allotment in winter

Once the peak harvest is complete, the main tasks of the autumn for Russell, Louize and their children, Chloe and Cameron, are clearing spent crops, filling up the compost bin and a general tidying up ready for winter. Theres something very satisfying to clearing all the dying plants and breaking up new soil for next years crops, says Louize.

After a busy summer and an abundance of delicious fresh vegetables and fruit, it is quite cathartic to clear it all away. Although some crops will be grown through winter, late autumn and winter is the quietest period on the allotments time for a break and a renewal of enthusiasm as well as planning next years crops.

With nights drawing in we still go up as a family once at the weekend to keep adding to the compost. Theres a good walk past the allotment that we do with the dog so we can keep an eye on whats going on wind damage and trespassers, human or animal, says Russell.

Before the hibernation period, autumn is a busy time for harvesting some real favourites, such as carrots, peppers, sweetcorn, French beans, tomatoes and pumpkins. We love carrots raw or cooked and potatoes are always a good comfort food when the days get cold. Even mash the two together, yum! adds Louize.

The emphasis shifts to lifting and storing of produce to cook through the winter months for more warming foods, such as root vegetables, sprouts, garlic and onions. We also keep picking everything that is ready so nothing bolts or rots even if you have to give it away, find an elderly neighbour theyll love it, says Russell.

Produce still being grown on the allotment, such as brassicas and sprouts, continues to need tending and protecting from all the creatures that want a share. This is a particularly challenging time when the birds get hungrier and winds can blow down cages and netting.

The first sowing of broad beans is also done. Maintenance and preparation remain priorities. We wash and store canes and stakes, mend fencing, replace netting, dig over the soil, add manure if needed and think about next years rotation, explains Russell.

November jobs on the allotment

  • Lift and store crops, regularly check stored crops

  • Dig over, add manure

  • Cover over empty beds

  • Plant a green manure crop

  • Compost plants and falling leaves

  • Plant out onion sets and garlic

  • Sow broad beans

  • Clean and tidy

Russells budget-busting ideas

  • Place unripe tomatoes with a ripe banana, the gas the banana gives off ripens the tomatoes

  • Wash cauliflower and wrap in cling film. It will last for a couple of weeks in the fridge

  • Leave the roots of peas and bean plants in the soil to increase fertility

  • Freeze as much as you can as you will never have too much to last you through the winter months

  • Make friends with your fellow allotment holders, they will help you out. Two heads are better than one for solving pest invasion, to share recipes with and to barter with. Or better still share a bottle of elderflower champagne after a long hot day, picked from the hedgerows and made by the children, while watching the sun set

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