Allotment Diary (January – Week 3)

last year we enjoyed a very mild winter and as a result we lost quite a few lettuces to stem rot. This year we’ve had an extremely cold winter and as a result we’ve lost quite a few lettuces again, to repeated frost/thaw cycles. Lettuce is a very important crop for us (we eat a big salad most days) so we need to fix this.

One of the polytunnel salad beds

Fortunately the fix is becoming clear:

  1. Dedicate the whole polytunnel to lettuce, this is key because lettuce is MUCH better in the polytunnel than the low-tunnels and cold-frames in winter. Lettuce grows faster in the tunnel and it’s easier to harvest.
  2. Let some of the greenhouse lettuce heart up in December and then harvest the whole plants in January and February, clearing space for follow on crops like cauliflower, calabrese, carrots, beetroot, turnips etc
  3. Grow only the very best winter lettuce varieties, for me this means Grenoble Red and Roxy although I’m always on the lookout for other good varieties. I’ve experimented a lot this year with new varieties and none of them made the cut
  4. Remove most of the polytunnel lettuce and replant by March, because by March the cold-frames and low-tunnels are excellent lettuce environments and there’s lots of other crops to grow in the polytunnel
  5. Plant the cold-frame and low-tunnel lettuces in early December, these small plants seem to over-winter much better than ones planted in September and October. Because I’m planting lettuce in December I can get a whole extra harvest in the cold-frames and low tunnels. For example I could plant beetroot in August and harvest at the end of November, also turnips, radish, Asian greens, storage carrots etc

Last week I was bullish about harvests, but this very cloudy week has stalled growth of lettuce, so I think I’m going to stop harvesting them for a week. We almost always do this some-time in January but I was hoping we would be ok this year. Fortunately we grow a lot more than lettuce!!

This weeks harvest, our smallest yet

The photo above is however our total harvest for the week! We are really starting to feel the jack of Jennie’s plot this week, no cauliflower, no purple sprouting broccoli, no winter cauliflowers, very few field bean tops for example; next year will be better!

Despite the foul weather I’ve managed to get out for a couple of walks, one in the pouring rain, but a couple were quite nice in the frosty dunes. We are not allowed to drive anywhere for pleasure in England at the moment, so being able to walk everywhere is a huge boon!

The frosty dunes make for superb walking on our doorstep

December felt like a very bleak month because very little was growing, January feels much better. Although the weather outside is horrible and growth on the allotment is slow, I’m surrounded by seedlings. My conservatory is now bulging at the seams with life and this is how I like it! I’m also frantically clearing beds, sowing, pricking, potting on and planting; it’s great!

The conservatory and our warm grow room, we have a cool one too

I’ve also managed to dash outside when the sun-shines – briefly – to keep on top of the kitchen garden, tidying up plants, mulching beds, weeding etc. I’m even clearing a few beds in anticipation of starting planting (under fleece) in March, not long now!

The kitchen garden : small but beautiful, even in mid-winter

My sowing timeline is almost totally dictated by growlight space now, which actually helps me decide what I can sow when, which is a big help as I’m often tempted to sow too much too early! Here’s what I sowed this week:

Here’s what we planted this week

Here’s our harvests for the year so far, with the most recent at the top.  We hit our target for last year and harvested over £12,000.

Here’s a list of the preserves for last year.

I always like to keep a track of or first harvest dates and you can find a summary of those here:

YouTube videos for the week can be found here:

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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