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Allotment Garden Newsletter March 2021

  • Mon, 1 Mar at 09:19

    News, Tips and Offers for Growers & Gardeners

    Allotment Garden Newsletter

    From John Harrison

    Allotment Garden Newsletter  March 2021


    As I write this it’s sunny and bright outside, a promise of spring and summer to come. It’s certainly been the toughest winter many of us have ever had. Separated from loved ones and friends by a tiny virus that has kept us under house arrest.

    Our gardens and allotments have been a lifeline that kept us sane – well mostly! There’s actually a good reason for that. Exposure to sunshine outside stimulates the production of endorphins, hormones that make us feel happier. There’s quite a lot of evidence that sunshine helps protect us against respiratory illness too. In the sun our bodies produce vitamin D which boosts the immune system.

    It’s a tricky month, March. As a rule winter’s on the way out and spring is arriving but quite when isn’t so certain. I’ve known the month start with frozen ground and end with bright sun, shirtsleeves weather. The trick is to be ready to move when the weather allows – in your area. Spring can be a couple of weeks ahead of the north in the sunny south.

    Happy St David’s Day

    Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus

    “Be joyful and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.”


    The best protection against this awful virus is vaccination. Not totally effective at preventing you catching the coronavirus but the jab almost guarantees you will not become desperately ill or die from covid when your immunity kicks in.

    We had our jabs on 12th February. We both had a bit of an ache in our arm the next day but that’s nothing. The injection itself was so painless that Val didn’t feel it at all! By mid-March we’ll feel a lot safer. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to get the vaccination, please don’t hesitate. There are millions around the world who are desperate for their shot.

    Our Books – Information

    I’m happy to say we’ve got stocks of all our titles in and seeds so we’re still offering 3 packets of seeds with each book ordered except for Dig for Victory where we can give you a selection of 5 packets of seeds selected from varieties available in the war.

    With Dig for Victory you’ll also get two Replica Growing Plan Leaflets, absolutely free. Both are printed on quality gloss paper

    Our Books – Click Me!

    March 1945

    There are some parallels between World War 2 and this pandemic. Just as we look forward to the end of lockdowns and regulation, so people were looking forward to the end of wartime struggles in March 1945. Then, as now, the public purse was empty but at least we still have the shops and pubs standing ready to open when allowed.

    One technique not so well known or used today as then is starting crops in a special seedbed. Those old gardeners were frugal, inventive and made the most of what was available.

    Seedbeds were just one of the topics covered in the March 1945 guide along direct sowing. All the monthly guides are included in my book Dig for Victory

    Slugs and Snails

    We’ve had a few cold periods this winter, which really helps keep down the slugs and snails. It doesn’t wipe them out but it does give us a chance to keep them under control and off our crops. Did you know they reckon slugs cause £100 million pounds damage to farm crops every year!

    I’m a big fan of two organic slug controls. The advanced ferric phosphate slug pellets that are as effective as conventional pellets but wildlife and pet friendly are my favourite control.

    On average, one tub will last me two years. A light well-spaced scattering is all that is needed but if there is heavy pest pressure, a repeat spreading will  get any survivors.

    My other favoured method is a biological control. Nemaslug uses nematodes that kill slugs and is the most effective method of cleaning the horrid slimy pests out of the soil. Great for preventing damage to potatoes. More information from Harrod Horticultural

    Winter Rains & Nutrition

    We’ve had an awful lot of rain this winter, which brings us other problems. Many of us are behind on our winter digging, manuring and liming programs – we’ve just got to do the best we can to catch up.

    Don’t forget, all this rain has washed out a lot of nutrients from the soil. A couple of ounces (a good hand full) of blood, fish and bone or Growmore fertiliser per square yard will help no end before planting or sowing. Best applied a week or so before planting or sowing and raked into the topsoil.

    So often the problems people have with vegetables are just down to those vegetables being malnourished. There’s a lot of information on the website about nutrients, composting etc. you might find helpful.

    Getting Ahead of the Season

    You can get ahead of the season using cloches and horticultural fleece covers. Set them up a week or two before you sow or plant out and the soil will have warmed up to get your crops off to a good start

    The only problem with cloches is that they can get blown around. The old style glass barn cloches were more stable but a right game to erect and pretty dangerous with children around.

    I’ve tried tying down the plastic tube cloches but I can’t say I’ve found that the ideal solution to the winds we ‘enjoy’ in Snowdonia. Like all gardeners, I live in hope!

    There’s a range of cloches, cold frames etc. on the site to look at and compare.

    Propagators Cost

    I had an email asking about the cost of the propagators I have and if it’s worth it. It’s a fair question and I suppose I do have more than most people. My two oldest propagators are about 35 years old. A bit battered with discoloured, cracked lids but still serviceable.

    I even upgraded them a couple of years ago by adding some cheap thermostat controllers. Surprisingly accurate for a £10 Ebay buy.

    My first Vitopod came in April 2008 – see my diary entry – and it’s as good as new as it moves into its 13th year. I reckon it will outlast me at this rate. When you take the cost and divide it by the number of years it works for you, you get a more appropriate view of the cost of equipment.

    Windowsill Propagator

    Not everyone has the space I’m blessed with now. In the past our window ledges were drafted into service for seed growing.

    Top tip: stick some shiny kitchen foil onto a piece of cardboard and put this behind the seedlings to reflect light onto them. This helps stop the seedlings getting leggy and drawn.

    Even indoors it can be a problem to keep seedlings nice and warm. Drawing the curtains to keep the room warm is great but it causes a cold spot in the space between the windows and curtains. Not good for the seedlings, obviously.

    Harrod Horticultural offer a Heated 3-Bay Windowsill Propagator with Capillary Matting – basically self-watering. Well worth considering when space is tight.

    Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for March

    Hints & Tips in the jobs guide for growing in March

    Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for March

    Any Questions?

    I’m always happy to hear back from you but I get a lot of emails and regret I just can’t answer everyone.

    If you’ve a growing question feel free to ask but please give me as much information as possible. Where you are, what your soil is like and what your climate is like all effect things. Photographs are particularly helpful.

    If it’s something I think will be generally useful, then I may write an article on the subject and possibly use the photographs supplied.

    Don’t forget there are a lot of good growers on our forums who are happy to help with your questions. It’s often useful to get more than one person’s input to a problem.

    Suggestions for the newsletter and website are especially welcome.

    I hope you’ve found this newsletter useful. Ihe next newsletter will be later this month. Until then –

    Good Growing and above all, Keep Safe


    Allotment Garden

    Fron Dirion, Clogwyn Melyn,
    LL54 6PT


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