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Allotment Garden Newsletter November 2020

Allotment Garden Newsletter

From John Harrison


Dear Friend

As I write this, I’m sorry to say things are not looking good with the coronavirus situation here in Britain. Nor in much of the world, for that matter.. The ‘second wave’ is here and threatens to be worse than the first.

It cannot be denied that the statistics and projections look pretty bleak and daunting.

Of course this is not the first time our people have faced great adversity and got through to happier times. I’ve no doubt that we’ll get through this if we hold our nerve and keep steady.

As gardeners we know that you have to plan ahead, put in the work of preparation and cultivation to get a crop. But above all you have to be optimistic, or you’d never sow a seed.


Offer Closing

We’ve been rushed off our feet processing book orders since stocks arrived of my new book, Dig for Victory. I’m happy to say that I’ve had a lot of lovely positive comments from readers. At the end of the day, that’s the real payment for all the work that went into it.

The introductory launch ‘early bird’ offer has obviously helped get the book off the ground but I’m afraid I can’t keep it going for much longer so it will be closing in 7 days time.

From Dig for Victory

This month I’d like to share an article from the November 1945 monthly dig for victory guide.

Just to set some context for you, the war had finally ended in previous September but after six gruelling years of war, life was still a struggle. The country was victorious but on its knees.

Housing was in short supply due to bombing, money was tight as the country was basically bankrupt from paying for arms and had huge debts. Food was still rationed and tightly controlled and actually the situation would become worse with bread, which had not been rationed through the war, becoming rationed in June 1946.

Yet within two years everyone in the UK would enjoy the benefits of free healthcare under the newly formed NHS. Something few had thought would happen six years before when the war started. That same NHS that now looks after us so well. Things did get better.


Facts about WEEDS

Gardeners may argue about whether weeds or pests are their chief headache. Pests we have dealt with pretty fully in earlier Guides and it may not be out of place here to say a few words about weeds, for a wet autumn may have brought us another crop, though we kept our plots fairly clean all summer.

Now we may be doing a bit of digging we can dig in the annual weeds, but we must be careful to dig up and burn such perennials as dandelions, bindweed, thistles, docks and couch.

Most gardeners know the serious objections to weeds, but for those who don’t, here they are. Weeds absorb from the soil moisture and plant food that would otherwise nourish and increase the vegetable or fruit crop. They crowd the crop and keep from it the sunlight so essential for healthy growth ; they prevent the air circulating freely among the plants, and they harbour and favour insect pests and fungus diseases.

But as a writer in The Times said nearly forty years ago, “Many a casual gardener owes what success he has largely to the accident of weeds. They demand the use of the hoe; and the more soils and plants are studied, the more manifest does it become that a friable, well-worked surface is the prime secret of cultivation, even in the case of things that grow deep.”

The most obvious way to suppress weeds is to stop them seeding. And what trouble we should save ourselves if we did—and if all our neighbours did likewise! For many weed plants produce several thousand seeds. And the seeds of many weeds do not all germinate at the same time and may be dormant in the soil and come up after many years.

A single dandelion flower turns to about 170 seeds, but an established three-year-old plant produces nearly 5,000 seeds. But the groundsel beats that figure by 1,000 The pretty little blue-flowered Eye-bright can score 5,000, though the common dock easily beats that, for a fair specimen can easily carry 13,000 seeds Hence the everlasting fight against weeds with hand and hoe and weed killer.

On the other hand, on light soils, from which plant food is washed away by autumn and winter rains, it is a good plan to let annual weeds grow on patches from which crops have been lifted and are remaining bare for some time. The weeds take up the plant food and store it, and when they are dug in in the spring, they give it up again by rotting away


Seaweed Plant Stimulants

One article you might find interesting – I found it fascinating – was sent to me by Chase Organic a few years back.

They’ve been around a long time – the picture is one of their adverts from the war! I’ve included a copy in the Dig for Victory book.

They actually discovered the benefits of seaweed and invented the famous SM3 seaweed extract.

Seaweed Plant Stimulants

Grab It While You Can

At this time of year when the weather is changeable and the days are short, especially now the clocks have changed and many people don’t even get out of work in the light, it’s important to grab time on the plot when you can. The more you get done now the better you’ll be set for next year.

Planting Garlic

If you’re planting garlic this month and you have a heavy or wet soil then you’ve probably had the problem of the cloves rotting and not developing. I found that using my old spade-handle leek dibber to make a hole and then putting half an inch of gritty sand or even just grit into the hole before dropping the clove in worked a treat. It allowed the excess water to drain off and stopped rotting off.

The other method I’ve found successful with garlic has been to start it off next month in 3″ pots under glass, planting out as soon as the shoots are about an inch high. The only problems with this method are that you can be delayed by bad weather and birds pulling the seedlings up. So if you do use it, plant out under fleece. I’ve no answer to the weather – sorry!

Christmas is Coming!

I suppose it’s appropriate to mention a few gift ideas here. I’ve avoided anything too expensive, we have a theory that a gift should show you’ve thought about it rather than just chucked money at it.


Japanese Style Razor Hoe

Tools always go down well with the gardener in your life – and that could be you! This year I’ve been using a Japanese razor hand hoe. They’re fantastic, weed with the blade and use the tip for deep weeds. Great for drawing a short drill for salads etc. as well.

Available for £18.95 from Harrod Horticultural


Felco Victorinox Knife

Another useful tool that no gardener is without is a good penknife – Harrod Horticultural have the Felco Victorinox knives at £12.95. The blade is carbon stainless steel which can both take and hold a superb edge – ideal for everything from budding and grafting to cutting a bit of string!


Tool Sharpening

Still on the subject of cutting – a sharp tool is so much more efficient than a blunt tool. But sharpening properly is something that takes skill and practice, unless you cheat and get something like this multi-tool sharpener set, also from Harrod Horticultural and just £9.95


Our Books

Finally on the Christmas gift list, can I suggest our books can make a good present. They’re not ‘coffee table’ books full of pretty photographs and precious little else. We try very hard to write practical guides – manuals if you will – that enable you to succeed.

Incidentally, you can always keep the free seeds (value of AT LEAST £6.00) and give the book as a present. See the full range here: Our Books.

Go to Our Books Page

Brussel Sprouts Tip

Keeping on the Christmas theme, I’ll repeat this tip as a lot of people let me know how well it worked for them.

If you’re growing Brussels sprouts, they’ll really benefit from some extra nitrogen applied now. If you unwrapped a sprout you would see there is a huge leaf area and leaves need nitrogen.

I water mine with prilled urea or sulphate of ammonia (1oz per square yard) dissolved in water. If you’re an organic grower, a couple of teaspoons of dried blood sprinkled around the plant will have a similar effect.

Parsnip Tip

Parsnips will happily keep in the ground but if we get a prolonged icy spell, digging them up becomes a problem. Some fleece, double folded if possible or a layer of straw on the top should keep the soil that bit warmer so you can get to them. I do hope we get a at least one cold month this winter, it’ll reduce the slug and snail population for next year.


Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for November

For more hints and tips along with a full jobs guide, check the November Jobs pages

That’s it for November, I hope you’ve found this newsletter useful. The next newsletter will be early December unless something comes up I think worth sending an extra about.

Don’t forget I’m always happy to hear back from you but I’m sorry I can’t reply to everyone or I’d be doing nothing else. If you’ve a growing question, why not ask on our forums.

Good Growing &  Keep Safe



Allotment Garden

Fron Dirion, Clogwyn Melyn,
LL54 6PT


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