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When the Forces for War are Greater than the Forces for Peace   Then the World is in Danger
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Allotment Garden Newsletter

From John Harrison

Allotment Garden Newsletter April 2021

Dear Friend

I hope this newsletter finds you safe and well after a year few of us will forget.

It’s officially spring, the clocks have changed to British Summertime even the weather has changed for the better! You never quite know what’s going to happen with our weather so my general rule is to take advantage whenever you have a chance.

April 2021 is a milestone for me – I’m officially a pensioner now. Definitely one of the ‘old boys’, officially required to complain about young people at every opportunity.

Here in the UK lockdown rules are relaxing. That doesn’t mean things are back to normal, but things are getting better. I think this pandemic has shown us that out on the plot you can put your worries aside for a while whatever is happening out in the world. There’s huge satisfaction in putting a row of potatoes or weeding a bed. A task that you can finish and go in to tea knowing it’s a job well done.

Efficient Traditional Growing

We all look to grow as much as we can with the least effort. Work for work’s sake is pretty pointless. Often growing methods are promoted as being easier and giving better results. Having tried many of those wonder methods, I usually come back to traditional methods that generations of gardeners have proven to work.

The advice in Dig for Victory was aimed at growers who were feeding a family in their precious spare time after a hard, long day at work. They had to be efficient with their time as well as well as scarce resources.

New Methods

New methods – that are often not as new as you might think – often do have a place in the gardener’s bag. Raised beds are a good example of this. I’ve used raised beds on the allotment to raise the soil level as the lower end kept waterlogging. Here I’ve used raised beds as a quick way to create deep soil growing beds on the field plot.

But, and this is the point, if you have a plot of deep well-worked soil raised beds can be counter-productive. There’s a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of raised beds on the web site here.

Mycorrhizal Fungi Innoculants

Some modern developments are, it has to be said, brilliant.

I’d heard some good reports about mycorrhizal fungi innoculants promoting growth but I was very sceptical. So many of these ‘miracle answers’ turn out to be hot air but when I researched it I found it was for real with some good scientific trial data.

So I tried an experiment by using it on a couple of blackcurrants when I planted out five bushes. The two with the fungi were definitely larger and healthier than the other three.

I don’t think it’s of much, if any, benefit with vegetables but I use it whenever I plant a bush or a tree. It’s not expensive, especially when you consider how long a bush or tree will be producing for you.

Crop Protection

Those gardeners of yesteryear would be green with envy at the range of crop protection available to us today. Horticultural fleece that protects against cold snaps and a range of pests is so useful yet inexpensive.

Fleece allows water and air to penetrate, easing water requirements and increasing airflow around the plants. This encourages hardier growth and discourages disease build-up.

To hold it in place they sell special pins that go through the fleece into the ground. This works but does cause a little damage to the material. Holding it down with bricks works but the rough brick often tears the fleece.

I use 2L plastic milk containers as the smooth surface doesn’t tear the fleece. Cut off the top and fill with soil. After a year the plastic degrades so empty the soil out and pop the old containers in the recycling bin.

Fleece can lay flat in wet conditions, making germination difficult. To keep the fleece off fragile seedlings, just put some upturned plant pots under the cover.

When the fleece has served its purpose, take it up on a dry day, fold and store out of direct sunlight, preferably in a bag or box. You should get 5 years life at least this way.

Available from site supporter Harrod Horticultural here

Our Books – Information

I’m happy to say we’ve got stocks of all our titles in and seeds so we’re currently 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

Offers subject to change without notice

Our Books – Click Me!

Free Seeds Offer

Suttons have been very good helping us to offer a range of seeds free with our books for a number of years now. This last year has been difficult but they’ve kept us going, for which I’m very grateful

However, we have to review our offer so please be aware things may change depending on stocks mid-month. I’m pretty sure we’ll have to reduce the number of packets in the wartime collection with Dig for Victory from 5 to 3.


Fairly new on the market and exclusive to Harrod Horticultural is their innovative Popadome system. They are easily deployed at the start of the season and are attractive enough not to look unsightly in any garden.

You can see the range and full information here

Horticultural Supplies

One phrase that I came across frequently researching war-time gardening was ‘if supplies available’. It’s been a bit like that in the pandemic. There’s been a massive increase in demand as people took up growing their own coupled with supply chain difficulties.

Online shops still have to progress orders to customers whilst keeping their staff safe and socially distanced. One warehouse manager told me he can only operate safely with half his normal staff level.

Prices have gone up a bit – although not as far as I expected. Deliveries are taking longer and a lot of things are out of stock. But generally, you can find what you need with a bit of effort.

You can understand why nobody is doing much in the way of promotion and vouchers when they can hardly cope as it is. Fingers crossed things will be different next year.


This is the month to start sweetcorn. I’ve had people say to me about starting them in toilet roll inner tubes and I’ve tried that twice but not found it very successful. What I do is to pre-chit the seeds between damp kitchen roll in a Tupperware type container in a kitchen cupboard. After just a few days they’re sprouting and I pot them up into 3″ pots of multi-purpose compost.

Once they’re showing an inch or so, it’s into the ground but under cloche until all danger of frost has passed. Plant in blocks, 18″ apart each way and give them lots of nitrogen, I use pelleted chicken manure as well. Honestly, it’s never failed for me and I’ve had some of the best sweetcorn on the site.

The biggest mistakes people make with sweetcorn is to plant too closely and not to give them protection in the early days when the weather can chill them.

One year mine were really struggling to get going in cold weather and slightly yellow as well. Yellow leaves are often a sign of nitrogen shortage in plants so I tried giving them a liquid feed by dissolving prilled urea (you could use sulphate of ammonia) in water at a rate of 50g (100g for sulphate of ammonia) in 5 litres of water and giving about a litre per plant. Within days they were a rich green and shooting up.

How to grow sweetcorn

Book Bundle 1 – April Special

Two of our Best Selling titles – Dig for Victory Monthly Guides and The Essential Allotment Guide – both for only £19.99.

Save on buying separately – includes free seeds, free delivery and free replica leaflets.

Full Information & To Buy

Spring Poultry Special – Backgarden Chickens and A Guide to Incubation

Two fantastic books to get you started with back garden poultry. Incubation a Guide to Hatching and Rearing plus Backgarden Chickens & Other Poultry – both for only £12.99 including 6 packs of free seeds.

Full Information & To Buy

Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for April

Hints & Tips in the jobs guide for growing in April

Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for April


I’ve had a number of people ask if I could send out the newsletter weekly. I’m glad they enjoy reading they do take quite a bit of time to put together, so for now I’ll just continue putting out a mid-month extra.

If there’s a topic you’d like to see covered on the web site or in the newsletter, do let me know. I’m always happy to hear back from you but I get a lot of emails and regret I just can’t answer everyone individually.

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.

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

Good Growing and above all, Keep Safe


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