Across the site we have a wealth of knowledge and experience. We will be posting advice here collated from our plot holders and the wider allotment and gardening community for the benefit of everyone.


The other day I was asked about rodents nesting in compost heaps and below woodpiles, and what could be done to deter them. I shared a few points I had learned from talking to other plot holders:

• Make your presence known on the plot. If a rat thinks that humans are around, they are less likely to take up residence on your plot.

• Don’t keep food or food on the plot or put food waste into the compost heap / bin.

• Keep you seeds in a container that the rodents can’t get into.

• Secure your shed so they can’t get in.

• And make sure the plot hasn’t got places the rodents can make themselves at home. Wood piles etc.

The National Allotment Society has created a document on the subject and I have copied the link below.

If you haven't looked at the NAS site recently they have some really useful resources.


Simon, ARDAA Secretary

August Hints & Tips

July has been a month of warm rain somewhat different to June which was dry and hot. It seems no one really knows what challenges us allotmenteers will have to deal with so best to stick to the books to see what we should all be doing this month.

August is the month of plenty and we can see that by the facebook posts by our members. Posting what they have produced over the months creating Jams, pickles and chutneys, and preparing produce for their freezers.

August, I understand, is the last chance to sow carrots, Swiss Chard and Turnips for this year along with spring cabbage. Pumpkins need to be fed if you want them to be large enough for Halloween.

August is also the month to transplant winter and spring cauliflowers. Variety Tirza F1 can be sown up to and including October. If they over winter successfully they should give you a harvest in the new year January onward.

If your’e into chicory continue sowing sugarloaf or radicchio seed as they are hardy enough to last well into the autumn.

It’s still possible to sow Lettuce, though they may not geminate if the weather is too hot. For late autumn and winter salads, continue to sow rocket. Land cress corn salad and winter purslane.

Japanese onions I have read are specially bred, hardy varieties able to withstand most winters. Sow seed now, in drills marked with a string to remind you where you have put them. In spring they will emerge whereby you can thin them out. King seeds 2023-2024 Catalogue page 39 has two varieties, Keepwell and Senshyu Yellow.

Some varieties of Winter Hardy spring onions; Endive; Pak Choi; Radish; Sorrel and Spinach can also be sown this month.

Plant new strawberry plants either from the garden centre or when the runners from your strawberries have started to root. It is recommended that you plant new ones where strawberries have not been grown before in the last three years. Replace old plants for a better crop.

Dry out garlic, onions and shallots so that they can be stored for the winter. Check potatoes and tomatoes for blight and spray them in warm humid weather.

Weed growth should slow down in August if we have dry hot weather so hoeing should keep the weeds at bay. Water regularly to promote normal growth and prevent plants from bolting prematurely.

Spread well-rotted mulch if you have any left or wood chip to suppress the weeds and keep the moisture in the soil.

Pinch out tomatoes once four or five trusses have formed and remove any side shoots. Top out runner beans when they reach the top of the poles or canes this will stop them from becoming top heavy and encourage growth at the bottom of plants.

Continue to earth-up potatoes and celery if they are not self-blanching and support brassicas such as Brussel sprouts

Now is the time to prune gooseberries, currant bushes, fruiting raspberries and wire trained fruit trees.

Pests are abundant this time of year ranging from carrot fly, black fly, and caterpillars along with fruit rot so inspect your fruit and vegetables regularly. If apples suffer from bitter pit - Bitter pit is a common disorder that causes dark spots on apples late in the season or in storage. This condition is related to lack of calcium in fruit and is often as a result of dry soil conditions, water and spray the trees with calcium titrate solution.

Pheromone traps in apple, pear and plum trees can be used to attract codling moth - The caterpillars bore into fruit and stop it from growing, which leads to premature ripening, while cherries, apricot and peach trees can be treated with a copper-based fungicide to treat bacterial canker.


Richard Cox, ARDAA Secretary

July Hints & Tips

Well June has been some month for dry and hot weather and who knows what’s in stall for us this month. It’s the height of summer already. Days are long, temperatures could be higher than we have already experienced but all being well you are already harvesting something delicious from your plot. July is always a dry month so steady unbroken watering is crucial. Interruptions to your watering regime could cause fruits not to form, skins splitting and premature bolting.

Spreading mulches at this time would conserve water from any rain we might be fortunate to have. So why not indulge in spreading mulch around your crops in the next few weeks.

The top tasks for this month are harvesting French and Runner beans, courgettes, carrots, beetroot, onions, shallots, new potatoes and summer salads. Ensure you pick your spinach and water them regularly or they may well bolt. Pick cherries, and your soft fruit and pull the last rhubarb early this month but let the plant grow on so that it’s in good shape for winter.

Direct sow into your prepared soil beetroot, Florence fennel, French beans so that you extend the picking season and peas. This will be the last month for sowing the latter.

Other seed to be sown this month include Turnip, Swiss chard, Sprouting broccoli, Kohl rabi and carrots. There are also the salads that can be sown

Plant out your cabbage seedlings, cauliflowers, Brussel sprouts, broccoli and kale for autumn and winter harvesting. Finish transplanting or dibbing in leeks raised in seed trays or pots. Continue to feed your tomatoes and ensure you pinch out sideshoots if the plants are not bush tomatoes. Fruit on trees like apples and pears should be thinned out if it looks like your’e going to have a bumper crop and the drop season didn’t do its job.

July is early for Aubergines but if you have started them off in early spring you may be lucky enough to get your first in the year. This may also apply to chillies and peppers.

Maintenance jobs are never ending so weed regularly and net against birds, pinch out the tops of climbing beans when they reach the top of the canes and spray the flowers with water as it will deter the flowers from falling and encourages pods forming.

Cover heads of your cauliflowers by turning the leaves over them and earth up brassicas like Brussel sprouts and potatoes and give them a shot of fertilizer.

Tidy up summer strawberries, summer prune gooseberries, red and whitecurrent bushes and prune out old raspberry canes down to the root as soon as you have finished harvesting the fruit from those canes. Tie in this years new green canes in their place.

Prune cherry and plum trees once you have picked the fruit. Remember, these trees are pruned in the summer not the winter.

And last but not least check your plants for pests.

When you have completed these tasks, sit back, relax with a nice bottle of what you fancy and reflect upon how well your plot has provided for you thus far. Dream about the produce that didn’t perform as you expected and think about what you will do next year.


The Buzz Club

Pollinators are so important to us all - not only allotmenteers.

"The Buzz Club is a citizen-science charity consisting of scientists and non-scientists, adults and children, all working together to find out more about our garden wildlife, and what we can best do to help them! The Buzz Club was founded in 2015, with the aim of harnessing the power of citizen science to generate important data on pollinators."

More information at

June Hints & Tips

Well June is here and it’s the turning point of the year. With spring now in recession and as the summer begins it will be the last chance to sow seeds of runner beans or main crop carrots. This is the month where one starts to sees the fruits of one’s labour come to life.

If you’re lucky enough, one can harvest your first crop of potatoes, beetroot, onions, spinach, strawberries cherries and gooseberries this month but as we know April and May have not been so friendly with the weather so it might be a bit later on in the month where you can harvest these wares.

Cutting Asparagus continues until 21st June but a little longer is acceptable if you still have tender spears available. If you have planted new crowns this year then you should not harvest any spears, leave them until next year and only then harvest about 30% of the spears on each crown. Year three is the year one can gain the full benefit of your investment. Early crops of broad beans can be harvested along with garlic. Garlic can be pulled and used straight away when green or left until the leaves turn yellow. Leaving garlic in the ground, cutting the seed heads off and cooking them also adds to a delicious meal.

Jobs for this month include sowing seeds for vegetable such as salad leaves and herbs. One can plant out tender seedlings with confidence now that the frost has passed. Plant out Brussels sprouts and cabbages, cauliflower seedlings sown in spring and celeriac. Celery should be planted in rich fertile soil in particular a special celery trench containing manure or compost. Plant out any remaining outdoor tomatoes and stake them.

Continue to sow beetroot, sow late broccoli and if you don’t already have courgettes, squashes, pumpkin and marrow plants raised in pots you can now sow the seeds directly in the ground, two seeds together. Once germinated remove the weaker of the two. Outdoor cucumber is usually started off earlier in the year in pots under cover but you can sow seeds outside this month.

Sow a second wave of French beans to follow those that were sown outside last month and Swiss chard.

Aubergines are best grown in pots. They require high heat and humidity so in a greenhouse is your best shot at these. Stake them when the first fruit appears

Peppers and chillies need a long growing season in order to ripen fully and thus should have been raised initially indoors. Harden off the seedlings by planting them out into pots and placing them in your green house or keep them indoors. Feed them every two weeks with general fertilizer or liquid tomato feed.

With fruit bushes and trees this month’s jobs include removing Raspberry suckers, tying in blackberry bushes. Thin out apples and pears, “the June drop” will happen at the end of the month but you may wish to thin out more. Plums and damsons may also need thinning out once at the beginning of the month and again at the end. Leave 1 inch between individual fruit. Prune established fig trees this month by pinching out the tips of new shoots so that they each have only five leaves left.

Those of you that are lucky enough to have grape vines should also prune side shoots and thin outdoor fruit for eating so that the remaining bunches can ripen easily and grow to a good size.

Unfortunately, snails, slugs and other such creatures all adding to our biodiversity are chomping away at our vegetables and destroying the hard work we have put into keeping our allotments in good order. So, you need to be tirelessly vigilant to keep these critters to a manageable level or your hard work would have been for nought. Net cabbage, peas and fruit bushes against birds.

Weeding is one of those top priorities to keep your plot in tip top condition and weeding will also improve the growth on your crops by reducing competition of nutrients and light. Water regularly especially in dry spells.

May Hints & Tips

Days are longer, temperatures are higher and we begin to see the summer emerge. There are a hundred and one things to do on your plot, too many to mention in this small piece but here are a few hints and tips to be getting on with.

Thankfully after a gradual start growing your seeds in the green house or your windowsill, we can start to think about planting our plants outdoors in earnest. Before transplanting your young plants gradually acclimatize tender plants raised indoors to conditions outside. If you have a cold frame, put your plants in the cold frame, open the cold frame up during the day and close it at night. If you don’t have access to a cold frame then put the plants outside during the day and bring them in at night. Transplant your tender seedlings only when the last chance of frost has gone.

May can sometimes be deceptive because according to the UK frost chart, frosts can still arrive in our area without warning up until early to Mid-May, so keep your eye on the weather, if you can plant out under cloches, or tunnels, fleece up tender plants if they are grown outside, in a green house or a polytunnel.

Even in a mild spring seed that are sown in the ground may not germinate because the soil is too wet and cold and of course we have the voracious night-time attack from slugs and snails on those seedlings that pop their heads up through the soil. And then there are the weeds, Birds, aphids, flea beetles, butterflies, moths and innumerable other forms of wildlife, yet we still, against all the odds are likely to be harvesting our crops which we all enjoy so much.

In our eagerness to get started it is better to bear in mind that staggering the whole seed planting process is the best option. “Succession Sowing” a small batch of seeds every two or three weeks will maximise your chances of success and spread out your harvest rewards.

So lets talk about where to grow your plants and seedlings in terms of crop rotation. Most of our Tenants have large enough plots to carry out a long-term crop rotation plan which means that it will be five years before any one crop grows in the same place again. The idea is that crops of the same families tend to attract the same diseases and use the same soil nutrients. Insects that attack a certain variety of crops will be thrown off when you move your crops. Pests will lay their eggs in the soil and stick around as long as their food source, or a similar one, remains. If you can prevent these pests from feeding, you can manage their population.

Crop rotation can also deal with soil diseases. If you have crops in the same area year after year, soil diseases can build up and when you place the same type of crops in the same soil year after year, your soil richness gradually worsens as these plants repeatedly deplete the nutrients. Besides balancing out the nutrients in your soil, alternating between crops can also improve soil aeration, especially as you switch between long- and short-rooted plants. Varying root depths can help your soil from getting too compact, which can impact your plant as it tries and fails to uptake nutrients and water.

Rotating your crops can be beneficial for the environment because you’ll spend fewer resources in the long run to manage plants that fall prey to pests and diseases. You won’t have to use as many pesticides to keep diseases in check. Plus, you won’t need to increase fertilizer usage to enrich your soil, which can emit greenhouse gases and lead to excess nutrients in waterways that damage aquatic life.

So, if you can rotate your crops to the scheme below you should be able to benefit greatly from your plan

Year 1 grow brassicas Year 2 peas and beans Year 3 potatoes and fruiting vegetables Year 4 onion family Year 5 root and stem vegetables.

It is not critical to rotate vegetables such as courgettes, squashes or leaves such as lettuce spinach or other salads that can for example be slotted in as part of a crop rotation plan.

Further tasks for May include:-

Water the seed sown regularly and generously as May can be a surprisingly dry month.

Keep on top of the weeds as they will be in competition with your plants for water and nutrients. Bear in mind that weeds grow just as vigorously as your seed. Using a hoe is the least backbreaking way to weeding and best carried out in the dry, warm days. The Sun will dry out and kill the up ended weeds.

Ruthlessly thin out seedlings and prune out less vigorous raspberry shoots to allow in light and air.

It is also time to earth up potato plants and support broad beans to prevent heavy laden plants from falling over.

Put in supports for your peas and start to put in canes for your climbing beans.

May is a great month for seeing all your previous efforts come to fruition so keep up your enthusiasm and hard work in the upkeep of your plot.

April Hints & Tips - Perennial Vegetable

I thought this month I would research and write about something different and something not talked about much at all, that is perennial Vegetables. These perennials of course include the likes of Asparagus, some herbs and Rhubarb but the plants below I think you will find are just as exotic.

There are many perennial vegetables which are hardy and that reproduce themselves each year and in some cases, can be harvested throughout the year, counteracting the “dead zone”. That is to say those months where it is too cold for growing. So, let’s look at a number of the perennial Greens, a salad leaf and an onion and see what to expect when growing them.


Sea Kale (Crambe maritima):- is a hardy herbaceous perennial that has thick waxy leaves. It can be found on southern shores in the UK. It has edible shoots, leaves, honey-scented flowers and seed pods. It is Hardy to about -28°C. It is tolerant to most soils but is prone to stem/root rot in clay. It lives for many years in well-drained soils and is tolerant to drought and shade but prefers a sunny spot. For the production of blanched shoots that one can eat, one can place upturned buckets over the plant for about a month or two when the first signs of new shoots are seen in late winter. The long blanched shoots can be removed when they are to your liking. For blanched shoots earlier in the year plants need to be dug-up in late autumn, potted up and placed in a cool dark room (59-70 degrees F) to sprout pale shoots over winter.

Daubenton Kale:- is a perennial kale that forms an attractive shrub of mild and nutty flavoured leaves. The outer leaves tend to spread horizontally at first and often root where they touch the ground. The plant is propagated by cuttings and the clumps formed can live for many years. It likes full sun, in rich, heavy soil with a Ph above 6. Allow the leaves to drop down to the ground and root to increase the lifespan of the plant. Pick the leaves from the plant once established. Harvesting can continue throughout the winter if growth continues. One plant will probably be sufficient to feed two people during the warmer months of the year but two plants enable the plants to be harvested in the winter months when the leaves are smaller and regrowth is slower.

Nine Star Broccoli :- produces multiple white broccoli sprouts, some large, for several years in a row. To maintain the plant production, it is important to feed the plant well and remove all the sprouts before they flower. The plants are hardy at about -10°C and likes well drained alkaline soil in full sun. Well grown plants will produce a large central cauliflower-like head and several smaller heads about 4-11 heads per year. The leaves have a good flavour as well. The plants can be propagated from seed as well as from non-flowering side shoot cuttings taken during spring to Autumn. Available Kingseeds

Nine Star Broccoli

Good King Henry (blitum bonus-henricus):- this herbaceous perennial has been used as a green vegetable for centuries. It is hardy down to -20°C and will grow in a wide range of well-drained soils with pH 6.1-7.8. It is best grown in sheltered spots in part shade to full sun. One plant will supply sufficient vegetables for two persons by picking young leaves from early spring to mid summer. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked boiled or steamed. If the leaves are excessively bitter they can be soaked in salty water for about 30 minutes. Chopping the plant low to the ground in summer will produce new tender leaves that will extend the cropping duration. Pick unopened flowering shoots from mid spring to early summer and cook like asparagus. In late Autumn the plant will die back to nothing but will remerge in early spring. Available Kingseeds and Agroforestry Research Trust

Sea beet, (Beta vulgaris maritima) is the wild relative of sugar beet. It is a perennial leafy vegetable with a strong but appetising spinach-like taste. It is hardy down to -20°C and in Britain lasts for approximately five years. The best results for growing are in deep, open, well drained soils with plenty of organic matter and will also tolerate a slightly alkaline soil. A sunny location is required for this plant. The leaves can become bitter in late summer but this can be rectified by chopping down the plant to ground level in Mid-July so that new growth can begin. The leaves can be picked all year round. When the plant is flowering pick out the flowering stems to divert the nutrient to the leaves. Two mature plants will be sufficient for one person even in wither time when the leaves are smaller. Propagation is mostly achieved by sowing seeds. Cuttings are harder to propagate but layering is the most successful way of achieving this. Available Agroforestry Research Trust

Sea beet


Garden Sorrel ( Rumex acetosa) is a herbaceous perennial hardy evergreen. It is a very useful strong growing vegetable providing leaves with a pleasantly sharp, sour taste throughout the year. “Belleville “ and “Blond de Lyon” are varieties which have large juicy leaves and are less prone to run to seed and Profusion gives better year-round use. Rumex acetosa sometimes called French Sorrel is considered to have a finer flavour and is popular in French cuisine. Sorrel is hardy to about -40°C and is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions including very acid soils, that is pH below 7.0. The plants need fairly moist, rich soil and plenty of sun although it will also grow in semi-shade. Sorrel is not eaten in great quantities as it is quite sour due to high levels of oxalic acid which is not recommended for those who suffer from kidney stones or other ailments requiring a low oxalate diet. One plant per person will supply plenty of leaves in the summer but it’s worth growing two per person if harvesting through the winter months. Propagation starts in spring and can be sown where it is grown. Mail and female plants are required in order to harvest one’s own seeds; however, a clump of Sorrell can be dug up and divided into sections with each section bearing roots and buds. These sections will grow most quickly in spring Available Agroforestry Research Trust

Garden Sorrel


Babington leeks (Allium ampeloprasum babingtonii) or Allium ampeloprasum bulbiferum and other varieties is a garlicky leak flavoured onion. The whole plant including its bulb and offsets (bulblets) are edible. This vegetable is hardy -20°C and grows well in a wide range of soils including clay but does less well in gravely soils. It will grow in semi-shade to full sun and is tolerant of winds. Bulbs can be planted at any time of year about 20cm apart and 5.7,5com deep. These plants should not be harvested in the first year but in subsequent years the leeks can be cut off at the base just above the underground bulb, in the spring. Shoots will emerge in late winter or early spring. Flower stalks don’t usually appear in the first year after planting but in subsequent years they appear in late spring/early summer and produce a head of bulbils with a few sterile flowers. These die back in late summer and the leek is then dormant until the following year. The bulblets on the dead flower stalk may break off and fall onto the soil from which roots will appear. In autumn winter the rooted bulblets are pulled underground before they then sprout and form new leeks. In later years when the clumps of leeks have developed the whole clump can be dug up and the fattest leeks can be used in the kitchen with the slenderer ones being replanted 20 cm apart. In summer unripe bulblets from the flower head can be used in salads and casseroles. In late summer the bulblets in the ground can be harvested. The bulblets attached can be replanted as replacements.

Further information of these and other perennial vegetables can be found on sites like

Perennials; seeds – Page 3 – The Agroforestry Research Trust

20 Perennial Vegetables To Plant Once For Years Of Food | Small Footprint Family™

Richard Cox 

March Hints & Tips

March heralds spring and by this time many of you have already started your crops either in a greenhouse or polytunnel. Those of you that don’t have the luxury of a green house may have started off your crops in a sunny position on a window sill. If you start off your plants in this way you could use a white board behind the plants so that they get light from both sides and not just at the front. Windows provide less light than you may think, so aim to move the plants outside as soon as possible and avoid sowing seeds too early so that the seedlings don’t have to stay on the windowsill for long periods. The seeds you may have started off in this way may be Brussel sprouts, leeks, onions, summer cabbages and cauliflower. If they are large enough it might, weather permitting, be time to harden them off in a cold frame before transplanting them in in your plot.

Ideally Greenhouse, or indoor sowing can progress with the likes of aubergines, beetroot, celeriac, celery, peppers and chillies, tomatoes and tender herbs.

As winter begins to retreat, planting outdoors can start as long as the ground has some warmth in it and not waterlogged. You have by now added organics to your beds and tested the Ph of your soil. seed potatoes that you have chitted, broad Beans, early carrots, lettuce, onions parsnips, peas, radishes, rocket, spinach, spring onions, turnips can all be sown where they are to grow. However, if the frost bites and the winds are a problem then the areas sown must either be fleeced or covered with cloches. Other seeds must still be sown indoors, under the protection of the greenhouse or polytunnel.

The top tasks for March would be preparing beds for sowing and planting out if you haven’t already done so by removing weeds that have survived over winter, rake the soil and apply some fertilizer or organics.

Harvest the first rhubarb of the year if you have any and remove any remaining Brussel sprouts, celeriac, parsnips and swedes.

It will be your last chance for planting new bare root apples pear trees, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberry and current bushes April will be too late, and only container grown plants will get established and fruit.

My allotment calendar tells me that it is possible to grow asparagus from seed starting in March. However, it is much easier to buy ready to plant rootstock and plant them out in April.

Vegetables that have overwintered like onions, kale, spring cabbages and cauliflowers may look worse for wear but by feeding them up with a top dressing of fish, blood and bone meal, chicken manure or seaweed based organics will pep them up no end.

If it’s not too wet, it’s a good time to make runner bean or celery trenches 2-3 ft wide and 1 foot deep and fill them with compost as they need good rich fertile soil.

Feed trees with a high potash fertilizer or fish, blood and bone meal, chicken manure or seaweed based organics or a layer of good old farmyard manure.

Protect your crops from March pests and diseases which include slugs and snails, pigeons, cabbage caterpillars can appear at this time of year, Fruit aphids can also be a problem.

Start to spray apples against scab, check for big bud mite on blackcurrants and don’t spray any fruit trees or bushes when they are in blossom.

Cabbages are one of my favourite vegetables and according to my research there are four types, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter and now is the time to sow Summer and Autumn Cabbage.

All four groups are grown in the same way but sowing times vary; Red cabbages need early spring sowing as they are slow growers. The seeds can be planted directly into the soils but in my view the best way to plant the seeds is either in seed trays or place two seeds in a modules. Once the seedlings are at a good size prick out the weaker plant. Planting out the summer and Autumn cabbages would be May to June.

Winter cabbages is the last thing you have on your mind but they should be sown in May to June and planted out June to July. Spring cabbage sowing is in June to August with planting out being in October to November.

The best sites are sunny locations with soils of a Ph of 6 - 7.5. Avoid Acid Soils. If the Ph is too low you may have to apply some lime which will in addition help to deter clubroot. Before planting or sowing Summer or Autumn cabbages apply a general fertilizer at the manufacturers recommended dose. Allow 30-45cm 12-18in between pants and rows depending on the size of the variety.

Cabbages are robust plants needing little water. However, in prolonged dry spells thoroughly soak the plants every 10 days. When hearts begin to form, generous watering will greatly improve the size of head.

Protecting your crop is very important and rotating your crop will help in preventing pests and diseases. In rotation cycles, cabbages and brassicas in general could follow beans and onions. Brassicas also benefit from the extra nitrogen peas and beans add to the soil.

Pests as we know are caterpillars, the cabbage root fly and pigeons. In order to protect your bed’s it is recommended to cover the bed with insect proof netting prior to planting out the seedlings.

Well that’s all from me this month and I hope you enjoy these hints and tips. I look forward to meeting you all on site over the next few months.

February Hints & Tips

February weather can swing from one extreme to another, grey and overcast, persistent rain and even snow and with our ever-increasing climate crisis who knows what will come next. Whatever the conditions, there is a limit to what one can do usefully in the allotment. Providing the ground is not frozen, and if one is into digging one can complete the task and improve the structure and composition of your soil by incorporating as much manure or compost as one can. Either dig or leave it on top of the surface for it to be dragged down underground by earthworms.

As long as the soil is not waterlogged or frozen, February is a good time to take a look at your soil and see if it needs any attention before the growing season begins.

So, what sort of questions are necessary to ask about one’s soil? These questions include what type of soil do I have, heavy or light, in our allotment it is mainly light, and, what chemistry is it acid, alkaline or neutral – this is the Ph of a soil. Whatever the answer is one can make it fertile and well-structured all ready for a great growing season.

So, let’s look at Ph

Soil pH is the measure of acidity (sourness) or alkalinity (sweetness) of a soil. The pH scale goes from 0.0 to 14.0. The most acid soil is 0.0 and the most alkaline is 14.0. Halfway along the scale, 7.0, is neutral, neither acid nor alkaline. A soil gets more acid as the pH values decrease from 7.0 to 0.0 and is more alkaline as pH values increase from 7.0 to 14.0.

Soil pH can affect plant growth in several ways. Bacteria that change and release nitrogen from organic matter and some fertilizers operate best in the pH range of 5.5 to 7.0 making this the optimum pH range. Plant nutrients leach from the soil much faster at pH values below 5.5 than from soils within the 5.5 to 7.0 range. PH is not an indication of fertility, but it does affect the availability of fertilizer nutrients. The soil may contain adequate nutrients yet plant health may be limited by an unfavourable pH level.

Although the optimum range is 5.5 to 7.0 some plants will grow in a more acid soil and some at a more alkaline level. Vegetables grow best in a slightly acid soil with a PH of 6.5 although pH 7-7.5 helps to reduce club root diseases in the cabbage family

To correct the pH of or “sweeten” an acid soil (5.5 to 0.0) use lime or dolomite. Lime contains mainly calcium carbonate and dolomite contains both calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. Ground limestone and dolomite are less likely to burn plant roots than hydrated lime and is therefore recommended for home use. The greater the amount of organic matter or clay in a soil, the more lime or dolomite required to change a pH level. The best results will be achieved if you incorporate the lime uniformly at least six inches into the soil.

If soil is too alkaline you should determine if it is due to the soil characteristics or an over dose of lime at some stage. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to change appreciably the pH of naturally alkaline soils however you might be able to by using sulphur, ammonium sulphate, or a similar acid forming material. If this high pH is due to applied lime or dolomite, acid forming materials like sulphur or ammonium sulphate can also be applied. To decrease the soil pH, use superfine dusting or water-soluble sulphur. Repeat applications of sulphur should not be made more often than once every two months because soil sulphur oxidizes and mixes with water to form a strong acid that can burn the plant roots — so use it with caution.

A pH soil test will tell you whether your soil is within the optimum range or whether it will need to be treated to adjust the pH level. These acid testing kits can be purchased quite cheaply typically £10-£20 on the internet and come in two types of testing. There is the chemical-based tests or the electronic testing devices. The latter contain one or two electronic probes that may not only measure Ph but temperature of the soil and water content.

Depending upon what one wants to grow one needs to ensure the soil has the correct Ph and I have listed a number of plants below that relate to Ph. Acidic plants tend to need a soil pH of around 5.5. Some acid lovers may do well all the way down to a pH of 4.5. The lower pH of 4.5 to 5.5 allows the acid loving plants to better absorb the nutrients from the soil. Slightly acidic soil improves nutrient access!

Generally speaking, soil with a pH below 7 is considered acidic. For soil that is too alkaline, plants may have a hard time absorbing nutrient. This ultimately may result in poor growth or less than optimal growth.

Depending on the pH and a plant’s soil requirements, plants may develop a nutrient deficiency as well.

Types of test methodologies

Here are some acid loving plants that need optimal levels of Ph below 7 although some as you can see are alkaline tolerant with a Ph value just above 7 :-

  • Asparagus– Alkaline Tolerant
  • Beans-Pole – Alkaline Tolerant
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli – Alkaline Tolerant - Best pH 6.5-7.5
  • Brussel Spout – Alkaline Tolerant – Best pH 6-7.5
  • Cabbage– Alkaline Tolerant – Best pH 6-7.5
  • Carrots – Alkaline Tolerant
  • Cauliflower– Alkaline Tolerant– Best pH 6-7.5
  • Cranberries
  • Currants
  • Cucumber – Alkaline Tolerant
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic– Alkaline Tolerant
  • Gooseberries
  • Gourds
  • Kale – Alkaline Tolerant
  • Lettice– Alkaline Tolerant
  • Marigolds
  • Nasturtiums
  • Parsley
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Raspberry
  • Rhubarb
  • Roses
  • Shallots
  • Spinach– Alkaline Tolerant
  • Swiss Chard– Alkaline Tolerant
  • Squash
  • Strawberries
  • Turnip – Alkaline Tolerant

Alkaline Loving Plants

  • Fennel
  • Thyme
  • Arugula
  • Marjoram
  • Celery
  • Oregano
  • Bay Laurel
  • Lavender
  • Lily of the Valley

January Hints & Tips

Hi everyone,

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year and hope you all had a great festival together with your loved ones.

I’m sure like me you are all keen and eager to set to and get ready for a bumper year of fresh fruit and vegetables but I guess only the mildest days might draw some of the members out into their plots this time of year as one tends to sit in a cosy room watching the weather roll by.

However, this time in your warm environs may not be lost on your hobby as one can order one’s seeds. This might not be necessary for some as all the allotment Kingseeds catalogue orders have been sent out and received, but none the less, it might be an ideal time to review what you have ordered to see if you have missed anything. For example, what about buying your shallots and onions sets ready for planting in February and March? If you have a heated propagator it’s not too early to start some of your seeds off in the propagator or the window sill.

To give leeks the longest possible growing season, sow seeds in modules filled with fresh potting compost and start them off at a temperature of at least 10 °C.

If you have been able to source your early seed potatoes you can now lay them out to chit in a cool and light place. Early cropping peas can be sown in pots, guttering or modules as long as they are kept indoors until you can harden them off outside.

However, those members that are more adventurous with outdoor activities may wish to undertake the task of checking for damage on your plot due to bad weather and conveniently I would like to highlight Rule 9 of the Tenancy Agreement: “ Members, even not on site, have a duty of care to everyone, including visitors, trespassers and themselves and must comply with the Associations Health & Safety Policy”, I could go on preaching chapter and verse on this but I will let you revise these rules on your own. However, it’s important to say that any items that can become detached from a structure or indeed falling down must be secured.

Harvesting winter hardy vegetable is still not too late if you’re lucky enough to have some on your plot. Throughout the coldest months make sure you protect the heads of your cauliflowers.

You can still prune apples, pear trees, gooseberry, currant and vines and plant new Rhubarb sets or divide old crowns. However, as you know our plots are subject to flooding so bear that in mind.

Having carried out a plot inspection in December I notice that some trees in our plots are getting too high and I take this opportunity to highlight Rule 8.1 of the Tenancy Agreement. “Members must not, without written consent of the Committee, cut or prune any tree on an external boundary, or outside their own plot. Members must not plant any tree other than a fruit tree and will contain the tree(s) within 3 metres (10Ft) in height. Self-seeding trees must be removed by the Tenant” So let’s set too and take this last opportunity to prune the trees for the coming season before its too late.


If the ground is not frozen you can plant out broad beans but be wary of those rats, they will devour them without a thought to your hard work! You will know from the workshop undertaken by Julia that turning one’s compost heap regularly will assist in reducing the vermin on site.

It’s now too late to do any digging because as you all know our site water table is high and many areas on site may well be flooded. In my December Hints Tips supplement, I wrote about soils and that nutrients are leached from the soil. So, protection may be necessary in order to prevent this action taking place and wasting the nutrients and the enrichments you have added to your soil. Coverings can be green manure, plastic or cardboard…but never carpet. Another rule on this site.

Raised beds are an excellent method in reducing water leaching of nutrients. So, let’s have a look at the advantages there are for raised beds.

The RHS says raised beds are a great way of growing a wide range of plants. They are good at boosting drainage and can also be used to introduce different types of soils, soils that can be matched to plants. So next month I will research Ph and let you know my findings. Raised beds can also increase soil temperature due to better drainage and are easily maintained because they are not as overwhelming as looking at the whole plot when the weeds are at their best. Targeting the introduction of soil enrichments is also made easier using the raised bed method.

The RHS web page highlights the fact that raised beds are also good for those that have restricted mobility.

The best time for building raised beds is in the winter time as long as the soil is not waterlogged.

However, as we know materials for these raised beds does not come cheap so if you want to include raised beds look out for recycled timber or cut willow but small scale projects might be accomplished using ready- made kits.

If you would like more information on raised beds then look no further then the RHS webpage RHS.Org.UK.

Please keep in touch by looking on the Associations Webpage/Facebook and Notice boards On-site for information about the Association.

Here’s wishing you a good year for growing your Fruit and Veg.