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Tokely's Tales - Andrew Tokely's gardening blog

Tokely's Tales - Andrew Tokely's Monthly Gardening Blog

December 2011

Well, I’m ready for the festive break and so is my allotment. This is the first year I can remember since having an allotment that I’ve finished all my winter digging before December has hardly begun. Despite the soil being on the heavy side, it dug really well and as it was so dry, it didn’t stick to my boots, making digging a pleasure. The whole job of spreading the compost and digging the plot was completed over two weekends with the help of my 11-year old son Louie. I love seeing a freshly turned over plot, all clean, edged up and ready for the new year ahead. It’s already had a few good showers of rain and some hard winter frosts, which will all help the soil breakdown ready for next spring.

I must admit my allotment shed was a mess at the end of the season, but not anymore. As soon as the plot was finished, the tools were cleaned and hung up along with my spare horticultural fleece and net cloches. The chemicals and fertilisers have been sorted and stacked in order on the shelves and the floor swept. At last I know where everything is, but I’m not sure how long it will stay this tidy, once the days get busier on the plot next year.

Pigeons are a real pain on the allotment site, so I have to net most of my brassicas to stop them from having a feast. Unfortunately the brussels sprouts are too tall for netting, so they are sitting in the open. To stop the pigeons from sitting on top of the stalks and having a feed and often at the same time going to the loo all over the edible buttons below, I remove the lower leaves and the sprout tops. This won’t harm the crop, which is ready for harvesting, but it will ensure the sprouts stay clean and unblemished for my dinner.

All the leaves have at last been collected in the garden and the perennial borders lightly forked over and tided for the winter. The other day I moved and transplanted a few established delphiniums that were getting a little crowded. These are now planted amongst my shrubs towards the back of the border and should add some welcome spring and early summer colour.

I am looking forward to the display I will get from the four new rose bushes I have had delivered and added to the front garden. This is the ideal time to plant roses; I added some compost to the planting hole, a little Blood Fish & Bone fertiliser and a sprinkling of rootgrow™, friendly mycorrhizal fungi, to help the bare root plants quickly get established.

As we have already had some cold nights and more to follow soon, I made a point of checking that my heated propagators and electric fan heaters are in good working order in the greenhouse. To save on heating bills I only heat one of my small greenhouses through the winter. It’s packed with geranium cuttings and fuchsia stock plants, ready for taking cuttings from next year. The greenhouse is only kept at around 10C (50F) , but to help preserve heat, I’ve insulated it with bubble plastic and I always hang an old curtain at the door to stop any unnecessary drafts and heat escaping.

With the majority of the garden put to bed for the winter, this gives me time to concentrate on next year’s crops and the first to be sown will be my large exhibition onions. I like to grow Bunton’s Showstopper; these will be sown on Christmas Eve. I sow the seeds in shallow trays filled with multipurpose compost and lightly cover them with vermiculite. These trays are then placed in my heated propagator and should germinate and be ready to prick out (transplant) in January.

One of my final jobs of the year will be lifting and preparing the vegetables for our festive lunch. We will be enjoying home-grown Rooster potatoes, roasted in goose fat, along with parsnips, carrots and brussels sprouts picked fresh from the plot and a few green peas taken from those put in the freezer earlier in the year. With all this and a tasty fresh turkey, I just hope I leave enough room for my pudding.

Happy Gardening!

Andrew Tokely, Head of Horticulture, Thompson & Morgan

Andrew Tokely, digging his allotment

Andrew digging his allotment



Geranium cuttings in the greenhouse

Geranium cuttings in the greenhouse

Exhibition onions - from seed packet...

Exhibition onions - from seed packet...

Exhibition onions - show bench show bench

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