The allotment in December looks very different to the abundant place of a few months ago.
The pickings are a bit sparse, but I’m impressed that such short amounts of daylight and changeable weather, one day murky and wet, the next crisp and frosty, can produce anything at all.
The first sprouts have been picked, snapped off the stem leaving plenty more for later. There are still kale leaves to pick, the leeks are fattening up nicely and there are four winter squashes to be eaten.
Oddly, I have to force myself to pick and use these vegetables, they seem so hard won. I think I want to keep the allotment looking productive, silly really.
I’m so thankful that there isn’t any weeding to do and the grass has stopped growing because there are plenty of other things to do. The shed has holes in it and I’m digging up the raspberries to plant them in pots, they haven’t been healthy (see how some of the leaves are a bit yellow) it’ll also stop them taking over the allotment and turning it all into a giant thicket.
Meanwhile there’s pruning to do:
because fruit bushes have to earn their keep, and if they aren’t pruned they don’t produce as much fruit.
The blackcurrant bush has been pruned to make a more open, less crowded shape. No tip pruning here, just cut a few stems back to the base to let the air circulate through the plant and more light in.
- Younger wood produces the best fruit, so it’s best to cut out older wood, it’s easy to detect because it’s much darker than newer stems.
- It’s also a good idea to cut back any stems that cross over to stop them rubbing together and damaging each other.
- I also cut back lower horizontal stems to make a more upright shape.
- Up to a third of stems can be cut out of mature bushes.
Autumn fruiting raspberries can be cut back to ground level during late winter.
Gooseberries are pruned in late winter by choosing 8-10 strong shoots that are shortened by about a quarter, the remaining stems are cut right back so only 4 buds are left.
All these fruit bushes will be grateful for a thick layer of mulch ( i.e. compost or well-rotted horse-manure) around their base keeping it clear of the stem.
Can I persuade you to plant some fruit bushes, they’re sustainable, easy to look after and most will grow in some shade.
Nurture the soil keeping it rich an fertile, after-all it’s the engine room of the allotment. It’s the perfect time to replenish it, add a generous layer of well-rotted horse manure, home-made compost or a mix of all of them. There’s no need to dig it in, just cover the bare soil and the crops will be even better next year.