January in the Allotment Garden

January in the Allotment Garden - pruning raspberries and tidying the strawberry patch
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Could we be having a False Spring?

It’s not every January that you can spend a comfortable five hours working outside. On the tail-end of my asking about Climate Change in the Garden I’m astonished that we’re having even more unseasonably warm weather. At least for the first month of the year. Today seemed more like March with a temperature of 10°C/50°F and I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Off to the allotment I went to continue the work I started a few days ago.

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January in the Allotment Garden - pruning raspberries and tidying the strawberry patch

Tidying the Strawberry Bed

One thing I really wanted to finish today was tidying the strawberry bed. When I went on holiday last summer the plants in this bed went mental with runners. Thanks to those six weeks there’s baby strawberry plants all over the place, most notably in the pathways. Until today the bed itself was a thatch of leaves and runners but is now looking a whole lot better. Each plant has been trimmed of runners and the soil around it weeded. I’ve even planted a new row of baby strawberry plants.

I’ll be mulching this bed again with straw in spring but not before I give it a top dressing of manure.  The plants will love that boost of nutrients and the straw will keep the bed weed-free and the soil moist.

January in the Allotment Garden - pruning raspberries and tidying the strawberry patch

Digging and even more tidying

I’ve also cleared the top corner of my plot and raked up all of the fallen leaves and debris. It looks a lot more like a building site than a garden at the moment but every now and again I see a swelling bud or green leaf. Where many gardens across the northern hemisphere are under snow, the Isle of Man seems ready to get on with spring. I even spotted a lone flower on a blueberry bush today!

The area around my little pond is also weeded and replanted with plants from around the plot. In this area I’ve move a couple of gooseberry bushes, extra strawberry plants, and a lone Borage plant I found growing along the side. The pond itself is in dire need of cleaning and a new lining — it has a leak somewhere and isn’t filling like it should.

January in the Allotment Garden - pruning raspberries and tidying the strawberry patch

Pruned raspberry canes

Pruning Raspberries

A row of autumn-fruiting raspberries grows along the top of the allotment garden. They’re a mix of long red ‘Joan’ raspberries and a buttery yellow type. Both fruit on new wood so cutting them down every winter is a must. Saying that, you can always leave a few older canes since they’ll fruit on those too — not as prolifically but they will be earlier than the rest of the crop. I don’t bother since the plot just below me is vacant and full of summer raspberries.

January in the Allotment Garden - pruning raspberries and tidying the strawberry patch

Oca, also called the New Zealand Yam

I’ve failed again at Oca

I pride myself in being able to grow most things. Oca, also called the New Zealand Yam, has beat me two years in a row though. I thought they were doing so well too! All summer long they’ve been growing their lush wood-sorrel like leaves and then in the autumn their tubers swell. They look like a weird potato and these south american tubers taste like them too — actually more like a cross between a potato and lemon. Or maybe potato and rhubarb.

I was so excited to dig them up last week after another gardener shared a photo of their harvest. From my seven-ish plants I pretty much got what you see in the photo above. Maybe double that amount but still miniscule. I’ve learned since that the other gardener had them growing in the poorest and most sandy part of her garden. I’m going to try again this year and make sure they’re not spoiled with too much compost.

January in the Allotment Garden - pruning raspberries and tidying the strawberry patch

My friend the Robin

It was quiet at the allotment and only one other member was there the whole time. I love days like that though — having the entire field to myself and the little robin that follows me around. He’s a round little thing and waits patiently for me to turn over the soil. He eyes up the dirt and then pounces when he spots something tasty. Allotments are a great place to grow food for people and for wildlife too.

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