Allotment Associations & Horticultural Groups in Harrow, Middlesex
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This used to be the month for digging. The plan was to dig all vacant areas before Christmas, leaving the soil roughly dug so that the frosts could break it up. The soil should then be easy to knock down and prepare for Spring sowing. But now, with global warming here, we cannot predict when the lovely, sharp frosts will occur. But, still, digging must be carried out. Digging- everybody instinctively knows how to do it. One obvious thing is to get a spade, which is right length. Many people are much taller these days yet there does not seem to be different heights of tools, but if you have to stoop you may end up with severe back pain.

Broad beans: Especially the Aquadulce variety can be sown this month. Some old gardeners like planting them in Autumn to get early growth so that the tops can be pinched out in Spring to deter blackfly, which is very much a problem with this crop. They can have added encouragement to grow by growing them under cloches.

Fruit trees: Not the time for pruning except removal of dead and crossing branches. Grease bands can be placed on the trunks of fruit trees to waylay any wingless female moths climbing up to lay their eggs. As in all gardening, the amateur is handicapped by the limited amount of pesticides still available, and not banned (the professional must have a big storehouse to keep all his or her spray material in. There is still one which is natural and cannot be banned: Bordeaux Mixture. If it is sprayed, it will help to control canker.

Autumn sow onions: They used to be called Japanese onions and sown as seed in September, as they can still be, but there are now sets, which can be sown in October or November. One good tip with all onion sets to start them off in trays so they develop good roots, so when put in the ground the birds will not be able to uproot them. But if you do not do that remember to keep checking on the planting and to pop them in again if necessary. The Autumn sown onions will be ready at least a month before the Spring sown onions. Some gardeners have said that the Autumn sown onions do not keep as well as the spring ones. Oh yes, just in case we forget to put it in the March notes, give the onions a spring boost of nitrogen with some nitro chalk.

Brussels Sprouts: Some should be ready for picking. Do not strip one plant but take the large ones at the base of the stems. Not the most popular of vegetables, some gardeners feel a sense of achievement if they can supply some sprouts to accompany the Christmas turkey!

Fertilisers: Prices have really shot up. Perhaps they should be purchased now in case they rise still further. Growmore, the good old cure-all of soil deficiency, has gone up a lot in price and more increases are expected. National Growmore is a really historic fertilizer introduced to help the "dig for victory" campaign during the second world War. The price of potash has almost trebled in price, if you can find stock that is still at the old price it might be wise to grab it. The moss continues to grow in the lawn throughout the winter. It can be treated with Lawn Sand that has 4 parts of nitrogen, to make growth and some iron to check the moss. Or you could buy Moss Control, which is twice the price, but which has more than double the nitrogen and iron.

Greenhouses: Ventilate freely on sunny days, wash the glass to admit maximum light. Complete potting, moving annuals and tooted cuttings into 3" pots. Store non- hardy fuchsias, and other plants that have to be saved, under the staging, Water over- wintering sparingly. This is the time to clean the greenhouse, and fumigating it, stopping any aphids and other nasties over wintering in comfort.

Lawns: Probably too late to sow a new lawn, but the site for one can be dug, nice and deep with all the weeds removed.. Continue applying autumn fertilizer: This has less nitrogen as no top growth is wanted, but contains stimulant for root development. The mower could be given a winter beauty treatment - an overhaul, at least scraping off all the bits of grass stuck to the bottom of the machine and perhaps some 3in1 oil on the blades.

Vegetables: you may be a quiet unassuming person and would not like to force rhubarb, but this can be done by lifting a crown and putting under the staging in a warm greenhouse. Or you may prefer to keep the rhubarb in the garden and cover it, later to, to get an earlier taste.

House plants: only one person in the house should be responsible for watering. Too much and they will drown, especially in winter, the surface of the pots must be almost dust-dry, but the roots slightly moist.

Ralph of Roxbourne Society

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