The Allotment Year


Often the coldest month

January might be the middle of winter but as the days lengthen the garden starts to grow. Now is a great time to plan for the coming gardening year and to order seeds and plants. Enjoy the fresh air, on dry sunny days, and check your winter protection, stakes, ties and supports are still working after any severe weather. Also put out food for birds and leave some garden areas uncut, a little longer, to provide shelter for wildlife in your garden.

Jobs for January

  1. Clean pots and greenhouses ready for spring
  2. Dig over any vacant plots that have not been dug already
  3. Inspect stored tubers of Dahlia, Begonia and Canna for rots or drying out
  4. Prune apple and pear trees
  5. Start forcing rhubarb
  6. Plan your vegetable crop rotations for the coming season
  7. Make a polythene shelter for outdoor peaches and nectarines, to protect against peach leaf curl


Spring is around the corner but be careful as February often has a sting in the tail!

Now is the ideal time to get ready for some of the earlier outdoor sowings by preparing beds. Be careful not to sow too early particularly if the ground is waterlogged or a cold spell is imminent.

Jobs for February

  1. Prepare seed beds, and sow some vegetables under cover
  2. Start off aubergine and peppers, chillies and tomatoes with a heated propagator or using windowsills to give them a chance of ripening
  3. A few tomato varieties can be sown indoors this month but wait until March for the majority so that the plants don’t spend too long on seed trays
  4. Sow broad beans and early peas such as Feltham First and Meteor under cover
  5. Chit potato tubers
  6. Continue winter pruning of fruit trees
  7. Net fruit and vegetable crops to keep the birds off
  8. Prune autumn raspberries


Spring arrives

Spring usually arrives by mid-March and the frequent sunny days provide the opportunity for an increasing range of gardening tasks. It’s time to get busy preparing seed beds, sowing seed, cutting back winter shrubs, and generally tidying up around the allotment.

Jobs for March

  1. Complete any outstanding winter pruning of fruit trees
  2. Protect new spring shoots from slugs
  3. If possible, protect early flowering fruit trees from frost with fleece
  4. Feed and mulch fruit trees and bushes
  5. Plant shallots, onion sets and early potatoes
  6. If you haven’t sown chillies and peppers, do that now as they need a long growing season
  7. Sow brassicas indoors
  8. If you’re going to try growing asparagus, buy and plant ‘crowns’ in preprepared trenches this month or next
  9. Top dress containers with fresh compost
  10. Hoe and mulch weeds to keep them under control early


Sunshine and showers

Spring is finally in evidence as flowering trees start to bloom. Expect the inevitable April showers this month but with sunny days too. It’s an exciting month, with indoor-sown seeds well into growth, and it’s also time to start sowing outdoors. Just watch out for frosts…

Jobs for April

  1. Keep weeds under control
  2. Protect fruit blossom from late frosts
  3. Sow hardy annuals, herbs and wild flower seed outdoors
  4. Start to feed citrus plants
  5. Prune fig trees


Summer’s on its way

As bulbs fade and herbaceous borders grow in leaps and bounds, it is now clear that summer is approaching. Sowing and planting out tender vegetable seedlings can begin, depending on regional weather variations, and you can take softwood cuttings.

Jobs for May

  1. Watch out for late frosts. Protect tender plants
  2. Earth up potatoes, and promptly plant any still remaining
  3. Water early and late to get the most out of your water, recycle water when possible
  4. Regularly hoe off weeds
  5. Check for nesting birds before clipping hedges


Summer arrives

June 21 is the longest day of the year, and the extra light and warmth encourages the allotment to put on an exuberant burst of growth. But this extra light and warmth also means weeds will sprout up from seemingly nowhere. Keep on top of them by hoeing regularly in dry conditions.

Jobs for June

  1. Hoe beds regularly to keep down weeds
  2. Be water-wise, especially in drought-affected areas
  3. Pinch out sideshoots on tomatoes
  4. Harvest lettuce, radish, other salads and early potatoes
  5. Stake tall or floppy plants


Summer is progressing

This is often one of the hottest months of the year and a great time to sit out and enjoy your allotment. Keep plants producing by regularly harvesting, and you’ll enjoy a longer cropping period. Make sure you keep new plants well watered, using grey water where possible, and hoe off weeds, which thrive in the sunshine.

Jobs for July

  1. Water tubs and new plants if dry, but be water-wise
  2. Pick courgettes before they become marrows
  3. Treat apple scab
  4. Order catalogues for next year’s onion, garlic and shallot sets
  5. Harvest apricots, peaches and nectarines


Sultry late summer

August is the month when we reap the benefits of our hard work throughout the allotment year.

Jobs for August

  1. Continue to harvest crops including potatoes, beetroot, peas, beans and the many other fruit and vegetables on your plot.
  2. Watering is essential, using grey water where possible. Hoses must only be used to fill water butts. They must not be used for watering crops.
  3. Continue to cut out fruited raspberry and loganberry canes. Summer prune gooseberries and currants.
  4. Plant out winter and spring cauliflowers, kale and purple sprouting.
  5. Sow spring cabbage, late and over wintering lettuce and salad leaves, carrots, spinach and kohl rabi.
  6. Look out for cabbage white caterpillars and pick them off by hand.
  7. Lift, dry and store onions, garlic and shallots.
  8. lant out new strawberry plants and continue to raise new plants by layering runners from your existing stock.
  9. As areas of your plot are cleared consider planting green manures. This will increase the structure of the soil, add nitrogen and suppress weed growth.


At this time, September and the onset of autumn, here’s a timely reminder. 

Early crops will be coming to an end. It may be the last month for our French and runner beans, courgettes, tomatoes and lots of other veg. Later crops are now coming into harvest so our growing year is certainly not over just yet.

Jobs for September

  1. Harvest remaining summer vegetables and the first of your autumn crops such as leeks and main crop potatoes and cut your first winter squashes
  2. Pick late plums, mid-season apples and pears and autumn fruiting raspberries
  3. Sow salad seeds such as lettuces, radishes, rocket and salad leaves
  4. Sow oriental leaves such as spinach and spring onions
  5. Plant spring cabbages
  6. Clear away dead foliage and other plant remains as soon as crops have finished
  7. Add everything you can to your compost heap – provided the plant materials have no signs of disease
  8. Check apples, pears and plums for brown rot and discard any infected fruit


The autumn chill sets in

Although we had some warmer days over September, the autumn is now definitely here for real, and it feels colder. It’s a beautiful time of year, with the trees changing colour. Sometimes it may seem pointless raking, when the wind blows even more leaves onto the ground, but just think of all the lovely leafmould you can make! It’s also time to start preparing for early frosts.

Jobs for October

  1. Harvest remaining vegetables before the first frosts. Lift potatoes and beetroot.
  2. Cut pumpkins and winter squashes. “Cure” the squashes by leaving them in the sun for their skins to harden and the flesh inside to ripen.
  3. Cover autumn salads and oriental leaves with cloches or fleece if there is a danger of night frosts.
  4. Sow your broad beans for next year.
  5. Plant garlic, onions, rhubarb and bare root fruit bushes such as currants and gooseberries.
  6. Take down supports for climbing beans, peas and tomatoes.
  7. Clear away dead plant material and put in compost bin. 
  8. Begin winter digging.
  9. Spray apples and pears against canker when about half the leaves have fallen.
  10. Prune out any diseased or damaged branches from apple and pear trees.
  11. Fit grease bands to the trunks of fruit trees to prevent insects such as winter moths from climbing up and laying their eggs.
  12. (Do not prune cherries or plums until next spring as pruning cuts may allow silver leaf fungus to enter.)
  13. Finish pruning blackberries and summer fruiting raspberries. By now you should have cut out all the old canes that carried this year’s fruit. New, non-fruiting canes should be tied in ready for next year.
  14. Order any new fruit trees and bushes. Next month is a good time for planting many new, bare-root trees and bushes.


Winter is on its way

Leaves are falling rapidly, and wind and rain are on the increase. Tender plants will need protecting from frost, gales, and freezing rains. Move plants into a sheltered spot, but if you can’t, it is worth wrapping plants or pots. Remember winter can be a tough time for birds in terms of water and food, so keep supplies well topped up.

Jobs for November

  1. Cover brassicas with netting if pigeons are a problem
  2. Stop winter moth damage to fruit trees using grease bands around the trunks
  3. Dig over beds and incorporate plenty of organic matter
  4. Continue to harvest leeks, parsnips and carrots
  5. Plant bare rooted fruit bushes


Winter frost

As we approach the shortest day of the year in December you will need work to keep you warm outside, such as digging and tree pruning. Hopefully, there are not too many jobs left to do this year so you will have time for some fireside garden planning.

Jobs for December

  1. Check your winter protection structures are still securely in place
  2. Prune open-grown apples and pears
  3. Vines before Christmas to avoid bleeding
  4. Harvest leeks, parsnips, winter cabbage, sprouts and remaining root crops
  5. Take hardwood cuttings
  6. Keep mice away from stored produce

Versions of this calendar are on numerous websites but the original seems to have been here-