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Plots and Gardens 26 Feb 2024 A reprint from Eynsham News #66 By Nick Clapton and Peter Taylor

January starts another year with mud-and-floods to challenge even the most hardy, experienced gardener. Part of Eynsham Allotments is submerged, and everything seems lifeless, but it won’t be long before Spring is with us again and it’s time to get organised for the year ahead.

On the allotment or veg patch, January is for ‘getting ready’—spreading manure or compost, pruning established fruit trees, mending fences and fruit cages, and planning this year’s planting including starting some seeds off, for example broad beans, cauliflower, leeks and many other vegetables, though this can roll over into February too.

By March, some seeds can be sown outdoors maybe with cloches for weather protection or a little delay in sowing if the weather is especially bad. Or plant shallots and onions setts rather than seeds. These are usually available—along with seed potatoes — at Evenlode DIY, or Freeland Nurseries. But this year, why don’t you try ‘growing your own’ on an allotment? You can apply now via Eynsham Online and with the current waiting list you could be working your own allotment by next winter.

Nick ClaptonWhen it comes to how your garden looks, Nick says “January to March is a great time to plan for the colours, shapes and scents of the coming spring and summer. There are huge amounts of resources available in print and online, so find out what appeals to you in terms of planting, colour, formal or informal, lawn, paving, gravel and so on, and then start fleshing out those ideas.

“Do a drawing of your plot putting in any existing plants (plant identifying apps can be great) and mark where north as this will show you where your shady areas are. Gather pictures of gardens or plants you like, always remembering important details of size, flowering time, and whether they like sun or shade. This might sound like a lot of bother, but it’s far better to know before you go to the garden centre and part with your cash (and, yes, I always spend more than I intended).

“Some other garden planning ideas:

  1. Herbaceous plants don’t really “do” straight lines but prefer curves and soft shapes—design your borders with this in mind.
     
  2. Few things look worse than a rectangular lawn surrounded by meagre borders. Plan deep borders with wide curves and preferably with some sort of paving between them and the lawn to help avoid edging problems.
     
  3. A boundary fence always looks better clothed than bare. Try growing a rose up it, then a clematis or two up that. Many established gardens have fences held up by plants, rather than the other way round. 4. Especially with herbaceous perennials (that die down to nothing in the autumn, but “come back” in the spring) always plant in groups of three or five if possible. This always looks better than odd ones dotted about, the horticultural equivalent of hiccoughs.

“Want to get going now? Well, so long as the soil is not actually frozen, container grown plants can be planted at any time of the year, though waiting for another month or so until the soil begins to warm up gives them a better chance. Finally, remember it’s your garden, so always feel free to ignore anyone’s advice, especially mine!” 

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