February is here and the countdown to spring has begun on Sue’s allotment.

(c) Sue Bradley

Our village magazine came out in January with a front cover questioning whether we would be getting any snow this winter.

Just a few days later the heavens opened and our world turned white: yet one week on the sun is shining, making it feel as though spring is on its way.
Aconites

(c) Sue Bradley

In the garden snowdrops spread their petals wide when the temperature exceeds 10°C, safe in the knowledge that the hint of warmth will encourage bumblebees to venture out and possibly pay a visit. Other flowers providing early sources of nectar include yellow aconites and ivy, both of which are tough enough to withstand whatever winter has left to throw at them.

While extremely cold days tend not to encourage visits to the allotment, at home there’s plenty that can be done to be ready for the weeks ahead.

My lupin seedlings are coming on a treat, with toilet tissue tubes providing a great alternative to plant pots when I was pricking them out, and I’ve got plenty of lettuce coming up ready to go outside under the mini polytunnel I was given for Christmas, now it’s a bit warmer. 

My lupin seedlings are coming on a treat, with toilet tissue tubes providing a great alternative to plant pots
Lupin seedlings

(c) Sue Bradley

We’ve been enjoying plenty of pumpkin soup courtesy of a rather large specimen picked in October that was stored in the front porch until we were ready to cut it open. Inside there were plenty of seeds to dry off ready to sow in April.

Pumpkin

(c) Sue Bradley

I’ve been collecting egg shells, which I keep in the bottom of the oven so that they dry out whenever there’s any heat. Come spring I’ll be scattering them around on the allotment in the hope that they and strategically placed beer traps will dissuade slugs from helping themselves to my emerging seedlings!

For potatoes this year I’ve decided to try ‘Celandine’, which sounds tasty, as a first early, followed by ‘Charlotte’ as a salad crop. I’ve also got a few other types to test, including the old Parisian cultivar ‘Belle de Fontenay’, together with ‘Mayan Gold’ and some ‘rainbow’ varieties, which should make mealtimes colourful.

There are still plenty of opportunities to go out and choose interesting potatoes to grow
Potatoes

(c) Sue Bradley

There are still plenty of opportunities to go out and choose something interesting to grow. My choices are now ‘chitting’ in a bright but cool part of my kitchen, developing strong shoots that will give them a head start later on.

It’s easy to the imagine that the allotment is having a snooze over the winter months, but the odd visit shows there’s plenty of action, whether it’s the green manures putting on a bit of growth or the autumn-sown broad beans beating off the worst of the weather.

Rhubarb is pushing its pink snout through the pile of homemade compost unceremoniously dumped over it last autumn and my rows of garlic are looking especially perky.

While work on the allotment is sporadic, I have managed to tidy up the blackberries growing against the shed, giving them a good prune to encourage plenty of fruit, along with nectar for insects, later on in the summer. I’ve also removed the exhausted stems from the raspberries.

It feels as if it’s the calm before a storm of frenetic activity as the days lengthen and the sun’s warmth grows closer. The most important thing is to make the most of opportunities to get out and enjoy late winter in all its guises, both the sunshine and the snow.