The colder months provide the opportunity to clean and tidy, protect over-wintering crops and dream of Spring while poring over seed catalogues. The allotments may look empty, but you’ll still find hardy souls there most days.

General advice

  • Time for a shed sort-out.
  • Clean your tools: remove rust with wire wood and oil them, sharpen blades.
  • Get your petrol power tools serviced.
  • Protect vulnerable plants from frost and wind with netting or fleece.
  • Scrub flower pots and seed trays to get rid of any lurking pests and diseases.
  • Firm stakes and ties.
  • Make new beds.
  • Cover soil with plastic sheeting or cloches to warm up for early sowings.
  • Complete winter digging when the weather allows.
  • Make sure the birds have a source of food and water.

Early-season jobs

  • Harvest celery, leeks and Jerusalem artichokes.
  • Earth up spring cabbages and winter brassicas to avoid wind rock.
  • Cut leaves from the crowns of kale to encourage side shoots to grow for harvesting in late winter.
  • Force rhubarb for harvesting in January.
  • Spread a layer of compost or well-rotted manure around fruit bushes and trees.

Mid-season jobs

  • Order seed potatoes for planting in February or March.
  • Sow broad beans, early carrots, leeks and lettuce under cover.
  • Sow radishes and hardy salad lettuce in cold frames.
  • Place an upturned bucket over rhubarb and seakale to force the plant.
  • Plant fruit trees and soft fruit.

Late-season jobs

  • Begin chitting your early seed potatoes. Place them with the sprouting end facing up in seed trays or egg boxes in a cool, light place.
  • Buy new seeds for the forthcoming growing season.
  • Buy onion and shallot sets.
  • Cabbages – fill in gaps amongst spring cabbages with transplants.
  • Harvest sprouts and the first of the sprouting broccoli.
  • Complete winter pruning of trees and bushes. Spread a 7.5cm deep mulch over the root areas, but keep it at least 15cm away from the base of the plants. Don’t apply mulch over frozen ground as this just keeps the cold in.
  • Spray trees and bushes with garlic compound to combat fungal and disease problems.
  • Autumn raspberries – cut down old canes to soil level and mulch between rows.