Brian Kidd says digging has become a pain – now he’s hit 30...

And relax... a job well done -  a freshly-dug allotment
And relax... a job well done - a freshly-dug allotment
A  blackberry growing through a hedge

BRIAN KIDD: Sorts out a problem hedge and gives you work for the weekend

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I can’t wait for December 22 – the shortest day. I bet you never think about it, but my dad always said he was pleased once the shortest day was gone because we gained a few minutes’ light every evening.

I’ve always remembered this and my mum used to say ‘it will be light at five o’clock on Auntie Grace’s birthday’ which was on the last day of January.

The allotment has been a worry. The Brussels sprouts are wonderful, the potatoes stored and really tasty. The spring cabbages have been struggling in the wind, but the biggest problem is the digging.

You probably know a standard allotment plot is 90ft long and 30ft wide. I have two of these as I’ve been trying to become self-sufficient.

But now I’ve just passed my 30th birthday, well,­ digging is becoming a bit of a job.

Fellow allotment holders tell me to get the rotavator going, but I have never rotavated ground infested with weeds because the blades chop up the roots which are then propagated.

If you have a single weed of couch grass and you rotavate, you’ll find 10 couch grass plants in the spring. Don’t even mention bindweed. If rotavated, the mass of weeds in spring is just mind-blowing.

But what am I going to do about digging weed-infested ground? I go to the allotment every morning to make sure everything is all right and to check the heater in the polytunnel and then work for half-an-hour. I have planned to dig just two rows every morning. If it rains and I can’t do the digging then I dig four rows the next day.

Manure has to be dug in where potatoes, beans, peas, onions, marrows and cucumbers will be grown next year and the manuring takes a lot longer because it has to be barrowed to the area which is being dug.

My aim was to get all the winter digging done before Christmas, but the provisional date of completion is on Auntie Grace’s birthday!

I must tell you that the digging which has been completed looks wonderful. The ground has been dug so the weeds have been upturned and buried and the soil has been left in large clods so the winter weather can break them down. This means in spring the surface of the soil will be lovely and friable, all ready for a flurry of new weeds!

Thanks to Rosemary, Alex and Chris who kindly wrote thanking me for my article about planting tulips a fortnight ago.

I am pleased to tell you, Pam and I planted ours this week. We used Red Riding Hood and Pinocchio in the planters in the front garden, and Ballerina with the polyanthus in the border in front of the conservatory. Ballerina is perfumed and one of our favourites.

Have a look at the packs of tulips at your garden centre. They are a bargain and the flower is already in the bulb. All you need is to plant them and bring spring and light days a tantalising step closer.

TIP OF THE WEEK

Look in garden centres and flower shops and you’ll see lovely azaleas in pots. If you feel you are not green-fingered, think again. These gems will do well in your home. Choose one which has just one or two flowers open with lots of flower buds at the tips of the stems which will bloom in the coming weeks.

They love rainwater. Keep them in a light, cold place, just a few degrees above freezing, in a window but not in direct sun.

It’s a pity they don’t have a perfume. I love azaleas.