Now I’m over 30 I need a little help from my friends – gardening with Brian Kidd

Rotavate your allotment at your peril
Rotavate your allotment at your peril
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I always look forward to the shortest day, December 21. I bet you never gave it a second thought, but my dad always said he was pleased once the shortest day was gone because we gained a few minutes’ light every morning until twelfth night when we gained a minute of extra daylight in the evening.

I have always remembered this and my mum used to say: ‘It will be light at 5pm on auntie Grace’s birthday’ which was on January 31.

The allotment has been a bit worrying, but the Brussels sprouts are wonderful, the potatoes are stored and are really tasty, the spring cabbages have been struggling in the wind but the biggest problem has been the digging. Rain stopped play!

You probably know a standard allotment plot is 90ft long and 30ft wide and I have two of these as I have been trying to become self-sufficient. However, now  I am over 30 – well just – digging is becoming a bit of a chore so a great friend has undertaken this task and I am not so concerned.

My fellow allotment holders tell me to get the rotavator going but I have never rotavated ground infested with weeds because the blades chop up all the roots which are then propagated. For instance, if you have a single weed of couch grass and you rotavate, you’ll find 10 plants of couch grass in the spring. And don’t even mention bindweed. If rotavated the mass of weeds in spring is just mind-blowing.

What am I going to do about digging weed-infested ground which has not been dug?

I go to the allotment every morning to make sure everything is OK and to check the heater in the polytunnel is working and then work for half-an-hour on the plots. I have planned to dig just two rows every morning and if it rains and I can’t do the digging then dig four rows the next day.

Manure has to be dug in where potatoes, beans, peas, onions, marrows and cucumbers are to be grown next year and the manuring takes a lot longer because the manure 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 now is on auntie Grace’s birthday!

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

• Thanks to Alan, Jane and Chris who so kindly wrote to thank me for my article about planting tulips.

I am pleased to tell you, Pam and I planted ours this week. It was our only opportunity but it wasn’t too late. We used Red Riding Hood and Pinocchio in the planters in the front garden, and Ballerina with polyanthus in the border in front of the conservatory.

Ballerina is perfumed and one of our favourites. 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 to do is plant them so spring is a step closer.