Our resident alloment holder, Jim, shares some ideas for what to do in the garden in the coming weeks ....

If you get that Spring Clearing feeling when outdoors, go for it very soon or forget it until autumn. By mid-February, winter-resident birds are confirming their nesting territory, and nest sites. By early March, residents and migrants alike are well into nest building. That isn’t the time to take a chain saw or even pruners to that old ivy-covered fence or tree. I’ve hacked all I’m going to hack for this year. Nesting birds are a great excuse for leaving some jungly bits alone! Put up some bird boxes instead. 

My own allotment site is now asking everyone to find some room for plants that encourage bees, ladybirds, lacewings and other beneficial insects. Alas most cabbage growers are not so keen on butterflies, but they’re always thinking of cabbage whites. Some plants are more attractive to other butterflies, and our research on this is ongoing.  

So far we have planted lavender, hollyhocks and tagetes. However, more insects went for our fennel flowers than anything else, and fennel seed and foliage are well worth growing. Next we will add the ice plant (Sedum spectabile), some foxgloves, and a small nettle/long grass patch for the caterpillars (not cabbage white caterpillars, of course).  

On the community allotment we have a minimum-dig policy, with less strained backs as a result. Not fully there yet, but we have spread top-mulch wherever possible. This eliminates virtually all weed seedlings. The worms have already taken some of the late autumn mulch down and the remains have been very lightly dug in and then replenished. The worm count is now hugely increased, so they can do all the digging from now on. The perennial weeds inevitably missed in the initial dig – bindweed, couch grass and dandelions – have been weakened by the mulch, and have been less of a problem than expected. 

February plantings will include broad beans (under rotted mulch to keep them warm) and onions. Both will be in continued succession from November plantings, which are doing well. We now have a second community allotment plot, which is a mess, but has a greenhouse. So we fixed that, and have started planting, beginning with lettuce (winter density) and winter purslane. Our second donated greenhouse should be in action soon. I think we’re getting somewhere! 

If you want to join us on the community allotment, even if your time is very short, or helping with the planters at the stationplease email us at food@winacc.org.uk to find out more!