Kate Hardy

Keep your veg plot healthy

Kate Hardy
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Growing your own fruit and veg? Use our tips to help keep your plot in tip top condition over the winter

Don’t forget your fruit and veg plot over the winter months. This is tantamount to neglect – a strong statement I know, but you’ll be undoing all the good work you’ve done over the growing season and beyond.

If you don’t tend to your plot now, your well-dug soil, improved with organic matter and stabilised from the elements with growing plants, will simply revert to being compacted, washed out, lacking nutrients and substance. And then you’ll have to start from scratch again in spring! 

It’s best to work to improve it now, ready for a whole heap of lovely new crops next year. If you only do one thing, put a barrow-load of well-rotted manure over it as a rich, warming, nutritious blanket until you resume planting next year.

Actually, there are so many jobs to do now as well as fruit and veg to keep growing, that it’s almost as busy a time as spring. It’s the ideal season to plan, prepare and keep cropping.

Have you thought about new ways of growing, or more efficient methods? This is a great time to build some raised beds and they’re a fantastic way to section off your planting into neat, manageable areas and will make your workload seem much smaller! 

Plants, such as strawberries, that require good drainage, will benefit from raised beds, as will blueberries that need specially created areas of acidic soil.

Prepare a compost-filled trench ready for runner and French bean plants next year, or designate a new permanent spot to plant up crowns of some tasty perennials such as rhubarb and asparagus.

Broad beans, peas, onions and garlic can all be put in the ground, as can new currant bushes, soft fruit bushes and apple and pear trees – almost a plot-full already!

Perhaps you’ve decided you want more of a potager type plot this year, teeming with bold blooms of all shapes and sizes, attractive to visit and good for encouraging more of the pollinators needed for many of your veg plants. Plant tulips and hardy geraniums as well as a selection of annuals to pop up next year. Leave room for summer bulbs where in May you can plant dahlias and gladioli next to onions and cabbages for a sumptuous summer display! 

3 of the best... small magnolias to plant now

1 Magnolia stellata

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Star-shaped, multi-petalled blooms in pink or white on a tree that grows to 3m.

2 Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’

A compact tree 3x3m across, with stunning pinkish blooms.

3 Magnolia ‘Pinkie’

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This charming 4x4m tree has eye-catching two-tone, pinky white blooms.

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