Growing Advice

AAG “Grow Your Own” newsletter

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Here are also some ideas about how to get the best from your plot. Get in touch if you have any questions or if you can answer any! We’d love to have your contributions. Contact us by emailing us at


You might like to look at some videos made by Claire Stay on her allotment in the Borough, full of practical advice. Click here to see Claire at work.

Click on the following topics to find out more:

It is officially the growing season, so pull on your wellys and grab your spade because it is time to really get to work on your plot – April showers bring lots of yummy vegetables later in the season! Under the Council’s tenancy agreement all plots should be about 75% cultivated between April and September.

GardenersBefore deciding what to grow this year, think about how much time you have to devote to your plot. Some crops need almost daily attention, while others thrive on neglect. Onions, leeks, chard, beetroot, broad beans, potatoes and sweet corn are among the lowest maintenance of crops, while tomatoes, runner beans, cucumbers, celery, cauliflower and aubergines require more care and attention.

Clear your beds of winter vegetables and eat them or freeze them, before they are past their past. Check your crop rotation plan and then get sowing – peas, broad beans, mange tout, radish, lettuce, beetroot, cabbages, cauliflowers, spinach, leeks, carrots, parsnips and many more can all be sown outside now. Check the packet for instructions for each variety. There is still time to plant onion and shallot sets, asparagus crowns and Jerusalem artichokes. There is likely to be plenty of rain in April, but if there are dry spells check that your emerging seedlings don’t suffer for lack of water.

PotatoesGet your seed potatoes planted; traditionally potatoes are planted on Good Friday. Dig a trench across a well manured or composted bed, about a spade deep. Place the seed potatoes in the trench roughly a foot or 30cm apart (put trenches about the same distance apart). Cover well with soil. As the halums (leaves) begin to show through earth them up ie pull soil over them with a hoe or spade – you want to make sure that the developing potatoes are well protected from light. Keep a watchful eye on the weather forecast for frosts and be prepared to protect your emerging plants with fleece or sheeting when frost threatens.
Indoors, its time to sow tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, squash and sweetcorn. Since the Alexandra Road site has suffered from tomato blight for the last few years you might want to consider blight resistant strains like Ferline or Koralik.

French marigoldsWhen planning your beds think about including plants which will help to protect your crops from pests. For example sow french marigolds with your legumes; they attract insects that feed on aphids. Strong smelling plants like dill or chives confuse the carrot fly. Plant fennel and lovage with your brassicas to attract friendly insects to eat cabbage fly. Including some flowering plants to attract pollinating insects is also a good idea and makes the plot more pleasant for you too; sweet peas and lavender are particular favourites.
Keep on top of weeds, they love the spring weather too and will be growing strongly now. Getting your beds filled with crops and companion plants will limit the space for them to grow. Regular hoeing and pulling is the best way to control them, but if there are areas you are not going to use until later in the season (eg for courgettes or runner beans) then cover the bed with weed suppressant sheeting or carpet to help keep the weeds at bay until you are ready to use it.

There are lots of internet sites with advice for plot-holders. Why not try: