Allotment jobs for January 2021

Wow, what a year we had last year!  An extremely wet winter, followed by a very warm spring, then it cooled down and caught a lot of people out with a very late frost!  That was followed by another hot summer, where I can only remember it raining three times in as many months.  I haven’t even mentioned COVID-19 yet, and I won’t again!  But how lucky we are to have our allotments where we can escape from the outside world, even if it was only for a few hours.  Let’s hope 2021 turns out to be a better year for everybody.  

The growing season started on Boxing day with Onions, and takes off properly in February.  So, January is for sowing seeds that need a long growing season, and for making sure all those other jobs that need to be done, are done before we reach February.  Growing great vegetables is not rocket science, if you follow the main two rules, sow seeds at the right time, and select the right variety, barring any problems with pests and disease, you will be successful.  

Most of my growing tips are from three sources, the huge collection of gardening books I have which date back to the 1700s from every gardener who ever lived, learning from the old gardeners, and experience through having an allotment at St Marys with my dad from 1969.  The sowing times are based on where our allotments are in relation to the rest of the country, and I will give further information on feeding, soil preparation, growing tips etc, for seeds sown below in future months, as and when they need doing.        

Finally, as well as my tips, our new Chairman Patrick will be doing some alternative growing tips based on the way that he gardens his plot, so look out for them.  If anybody would like to visit my humble plot, contact me and I would be happy to show you around, and I’m sure Patrick would feel the same.     

SOW (under cover) 

  • Onions – you can sow seeds later, but the earlier you sow them the bigger they will be as they need a long growing season.  You can also buy onion sets from the allotment shop ready to plant out in feb and march.  A good tip for sowing onions is by sowing them in cells.  Use a seed compost in the top of the cell, and in the bottom use a good quality compost that has fertiliser included.  They will germinate seed compost, then once the roots start growing, they will reach the good compost which will give them a huge boost.  And remember to press the compost down firm once sown, as onions shoot up with such vigour they almost take off!  
  • Tomatoes – sow then now for an early greenhouse crop, try Sungold, Tropical or Rosella, or outside try Mountain Magic as they have good blight resistance.  I sow my cheap tomato seed in Jan/feb and leave my expensive seed until march.    
  • Chilli and Peppers.  De Cayenne and Jalapenos are fantastic varieties, hot when raw and milder when cooked. 
  • Aubergines. 
  • Winter salad leaves or winter lettuce.  “All year round” is a butterhead type that is very hardy too, I grow them all year round, outside in summer, and in the greenhouse in winter.    
  • Chard.  
  • Leeks.  Quite a few people start Leeks off now, but I find that instead of them being available throughout winter, they are ready in autumn which is too early for me.  Also, earlier sowings get hit by the allium leaf minor twice, May and September!    
  • Potatoes.  I planted some on the 17th January last year in my greenhouse and shed (with a lot of windows) some directly in the ground, and others in large pots, and they were great, not as good outside, but well worth the effort.  


  • Mulch asparagus beds with 2” of well-rotted manure.  
  • Remove dead leaves from Brussel sprouts and other brassicas.  
  • Protect brassicas from pigeons, they are extremely hungry at this time of year!  


  • Prune raspberries if not already done.  
  • Complete fruit pruning (not stone fruits).  Pruning fruit trees in winter encourage strong growth, pruning in summer encourages slower growth.  
  • If you have an infestation of whitefly, now is a good time to treat it with an organic spray to keep the population down.    
  • Force rhubarb for sweeter sticks. 
  • Prune grapevines. 
  • Plant fruit bushes and trees.  
  • Renew grease bands around fruit trees.  
  • If your fruit trees do not have strong growth, feed with Bonemeal in late winter, or you can use wood ash from your bonfire, as I do.    


  • Dig up and leave parsnips on top of the soil on a frosty night, and the frost will sweeten them.  
  • Leeks – the old favourite Mussleborough always does well.  
  • Purple sprouting – early purple is a good hungry gap filler, or for an earlier harvest try Rudolph.  
  • Brussel sprouts – Maximus is a small compact variety that gives plenty of good sprouts. 
  • Winter cabbage – you can’t beat Tundra, give it a try.  
  • Carrots store well in the ground over winter once established, try Eskimo, they are extremely hardy.   


  • Dig all available ground if the ground is not too heavy or wet, if too much soil sticks to the spade Then it is too wet, and remember, “the early digger gets the crops”.
  • If you can get hold of well-rotted manure leave it on top of the soil and let the worms pull it down, if there is any left around March dig or rotovate it in.  If you can’t get hold of manure use the leaves we have on site, again leave them on top and dig in what’s left before planting, remember to hold these down with netting or they will blow away!  
  • Plan your crops for this year, including your crop rotation.
  • Have a walk around your plot with a notepad and see what jobs need doing. 
  • It’s important to keep a diary, also take lots of photos and videos.  I started a YouTube vlog about 4 years ago, and its really interesting to compare what my allotment used to look like, compared to what it looks like now.   
  • Order seeds or buy them from the allotment shop, we have an excellent selection of trusted and tried AGM varieties, including most of them listed in the growing tips.   
  • Tidy up shed.
  • Look at structures and see if they need any TLC.  
  • Wash all pots and seed trays. 
  • Clean greenhouse.  
  • It’s a good time to look for slugs and snails under pots, wooden boards etc.  
  • Start a compost heap.  
  • Make a leaf mould bin, and use the leaves that are delivered on site. 
  • Invest in a wormery.     
  • Test your soil. You can test the Ph by using a kit, or send a sample away and have it tested properly.  
  • Clean and sharpen tools.  
  • Warm up and dry beds out by covering them with sheets of polythene or carboard. 
  • Mulch paths with woodchip to avoid muddy paths. 

Outside the shop there is a price list highlighting what items we sell, so if you haven’t done so already, check out the seeds, fertilisers, string, slug pellets, compost etc, before buying in a garden centre or online, we are in general cheaper, and ALL profit goes back into the society and helps to keep the rent lower.  I will be putting a vlog on our Facebook group once everything else has been delivered in February showing all the items we will be selling.   

We have a delivery of compost due on the 13th January, and the shop will be open for compost only from the 17th January.

Finally, a quote from Marcus Tullius Cicero who was considered one of Rome’s greatest philosophers, politicians, lawyers, orators, political theorist and consuls.  

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need”  


Book – Your garden week by week – AGL Hellyer
Book – Dig for victory – Mr Middleton
DVD – Geoff Hamilton – The ornamental Kitchen garden
DVD – The Victorian kitchen garden
YouTube – Geoffrey Smith
In person – St Marys allotment gardeners