Welcome to Lesley Upton’s allotment blog, where she will look at life on her Berkshire allotment, from the veg she is growing to how people are living with the threat of coronavirus. Here she looks at preparing Brussels sprouts and cabbages for planting on the allotment.

Brussels sprouts and cabbages
People have been strangely quiet and subdued at my allotment. Normally there’s a lot of banter, but nobody seems to want to talk much. I can’t say as I blame them, as I regard my allotment as a refuge – a place to escape these strange times. There are a lot of people tending their allotments, but they’re doing so very quietly.

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Over the next few weeks I plan to plant out my Brussels sprouts and cabbages, followed by cauliflowers a few weeks later. When I first took on my allotment I couldn’t work out why I couldn’t grow brassicas when my neighbouring allotment holder could. The plants grew fine at home, but as soon as I put them in the ground they withered and hardly grew.

Club root
I tried to grow brassicas in two different areas, without success, and then I noticed that the plants had distorted, swollen roots. It was club root. The next year I tried a part of the allotment well away from the infected area and my brassicas were brilliant!

club root cabbage

Cabbage plant affected by club root. Credit: Alamy

Club root can contaminate soil for up to 20 years, and even though I’ve tried adding lime to the affected areas I tend to avoid planting brassicas anywhere near them.

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Firm ground
All brassicas like firm ground and in an ideal world the ground should be prepared in autumn to allow it to settle over winter. However, I have only just managed to dig the area where I plan to plant brassicas, so I’ll have to firm it down well before the young plants go in.

As it’s been dry, I’ll also have to ‘puddle in’ the plants. This means digging a hole for the plant and filling the hole with water several times before filling in with soil. The water will drain deep into the soil, encouraging roots to grow downwards and developing a good root system. This should mean I won’t have to water as often and the plants will be less likely to topple over in strong winds.

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Brussels sprouts
I sowed two lots of Brussels sprouts under cover towards the end of February, as I like to get them off to an early start. This year I have chosen ‘Bedford’ and ‘Attwood’.

Brussels sprouts ‘Bedford’.

I’ve tried ‘Bedford’ before, with some success, and it produces quite large, firm, dark-green tasty sprouts from October. ‘Attwood’ is a new variety for me, but supposedly produces sweet, medium-sized sprouts from December.

Brussels sprouts ‘Attwood’.

I’ve started to harden-off these plants by placing them outside during warm days and bringing them back into the greenhouse at night. I hope to start planting them out over the next couple of weeks.

If you haven’t sown any Brussels sprouts yet, there’s still time – but don’t leave it much longer!

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Cabbages
In March I sowed some savoy cabbages that are growing well.

Savoy cabbage.

Savoy has good winter hardiness and produces compact, firm cabbages with crinkled leaves. You can still sow these under cover and outside now, until May, for harvesting in October/November.

‘Greyhound’ cabbages.

I’ve also sown some ‘Greyhound’ cabbages. This pointed-head variety produces solid heads and is quick to mature, maturing about 20-16 weeks from sowing. This means I hope to have some cabbages ready for cutting from July.

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Order seeds now
You can still sow some summer and winter cabbages if you have the seed, and if you can order seeds online buy some spring cabbage seeds that you can sow in July or August and transplant in September or October. ‘April’ is a great variety if you’re short on space as it can be sown in rows as close as 10in (20cm).

We are here for you

Although many people are coping well with self-isolation, others are really struggling and feeling completely forgotten and alone.

Here at AG we are doing our best to keep connected to our readers though the magazine, this website and also through social media.

Our gardening ‘agony uncle’ John Negus is also still working hard. Send him your problems and questions, with pictures if you can, and he will get back to you with an answer withing 24 hours, as he has been doing for decades. Contact him using the AG email address at: amateurgardening@ti-media.com

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We already have thriving Facebook page but are also on Twitter and Instagram. These sites are a brilliant way of chatting to people, sharing news, information, pictures and just saying hello – we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Best of all, as gardeners are generally lovely folk, more interested in plants, hedgehogs, tea and cake than political shenanigans and point-scoring, so the chat is friendly and welcoming.

So please drop by, follow us, ‘like’ our posts and say hello – the Instagram feed is in it’s really early days so the quicker we can get that going with your help and support, the better!

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