How to prepare your vegetable allotment or garden for next spring.

So the end of the growing season is approaching and a distinct change in the daily temperatures is becoming noticeable. The runner beans, courgettes and tomatoes are starting to look a little ‘tired’, and their leaves are beginning to turn yellow as they struggle to produce the last few crops of the season. It is time to begin preparing your allotment for next year.

Whilst you wait for other final crops to be ready such as cabbages, celery, brussels sprouts and parsnips, you can lift and store your late potatoes, carrots and onions, (if you haven’t already done so). Any foliage remaining on the plants can be added to your compost bin or heap ready to be used as compost in the future.

Now is a good time to go over the harvested areas and remove any obvious stones or perennial weeds to prevent them causing you problems next Spring. Remove any plastic plant row markers and either discard or save for use again next year. Fold up and store your redundant horticultural fleece and netting as this too can be used again next year.

Continue harvesting your remaining crops.

By now your runner and French beans will more than likely have virtually stopped producing beans, and may well have begun to die down. This is a good time to remove the bamboo canes for storage over the winter. The easiest way to remove them quickly is to cut the string or ties that hold the canes together, then cut the plants stems at ground level. Lift the bottom of the canes out of the ground and then pulling from the bottom slide the canes free of the plants. Once you have done this you will be left with a heap of foliage on the ground that can be added to your compost heap or bin. It is best to leave the roots of beans in the soil as they are rich in nitrogen nodules and will benefit whatever crop you choose to plant in that location next year. Store your bamboo canes in a dry place such as a garden shed or garage as they will eventually become brittle and rotten if left exposed to the elements all year round.

Your tomato and cucumber plants can now be cut down and placed on the compost heap. Their bamboo canes also be stored for next year’s use.

The remains of any plants such as courgettes can be cut now and composted.

Harvest late crops such as celery and leeks.

Continue removing stones and perennial weeds from the newly harvested areas. Do not add perennial weeds to your compost as they will most likely regrow in your allotment when you use the resulting compost.

Finish harvesting crops such as brussels sprouts and cabbage until you now have an allotment free of crops. In the event you have crops that are later still then you will have to delay the next stages until the land is clear, or alternatively follow the next steps in the free areas only wherever possible.

Depending on the size of the area your vegetable allotment covers, either rotavate the land yourself, or have a tractor come in and plough over the land.

Arrange a delivery of either cow manure, well rotted compost or seaweed (if you live near to the coast and can obtain it). The quantities you need will also depend on the area of land you need to cover, so you may be able to collect it yourself, or if, as in my case, the area of land is large, get your local farmer to deliver it to you with a tractor and trailer.

Using a fork spread the manure, compost or seaweed thickly over the surface of the soil. Personally I like to spread it at least 7 or 8 inches thick. especially as in the case of seaweed it is 90% water, so it will rapidly shrink once it begins to dry out.

You can now concentrate your efforts on cleaning, oiling and storing your garden tools in preparation for next spring.

When the spring arrives either rotavate the rotted manure into the soil yourself, or if the area is substantial, pay your local tractor driver to rotavate it in for you. After this you can prepare your land as normal by raking etc ready for planting up as the weather warms up.
Once your seedlings are visible I advise further thick mulching between plants using well rotted manure, seaweed or compost, as this will drastically reduce the amount of weeding you will need to do during the growing season.

This article has been written on the assumption you are growing organically, and not relying on weedkillers to control your weeds or artificial fertlisers to feed the vegetables growing on your allotment or vegetable plot.