Plotlines – direct sowing in Spring

Broadbeans under a cloche

Plotlines, written by one of our York allotmenteers, is a new twice monthly blog aimed at anyone who would like some guidance about growing on an allotment.

Spring is here, despite how chilly it still is this year, and a busy time of year for plot holders.  Given the chill, you might want carefully to wrap the blossom on your fruit trees in horticultural fleece – or old net curtains work well too. If the flowers get frosted, there’ll be no fruit. And no happy pollinators either. Similarly, if you’ve got broad beans or peas, or sweet peas for their gorgeous summer flowers, that you sowed indoors (on a window sill at home, or a greenhouse if you’re lucky), it’s worth covering them when you plant them outside about 9 inches apart. If it’s just a few plants, plastic pop or water bottles from someone’s recycling bin can be cut in half to make a little shelter for each individual plant.

Are you digging or no-digging? Either way, care for the soil is the most important allotment job; your soil for seed sowing should be warm and moist and have a fine tilth – so no dense clods of heavy soil that those delicate first shoots will struggle against. Give your seedlings a gentle start in life. If you thought ahead, you might have your first sowing area warming under some salvaged plastic sheeting.  March is the driest month of the year usually, so that may help to keep the ground nice and moist too, ready for your spring sowings.

What to sow in that lovely soil then? Broad beans and peas can be sown direct outdoors now. Beetroot likes an early start too – choose a variety that’s slow to bolt (make flowers), like Boltardy. Once you’ve raked your soil really fine, you can sow carrots as well – but cover the row with something like enviromesh to keep out the carrot root fly which will make holes in your lovely crop. It’s also time to start your salad bed, a first sowing of just a few seeds of your chosen varieties of lettuces, to heart-up or cut-and-come-again, some wild rocket (which won’t be perforated by leaf beetle), some parsley and radishes. Be gentle with your watering: the seeds are small and can be washed away by a deluge.

If you’re growing potatoes you’ve probably already chosen your favourite varieties, with a range of harvesting times, and they’re chitting (sprouting) in readiness for the big day when they go in the earth. Traditionally allotmenteers plant early potatoes on Good Friday; some say this is because that day, which is also Passover, is the first full moon after the vernal equinox – an auspicious time for root planting. Some say it’s because it’s a bank holiday, and so we had an extra day to spend on the plot. Either way, it’s a good time to get them in the ground. You could dig trenches and put some of the precious contents of the compost bin in the bottoms, or just make individual holes for each seed potato if you’re not digging. An allotment neighbour did a little experiment of both methods a few years ago and there was no difference in the yield – a lot of difference in the effort involved though. If you have grass cuttings, or leaf mould, or even chopped up nettles without their roots, you could mulch on top of the soil with that to keep the moisture in.

It’s an optimistic time of year – keep the soil warm and moist and our optimism might be realised…..

Student research project – have your say

hands planting seeds in a raised bed

YACIO has been approached by a student from York University with a view to plot holders taking part in a survey, which is part of his dissertation work.

Harry Matthew Partridge is a 3rd year student studying BSc Environment, Economics and Ecology. His research is on Allotment holder perceptions of nature-provisioning features on allotment sites: barriers and opportunities.

Further details about his research and the survey can be found on the link below.

Prize Draw – Plot Holders who complete the survey will have an option, at the end, to submit their email address and enter in a prize draw, for £50 gardening supplies from a local garden centre/nursery.

If you wish to help this young man in his studies please complete the survey as soon as possible but no later than mid-Feb.

Thank you.

Ladies That Dig

Ladies that dig

There’s not much to do on the allotment in the depths of February, so why not check out this new show, running at York Theatre Royal for one evening only on 25th February, 2023. It’s billed as an hilarious and moving comedy-drama about allotmenteering and the great outdoors and is based on interviews with local plot holders. Are you one of them? Do let us know if you’ve contributed!

Here’s what the theatre have to say about Ladies That Dig:

A hilarious and moving comedy-drama from the team that brought you Ladies That Bus.

Ladies That Dig is about the great outdoors and the people who enjoy it. Budding love, blossoming middle-age, exploring our roots, and unearthing buried treasures, lead us to discover what it means to ‘grow’…

Collected from real local interviews from Allotmenteers, Metal Detectorists, Archaeologists, Grave-diggers, Forensic Anthropologists and people who just love gardening, Ladies That Dig is a fertile blend of live music, comedy, and true tales from women who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

York Theatre Royal

For more information and to book a ticket visit the Theatre Royal website.

Recycling old compost bags

old compost bags

Some great news from Dobbies. You can now recycle your old compost bags at the York store. This is particularly good news as this packaging is typically difficult for people to recycle easily.  

You’ll find the recycling collection points in their car park and you can also recycle any unwanted plastic plant pots too.

Live theatre at Scarcroft allotments

red sky at night poster

Mikron Theatre will bring their new show RED SKY AT NIGHT to Scarcroft Allotments on Sunday 22nd May at 2pm. The subject is topical for gardeners….THE WEATHER!

About the show

The wild and wonderful world of weather

Through the chronicles of history, people have gazed up and marvelled at the mysteries of the weather. Generations have tried to master the elements, and understand the magic of the skies.

Hayley’s sunny, beloved dad was the nation’s favourite weatherman. He could make a typhoon sound like a tickle. Hayley is now following in his footsteps, to join the ranks of the forecasting fraternity. Or at least, local shoestring teatime telly.

When the pressure drops and dark clouds gather, Hayley is melting faster than a lonely snowflake. She’s seen the future’s forecast, but will anyone listen?

Bring your anorak and your factor 50. Well, you never know.


No tickets required, a ‘pay what you feel’ collection will be taken after the show.


Scarcroft Allotments can be found on Scarcroft Road, YO23 1PF, with the entrance just opposite the Croquet club and the park. The performance will take place outside, so bring a chair or blanket and why not bring a picnic too.

More information

View show details on the Mikron Theatre website or facebook page