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Ministry of Agriculture Allotment & Garden Guide

Allotment & Garden Guide August 1945 page 4

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facsimile of page 4

August 1945

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Ministry of Agriculture
Allotment & Garden Guides Index

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The Allotment DVD
The delights of having an allotment. 15 programmes as seen on ITV. Suit new and established growers. Seasonal guide, top gardening tips, fascinating food facts and insights into what's really in those sheds! 

THE ALLOTMENT SERIES was first shown on ITV 1 West

Allotments UK and other related allotment links




     A little meat goes a long way—with plenty of onions to flavour the dish. We shall need all the meat-stretching flavour we can harvest, and now is the critical time in the life of the spring-sown onion. On the care taken in lifting and ripening depends its ability to keep well in storage.
     First step is to bend the tops over and then leave for about a fortnight while they shrivel. If you have some "bull-necks" which refuse to be bent, use them up in the kitchen in the next few weeks.
     To lift, loosen the bulbs by pushing a fork into the soil well under them, and lever then up.

harvesting and curing onions


Then lay the bulbs on their side with the under-surface and roots so placed as to catch the full sun. Now they must be thoroughly dried before you take them into the dry shed, spare bedroom or wherever you are going to store them.
     If the month is a "baker," the process should not take long—just lay the bulbs on firm ground or on a path until the skins are really dry. If the weather alternates between dry and wet, the onions much be lifted off the soil and the most made of the sunny spells by sheltering your onions on a home-made drying frame. Prop a piece of wire netting on four corner pegs, spread the bulbs on it, then above them—about 3 in. higher—prop a sheet of corrugated iron on four more pegs. The sun, when it comes, beats on the iron and warms the onions beneath ; the air circulates freely, and the crop ripens quickly and well.

home-made drying frame for drying onions

    Sow Onions  
     See that the soil is firm, and sow fairly quickly. Use varieties of the White Spanish type or those specially recommended for autumn sowing. In the North, the first week in the month is the time ; the third week is early enough down South.   Some growers divide their sowings, saving some of the seed till late December. They find that the December sowing produces fewer plants that run to seed. But whenever you sow, keep weeds firmly in check.
    Hold that moisture  

     About 300 years ago, a scientist planted a willow shoot weighing 5 lb. in a barrel holding 200 lb. of dry soil. for five years he gave it nothing but pure water. He finished with a fine tree weighing over 169 lb. : and the soil had lost a trifling 2 oz., so he concluded that water was the "principle of vegetation."
     Other scientists have since found it isn't quite as simple as that, but none of them has grown a plant without water. In fact it takes anything up to 1,000 lb. of water to produce a single pound of plant substance.
     Plants are just as thirsty in August as human beings are, though they are unable to trot into the kitchen or down the road. But they do have roots able to draw on the available moisture in the soil. It's up to us to see that the moisture gets to the roots and not into the warm air.


Much can be done by timely hoeing to stop the soil cracking when it has been beaten down by heavy rains or watering. But a better way to keep the roots or peas, runner beans and tomatoes supplied with moisture is to spread a layer of half-rotted manure with plenty of straw in it, well-rotted compost material, or even decayed lawn-mowings, between the rows and around the plants. This is a mulch, but it is next to useless if you put it on already bone dry soil. Seize the moment after a fall of rain, or if the rain fails, give the ground a good soaking.
     See that the mulch is open in texture : heavy impenetrable stuff keeps the air from the soil and may even tend to sour it. Watch your lawn-mowings specially. Mulching also helps to keep down the weeds.

use mulch to hold moisture in the soil