One man and his plot: spruces up his balcony and allotment

  • Last updated: 11 November 2022
Our head of horticulture Chris Collins brings colour and order to his allotment and balcony as he enjoys autumn and prepares for winter. But he’s also planning ahead for spring with bulb planting and tidying up his strawberry beds.
Garden flowers

As we enter the second half of autumn, I’m planting the last of my organic bulbs on the balcony - and this little space becomes filled with anticipation. Anticipation for all the colour that will explode from here in early next spring. Bulbs keep me going through the latter part winter, as they are the first sign that spring is on its way.

But this is a beautiful time of year - and I’m still enjoying colour from the summer, albeit slowly getting replaced. I’ll continue to produce fresh organic food on the balcony by switching to microgreens. I sow regularly and thickly in drills, and these drills are then inter-sown, providing a steady supply of fresh greens for my salads and sandwiches. If the weather stays mild enough, I hope to keep this going until the end of the year.

Allotment makeover…from recycled materials

Down on the allotment a makeover is in progress as I sort through the timber that makes up my individual beds and paths. I’m always looking for material in skips and pride myself on recycling most of the wood on the allotment. As some of the timber is now rotten, I’m skip surfing with greater tenacity (though I’ll always ask the owner’s permission before removing anything!) This work keeps me nice and warm on a cold day, and I love the smell of the air as winter moves in. The low winter sun is incredibly beautiful.

Another sight that always makes me happy at this time of year is a completely full leafmould bay. This stuff is gold dust and although it takes time to break down, it’s an invaluable material and an excellent soil conditioner. It can even be used in a seed sowing mix once fully decomposed. Best of all, it’s a gift from nature and is entirely free.

Giving strawberry beds a boost

Also on the cards in November is the task of lifting my strawberries. This year I need to free them from the gradual build-up of couch grass that's grown up and through them over the last few years. I had a real bumper crop this year, but I can no longer ignore the weed problem! Strawberries are good example of how tricky it can be to grow perennial crops, as the weeds can often out-compete them. I think a Mypex membrane, with the strawberries planted into slits cut into the fabric, may be the only solution.

That’s all from me…I’m off to collect seeds from the extremely hard-working hardy annuals at my allotment. Save these and I’ll ensure bands of colour alongside my edibles again next year.

Happy gardening everyone!

Chris Collins' allotment mid makeover
Chris is sorting through timber to makeover his allotment beds and paths