Allotments With Michelle

Michelle from BBC2 The Big Allotment Challenge, will be writing regular blogs to help you with your allotments. From locating an allotment to preparing one, Michelle will be helping with your allotment questions.

T&M Nominees Shortlisted For RHS Chelsea Flower Show

T&M Nominees Shortlisted For RHS Chelsea Flower Show ‘Plant of the Year’ Award 2021!

T&M is delighted to announce that four of their flower introductions have been shortlisted for the illustrious RHS Chelsea Flower Show ‘Plant of the Year’ Award 2021.

This much sought-after award recognises innovation, appeal, excellence and impact in plant breeding, so we are proud to have so many plants shortlist this year. The finalists and winners will be announced on 20th September and we wish the best of luck to our fellow shortlisted companies.

Camellia ‘1001 Summer Nights’ Jasmine

A world exclusive, summer-flowering Camellia!

World exclusive Camellia ‘1001 Summer Nights’ Jasmine opens the door to the never seen before, putting on a spectacular summer show to provide a midsummer day’s dream garden! Its ruffled, rosette blooms are borne continually from May to October.

Camellia ‘1001 Summer Nights’ Jasmine

A breath-taking breakthrough in Camellia breeding!

This introduction is a ground-breaking new summer flowering variety from T&M that leaves traditional spring-flowering Camellias far behind!

This handsome evergreen was bred in China by Mr. Gao Jiyin, who has worked with camellia for over 50 years, with his colleagues Mr. Zhao Qiangmin and Mr. Liu Xinkai.

An interspecific cross between Camellia azalea and Camellia reticulata, ‘1001 Summer Nights’ Jasmine takes the very best from both parents – a long flowering period, glossy dark leaves from C. Azalea and the large showy blooms of C. reticulata

Meets the demands of modern gardeners

Camellia ‘1001 Summer Nights’ Jasmine is neat and compact, making it ideal for planting in patio containers. Thriving in sun or part-shade, it makes a useful shrub for providing year-round interest and colour in the garden.

Peter Freeman, Thompson & Morgan’s Product Development Manager, said:
‘I was really taken aback by this breakthrough; plants were covered in flower right through the summer!’

Available as:
1 x 10.5cm potted camellia plant (KB6245)
2 x 10.5cm potted camellia plants (KB6246)
1 x 1.6 litre potted camellia plant (KB6247)
2 x 1.6 litre potted camellia plants (KB6248)

Fig (Ficus) ‘Little Miss Figgy’

The hardy Fig for gardens of every size!

This compact, hardy introduction allows anyone to grow their own figs in the smallest of spaces. Little skill or experience is needed to produce a bumper crop from ‘Little Miss Figgy’ every autumn – in warmer years, gardeners will benefit from a second crop in the spring too.

Fig (Ficus) ‘Little Miss Figgy’

What’s in a name? Everything!

Ficus ‘Little Miss Figgy’ is a very compact, dwarf Fig that grows to a maximum height and spread of about 90cm – perfect for gardens or a patio pot. It boasts deeply lobed, dark green foliage and short internodes, and produces lots of large, sweet, burgundy-coloured fruits along the branches. ‘Little Miss Figgy’ is drought tolerant and likes a place in full sun but also tolerates semi-shade.

Available as:
1 x 9cm potted fig plant (KB2925)
2 x 9cm potted fig plants (KB5859)

Sedum ‘Sunsparkler Dream Dazzler’

A dream come true!

Sedum ‘Sunsparkler® Dream Dazzler’ is a beautiful and easy plant to grow, which is disease resistant. Its colours will dazzle you and are different depending on their spot: in the sun the foliage is dark purple with bright pink edges, in the semi-shade the foliage is light purple with bright pink edges and in the shade the foliage is blue-green with white and pink edges. ‘Dream Dazzler’ also forms pretty bright-pink blooms in summer, attracting a lot of bees.

Sedum ‘Sunsparkler Dream Dazzler’

‘Sunsparkler® Dream Dazzler’ prefers a sunny spot in your plot, where this compact plant will delight you with its fabulous foliage that does not fall open. Ideal grown as groundcover, as mass planting, in the rock garden or in a perennial border.

Available as:
1 jumbo plug plant (KB8623)
3 jumbo plug plants (KB8624)
1 x 2 litre potted sedum plant (KC4548)
3 x 2 litre potted sedum plants (KC4551)

Sweet Pea ‘Three Times as Sweet’

A modern edge to a timeless garden favourite

Straight from T&M’s own breeding by Charles Valin, Sweet Pea ‘Three Times As Sweet’ is the first cultivated, Modern Grandiflora tri-colour Stripe variety available.

Bred from Lathyrus odoratus x Lathyrus belinensis cross and thus Lathyrus x hammettii hybrid, the unique marbled blooms blend lavender-blue, burgundy and white, further enhanced by a strong picotee edge. This creates a truly eye-catching display in a vibrant colour combination and strong fragrance not seen in the genus before.

Deliciously fragrant

Offering plenty of the distinctive fragrance that only Sweet Peas can deliver, ‘Three Times as Sweet’ is perfect for cutting for sweetly scented posies. Grow this climbing annual against a trellis or over an obelisk for a sensational summer display. With regular cutting, gardeners can expect 3 months of easy summer colour.

Available as:
3 sweet pea premium multisown plugs (15 plants) (KB7701)
6 sweet pea premium multisown plugs (30 plants) (KB7702)

All varieties featured above are available to buy online at

What to grow on the allotment this season

With all the crocus and daffodils popping their little heads through the soil, it gets me thinking about my plan on what to grow in the coming season on the allotment. Even though this plan changes and develops beyond recognition, as the year goes on I still use it as my rough guide.

When I first started planting veg I would religiously check the information on the back of the seed packet to make sure I was planting and sowing correctly. However, I found that as time went on, I was planting out way too early and was caught out by late frost on more than one occasion (once bitten, twice shy as the saying goes). Experience has taught me to relax and hold back with the sowing. I’ve just started sowing chilli seeds because germination of some varieties can be roughly six weeks (I get so impatient with these). My hubby and sons are chilli maniacs so I always end up growing too many varieties in the pursuit of heat and flavour balance. This year we are growing Black Olive, Lemon Drop and Chocolate Naga, but I’m sure the list will grow bigger as time goes on. I was also given some Spanish Padron chillies by my good twitter friend, this has sparked a friendly chilli race involving myself and a few others. We have all sown at different times and used different methods so it will be interesting to see how it all pans out. Mine are only just starting to develop they took roughly four weeks, I’ve had them sitting on the window sill as my greenhouse isn’t heated, once the temperature evens out I shall transfer them.

sowing on the allotment

The temperature today in the greenhouse reached 81 degrees but dips massively at night still. I’ve also sown tomatoes. I’ve chosen Tomato Tigeralla, Tomato Choc Cherry, Tomato Romello and my favourite is Sungold and Shirley, these are easy to grow and the Sungold are amazingly sweet. I would highly recommend these if you haven’t tried them before. I use tomatillos for salsa, they grow with a papery casing, once fully grown peal the casing back and the tomatillo will be inside. I’m growing the green variety but you can also get the black variety. When using these for cooking make sure you thoroughly rush them as they have a sticky substance which covers them that is really bitter and awful.

You still have time to plant out your garlic if you haven’t already done so (garlic is best planted between November and April) and also get your onion sets in. I planted Stuttgart white onions and red onions, just make sure you make a small hole with your dibber first as you don’t want to damage the root. Onions need to be planted roughly 4 inches apart and in rows 12 inches apart, from mid-March to mid-April. They don’t need to be planted very deep, just so the tops are showing. You may find the birds occasionally pull the odd one up, it’s not a problem just gently poke it back in and it will be fine. Before planting just check that all your onions are healthy, there is no mould etc. By now I should imagine you have your potatoes chitting, there has been some debate in recent years whether to chit or not (what does chitting mean?) Chitting is basically another work for sprouting, what you do when you chit your seed potatoes is basically to speed up the aging process of the potato by exposing it to light and more importantly a bit of warmth, this will cause the eyes of the seed potato to start sprouting. The sprouts should be small, nobly and green and purple in colour. If you end up with long white coloured sprouts it means there’s not enough light.

Making a start on your plot

allotments with michelleSo you’re now the proud tenant of your new plot. You look, you scratch your head, you stand and survey. The fact of the matter is, there is only one way to get a plot up and running and that’s hard work. I started with cutting through the bramble jungle, once cut down to ground level then the fun really begins. Digging out all of the roots, this is quite labour intensive but unfortunately very necessary it really is the only way to ensure they don’t grow back. If you’re lucky enough to inherit fruit bushes try and salvage what you can as these are usually quite established and still produce good fruit even if you decide to relocate. Just make sure when relocating that you dig down fair enough to get the entire root. I inherited quite a few raspberries on mine which I moved to a different bed and still managed to get a good crop, they fruited much better in the second planting season. I even discovered I had a yellow raspberry bush and they tasted so much sweeter.

After clearing the bramble, grasses and what seemed like 10,000 milk bottle tops (what’s that all about) the big dig started, it seemed to go on forever with moving old bottles and pieces of brick. I even came across several large pieces of old carpet. Sometimes people use carpet to suppress the weeds; you can buy much more environmentally friendly alternatives now thankfully. On our site we have a ban on carpet; we are only allowed to use horticultural tarpaulin.

allotments with michelleThrough the winter months when I am not using so many beds I tend to plant green manure. There are many different mixes to choose from, I personally use the clover mix but it depends on what soil you have as to which mix you choose. The green manure on the whole replaces nitrogen back into the soil. It is a fast growing plant sown to cover bare soil, perfect for allotments. The foliage smothers weeds and the roots prevent soil erosion, when dug into the ground while still green it returns valuable nutrients to the soil and improves soil structure. It is extremely easy to sow and grow, the only thing to remember is to make sure you dig the foliage and plant into the top 2.5cm (10in) of soil and to do this 3-4 weeks before you actually intend on planting or sowing as the decay in green material can hamper plant growth.

After digging, my allotment neighbour informed me he had a rotavator I could borrow. Some people dig, some people rotivate, it’s a personal choice. On our site its split down the middle, the older generation tend to dig whilst the younger ones rotivate (that sounds like a sweeping generalisation but it’s just what I have observed on our site).

Next step I decided I would have raised beds partly so I didn’t loose soil onto the pathways and also so I could use a lot of compost to improve the soil as it hadn’t been used for a long time. There was also a tiny lazy part of me that thought whilst watching my allotment neighbour dig from one side of her allotment to the other only to tread all over it, that surely it’s easier to concentrate on just digging the areas where your growing your veg. We are very lucky on our site we have a wood chip delivery and this is what we use in our paths between our beds, this makes life a lot easier and tidier. Many people use scaffold boards for their beds these are ideal if you can get hold of them, I personally used fencing kick boards.

allotments with michelleNext purchase was a shed you need somewhere to store your tools and escape from the rain and most importantly brew a good cuppa. I purchased mine second hand on eBay for £77, my dad and my partner also added a veranda on the front as it gets quite stuffy in there in the summer. It’s a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by and it’s also turned into the site tea hut. You can have your shed as comfy or as basic as you like. I was lucky enough to be given a second shed 6×6 which became my t&t shed (toilet and tools) we don’t have toilets on our site so I have a camping toilet in mine. A lot of sites have size restrictions on sheds mine is 9ft x 8ft and must confess has become a home from home.

Once your beds are planned and your sheds are up, you can concentrate on your soil before planting and if you’re lucky enough to have a greenhouse it makes your growing season so much longer.

In my next post I shall give you some tips on what to grow and when.

How to get an Allotment – with Michelle Stacey

michelle stacey Hi, my name is Michelle and I was a contestant on BBC2 big allotment challenge 2014, and also BBC1 allotment wars. I have my own allotment and have done for 5 years now, the lovelies at Thompson & Morgan have asked if I would like to write an allotment blog, so I thought we would start right back at the beginning.

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