Well, another month on and what to do with your slightly chapped and chilly green fingers?!
The weather won’t be very enticing out there but thankfully there is still much fun to be had with growing under cover.
I’ve been asked to focus on what we can all grow in our own homes, without the aid of a greenhouse (or safety net!), so thought I’d introduce you to Microgreens this month, if you have not already discovered these small but highly tasty and nutritious little gems.
Quick and easy to grow, ready in just one week, they are great for bringing life to all kinds of dishes, salads, soups and sandwiches. River Cottage chefs are in awe of them and grow them throughout the year.
Grown in a similar way to cress, they can be sprinkled on the top of wet compost in a plastic tray, placed on a sunny window sill or in a conservatory. Keep moist and then harvest with scissors when the stems reach about 4cm high. I actually use a half pipe of guttering as a container, just fill to ¾ of the height of the guttering and leave an inch of pipe clear of soil at each end to allow any excess water run off.
Available from Suttons, priced around £2.35 per pack, you can grow these seeds all year around and I can personally recommend their Rocket Victoria, Basil Dark Opal and Broccoli varieties. All have an intense flavour to them so you only need a small handful to really add flavour to your dishes.
Also look out for a variety of winter salad leaves that can be sown inside and some hardy ones that can still be sown outside if you cover with horticulture fleece or a cloche.
Celery can be sown (in a heated greenhouse or on a warm sunny windowsill) for harvesting later in May.
December doesn’t have to be a completely dull month in the garden. If you’re looking for a hint of colour or maybe a nice festive present for a gardener, then there are still a number of shrubs and plants that can be grown and will flower even in this icy month! You might like to look out for Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’, Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’, Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Rose’ ornamental cabbages and kales.
Buy or cut festive favourites such as mistletoe and holly as late as possible. When you’re ready to use them indoors, cut about an inch off of the stems then dip the tip of the stem into boiling water for about 20 seconds or so before standing in cold water overnight in a cool dark room – this will help maximise vase life / decoration life.
The end of the year is also a good time to get out on a dry day and repair fences and woodwork behind large shrubs and trees as access is much easier when the leaves are down and the plants are dormant. All that effort and banging around should keep you warm!
If you’re not composting your garden waste, do have a good poke around and check beneath any prepared bonfires as frogs, toads and hedgehogs all like to hibernate under nice piles of leaves and branches.
If we’re lucky enough for some of the glistening pretty white stuff later on and it’s a heavy fall, then It’s worth clearing off the worst from tops of hedges and conifers as the sheer weight can easily snap off large branches.
Remove pumps from ponds before severe frosts start. A useful tip for ponds and bird baths is to place a ping pong ball directly into the water as this stops it from freezing over owing to the constant movement of it being blown around.
Bulbs and bare rooted trees, shrubs and perennials can still be planted now whilst they’re dormant.
Lots of apples left over...?? See the recipe below for some much needed comfort eating in the warm!
If you’re looking to really get stuck into some veg growing next year or are after a last minute garden gift idea, I can recommend the River Cottage Courses (although pricey, they are good fun and you can sometimes get a good discounted deal via their Axminster Cafe) – see www.rivercottage.co.uk. Rocket Gardens also do some fab organic plug plant instant gardens which I’ve been buying for several years, with great success and taste – see www.rocketgardens.co.uk. I was also lucky enough to attend a ‘No Dig’ talk by Charles Dowding recently and would recommend his day courses – see www.charlesdowding.co.uk.
Trees are the longest living organisms on the earth
Stourhead Gardens (National Trust) are definitely worth a visit in November – please see http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stourhead/. The tree colours can be absolutely amazing there. Just try and get a visit in before the winter gales hit so you benefit from seeing the leaves still on the trees, as opposed to on the ground! My recommendation is to enter the lake via the gardens (as the former house owners had designed that pathway purposely), that way you benefit from some excellent views across the lake as the gardens are positioned higher up.
Until next time.... happy gardening :>)