EARLY WINTER IN THE GARDEN
As winter begins to close in we take every chance to get into the garden on any dry days and when the sun shines we get the bonus of seeing plenty of colour as plants have not yet all gone dormant. There will always be good colour on the Calluna heathers as well as the variegated Euonymus and Houttuynia, but the unpredictable weather has so confused plants that they just do not know when to stop flowering. Wallflowers and polyanthus in borders and tubs have all got flowers on them, which is all very welcome at this time of year as long as it doesn’t restrict their display in spring. Now is the last chance to complete any wallflower, pansy or other spring flowers while there is still just enough warmth in the soil to get them established.
However it is the Nerines that are catching my eye in a clump next to some apple trees which have all lost their leaves, and outdoor fuchsias in borders and hanging baskets continue to flower as the sun shines in between days of rain, sleet and the first snow showers.
Several days of heavy rain have hampered outdoor gardening, so some tasks are a wee bit overdue. Gladioli, begonias and dahlias have now all been lifted and drying them off in the greenhouse was just fine, but now they have been cleaned up, and will be over wintered in polystyrene trays in my frost free garage. I dry out some old compost and cover the begonia tubers for added protection from frost and too much drying out. When sorting through the gladioli there is always masses of wee bulbils, so I keep the biggest of these, and in spring I will sow a row somewhere to let them bulk up. They can be sown like a row of peas in a six inch wide drill.
Chrysanthemums have lasted well into November, but have now been lifted and boxed up in compost to be kept just moist in my cold greenhouse. They are quite hardy so some frost should not worry them too much. Make sure all these over wintered plants are labelled.
A few days of decent weather allowed catching up of other tasks that needed doing but were not a whole load of fun. So a new fence was installed and painted, and as I had the brushes handy I was instructed to continue with the good work and paint all the other fences as well as the shed. As a full time artist I can be handy with a brush, but fences and sheds do not quite have the same impact. I couldn’t wait to get back into the studio and pick up a smaller brush for my latest project of capturing the
Back on the allotment, there are plenty of root vegetables to lift for the kitchen with parsnips having a great year, unlike my beetroot which has not been the least bit happy this year. I grew plenty as it is always easy to find room for another row, but I just could not get them to grow to a decent size.
You win some you lose some, as leeks, cabbages, kale and brussels sprouts are all growing massively this year, not bothered by the lack of sunshine. On the downside I had great summer turnips, but Swedes failed miserably, though I put this down to poor seed as there was no germination. Yet another nursery joins my blacklist, though there are plenty others to choose from.
Outdoor work continues with the winter digging as long as the surface is dry enough.
Indoor work in the kitchen is busy as Anna makes her apple chutney, and I brew three demijohns of apple wine. Thirty pounds of apples had to be cored and chopped then crushed before adding to the bucket with water, sugar and a few sultanas and bananas to give it body. This should be ready in under a couple of years. My previous home brew from outdoor grapes plus Black Hamburg had to have wine concentrate added as the poor summer held back sugar production in the grapes. There was only enough natural sugar to give about 8% alcohol and ideally we want it to be about 12%.
Global warming up north was hard to find this year; maybe it will be better in 2016.
Wee jobs to do this week
Order fruit trees, bushes and plants from catalogues, garden centres or online while stocks are available as all the best varieties will go first. Planting can be done over the next four months.