EARLY WINTER JOBS
As we leave autumn behind, and winter has not yet set in there are always a few dry sunny frost free days when we can get into the garden to catch up on all those wee jobs put off for a few days.
Deciduous trees and shrubs are now
dormant and most have shed their leaves, so these need to be
gathered up and added to the compost heap. Old leaves from cabbages, kale,
sprouts, swedes and winter cauliflower are also better cleared up as leaving
them in place encourages slugs.
|Fresh Vegetables in December|
The herbaceous border plants are also dormant so they will also need tidying up by cutting back old stems and removing weeds and any supporting canes and strings. Once the border is cleaned up take the chance to check over clumps of plants such as iris, pyrethrum, doronicum, kniphofia, peony, delphinium, shasta daisies and oriental poppies and where ever they have spread too far, dig up and divide them. Replant the strongest plants usually growing around the perimeter, into freshly dug and composted border soil. Delphinium crowns are a favourite food for slugs so drop a few pellets around these, but most of the others are usually safe.
|Doronicum Little Leo|
Although the summer up north was very wet, the autumn has been a lot drier so winter digging has been proceeding without wet soil clogging up the boots and wellies. My main difficulty has been separating out freshly added composting material on my compost heap so I can get into well rotted compost buried deep underneath. Unfortunately I don’t have room for two compost heaps.
However we are still on target to complete winter digging before Christmas, although those areas with a good covering of clover and vetch green manures can be left for digging in later next year. Green manure crops will continue to grow and take in nutrients from the soil, so these are not washed away by the winter rains and snow, but after digging in these nutrients are released back into the soil as the green manure crops rot down for the benefit of the next crop. If the land allocated for late crops such as pumpkins, courgettes, sweet corn or French beans has a green manure crop on it, do not dig this in till a couple of months before planting as that is plenty of time for the cover crop to rot down. For these heavy feeders I also add plenty of compost while digging proceeds.
|Winter lettuce Hilde|
There is nothing to beat a trip to the allotment on a cold frosty day or when there is a covering of snow and harvesting a good selection of fresh vegetables full of nature’s goodness. Brussels sprouts are not just for Christmas and can be delicious chopped up in a stir fry, or even sliced and added to the bacon, egg, tomato, mushroom and sliced apple for a good fry up. Winter cabbage, kale, Swedes, leeks, parsnips and cauliflower are all quite hardy and can last throughout the winter.
So far my beetroot is quite happy outdoors, but I will keep an eye on the forecast and bring them indoors if the mild winter turns out to be wishful thinking.
Winter hardy lettuce, spring onions, radish and rocket can also be grown to supply fresh salads in winter if grown in a sheltered spot or in a cold greenhouse after the tomato crop has been cleared.
Early winter is also a good time to check for any repairs needed to fences, gates, uneven paths, leaky sheds or doing some shed renovations for extra shelves, tables, seats, racks to hang tools on and cupboards for seeds, chemicals, fertiliser and hand tools.
|Potting up rooted geranium cuttings|
Cuttings of geraniums, fuchsias and other plants taken at the end of summer will have rooted and now be ready to pot up. Use small pots as they will not grow much now but need plenty of light and just enough warmth to keep them frost free over winter.
Wee jobs to do this week
Check over stored apples, potatoes, carrots, beetroot, onions, dahlias, begonias, gladioli,END
pumpkins and any other crops, bulbs, tubers being kept over winter in frost
free sheds, garages or other places. Apples can suffer brown rots that would
spread if not removed. Potatoes, beetroot and carrots can sprout if
temperatures are too high. Pumpkins are very erratic in storage as some can go
off quickly and others last perfectly till spring.