Monday, 21 December 2015



As the festive season draws ever so near we begin the wind down, putting essential gardening tasks on the back burner, and in any case recent storms, flooding, and the memory of a rotten summer brings in the need for a wee bit of festive cheer. While I always try to get all my digging done before the end of the year, the continual rains have made the soil surface too wet to walk on so digging will be delayed till it dries up a wee bit or we get some light surface frosts.
My most essential task has been making sure I have some two year old Saskatoon wine bottled up, as well as my red currant, grape and apple wine. Trips to the allotment plot are mostly to pick parsnips, carrots, sprouts, cabbage, kale, beetroot and leeks. Though when you get a few dry sunny days I go for the other healthy option and bring back my salad range of winter lettuce, spring onion, rocket, mizuna and mustard, all still growing happily. Back home we still have plenty spuds, onions, pumpkins and apples in store. I keep checking apples and remove any going soft or brown. These get cut in half and left outside for the blackbirds which seem to enjoy them just fine.

Early December is the time for putting up the Christmas tree, checking that last years lights are still working. This decorating task is very important and a very serious operation taking care to ensure the loaded tree does not fall over. However to steady my nerves a bottle of vintage Saskatoon wine is never far away.
The weather the last few weeks has been quite predictable; we get gales and storms one day, followed by a calm sunny
day next and occasion the sun stays out for two days. This gives us the chance to wander around the garden, and be amazed at just how much flowers we still have putting on a display. We either grow or buy in flowers to decorate the tables over the festive season, as the garden is usually bare. This year most plants missed out on summer so they are trying to make up for lost time taking advantage of every sunny day. Fuchsia Mrs Popple has been unbelievable as it is still covered in flowers in mid December. Mahonia Charity flowers in mid winter, but some flowered last October. Snowdrops are again just itching to start the winter flowering season, though my drift are at the bottom of a warm sunny south facing wall. Two tubs of polyanthus have never stopped flowering since I planted then in October.

Back indoors things are a bit mixed. I keep my stock of geraniums going from year to year by taking cutting in autumn and over wintering them on a windowsill. Other geraniums got lifted whole, slightly trimmed and then potted up. They are now a mass of colour. Impatiens were propagated from cuttings quite successfully then potted up. However they got infected by red spider, and though I sprayed them and killed a few, the plants never recovered.
At this time of year I always have my Christmas cactus (Zygocactus) full of pink flowers. Last year it flowered twice, but must have exhausted itself as it has refused to flower this year.
One plant that I don’t grow, but always buy in is the Poinsettia. They are not expensive, so easy to grow and being quite big really make a bright splash of colour. Some people tell me they find them difficult, but this may be due to over or under watering, draughts or too close to a radiator.
Another excellent plant for this time of year in the winter cherry, but look around for a good one.

 Wee jobs to do this week

Winter is the time for pruning shrubs and fruit trees and bushes. It is quite pleasant doing this task on a sunny but cold day as we are usually well wrapped up, and a wee bit of outdoor activity is good for you. However keep the momentum going as the prunings have to be disposed off. If you are able to burn then a wee controlled bonfire will dispose of prunings quickly and leave you with some high potash wood ash fertiliser, but it is very soluble so get it bagged and under cover as soon as it is cold enough. For the rest of us a shredder is the next option, which again is a pleasant task, gets rid of all your wood prunings and leaves you with a pile of shreddings to add to your compost heap or used as mulch under some fruit bushes.


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