It’s getting darker and colder, and there is less growing and fewer crops to harvest (although some are at their peak in December– e.g. leeks and winter brassicas). There are still plenty of jobs to do to prepare for the year ahead.
Now is the time to start your winter digging – the frosts and rain will help to further break down the soil so that ready for planting in the spring. If you combine some organic matter then the worms will ‘do their bit’ below the ground. Mulch the soil around plants above warm, wet, weed-free soil.
It’s the perfect time of year to plant and prune fruit trees and bushes, hardy broad beans and peas can be sown, and shallots and garlic can get an excellent start if they avoid waterlogged ground.
You may want to consider extended your growing season by investing in a greenhouse, hot frame or polytunnel, along with a means of heating.
Finally, think of anything you may need over the coming year and put it on your Christmas list!
Fruit trees, fruit bushes and rhubarb.
Garlic sets, shallots, hardy peas and broad beans (Aquadulce varieties).
Winter salad leaves.
Prune hard fruit trees (apples, pears) and currants, gooseberries and autumn raspberries.
Remove faded leaves from winter brassicas. Cover beds.
Leeks, root vegetables, brassicas (cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts), late salad crops.
A well planned plot will have some well-developed brassicas as we head towards winter: various types of kale, cabbage, sprouts and broccoli. Give them a helping hand by:
Salad crops develop quickly, and there are a wide variety – sorrel, lettuce, endive, kale, radicchio and mustard leaves - to suit various conditions.
They can be grown in seed drills, broadcast over an area of ground or grown in containers. Either way, they offer a fresh and tasty alternative to bags of supermarket salads.
As salad crops can outgrow weeds, watering and pests are the main concerns for salad growers. Watering every two days may be necessary during long dry spells if salad crops are grown in compost rich beds (daily watering may be necessary if they are grown in small pots).
Slugs are the main pest, and can be treated with pellets, nematodes, or regular picking off. Ants and aphids can also be a problem – ants can be kept in check if the surrounding soil is kept moist. Aphids can be squashed by hand if they are not tackled by ladybirds or beetles.
Regular collect leaves when they are ready to harvest. If leaves start to sag after harvesting they can be recovered by soaking in cold water.