We're rapidly heading towards the winter solstice and the shortest day of the year. After that's passed we can start to look forward to the evenings getting lighter (!) but for now we have to manage with colder days and even colder nights. The surface of any standing water in pots or trays up at the allotment is often frozen for much of the morning.
Hopefully and apart from the few things we've listed below there won't be much that needs doing in the garden and we can all spend some time indoors thumbing through the seed catalogues and planning next season's plants and jobs that we need to tackle.
Here's our Top Ten jobs for this month:
Check your winter protection structures are still securely in place. We need to get back to the allotment as the stake that’s supporting Tilly’s Victoria plum has broken and we need to replace it.
Prune open-grown apples and pears. We’ll talk in greater detail about that on our Frome FM radio show but again that’s something we need to get on with – if only to keep the allotment rep happy.
Harvest leeks, parsnips, winter cabbage, sprouts and any remaining root crops. That’s something else we’ll be doing when we’re up at the allotment. We’ve been growing sprouts this year and there’s nothing quite like a sprout on Christmas Day – and if we have any Purple Haze carrots left untouched by the rabbits then we’ll be pulling those too.
Plant and transplant deciduous trees and shrubs. We’ve got a job at the moment where we’re developing a Mr McGregor’s vegetable patch and where amongst the raised beds we’ve built and the hazel hurdles we’ve put up we’re planting bare root apple, plum and peach trees. Now’s a good time to get them in before the soil turns too cold.
Get your kit serviced. We mentioned this last month but if you’ve got some garden machinery such as a strimmer, mower or hedge trimmer then you might want to think about getting it in for a service. We’ve got our lawn mower in so it’s ready to go next year when we start our regular lawn cutting service.
Start digging over your vegetable beds. We’ll be doing that both at the allotment and at Mr McGregor’s. Yes. We’ll be using our new Niwaki Golden Spade to do that and work off any Christmas excesses that we might well have enjoyed. We have thought about the often talked about No Dig method of gardening that we’ll explore next year but if we’re honest we quite like the exercise we get from having a good old dig.
Check your rhubarb. Make sure you give it a feed and some winter protection. If it’s not producing the stalks that it once did then now might be a good time to lift it and divide it and then replant the stems in a new location. We’ve dug up one of our older stems and this year we’ve replanted it in a pot and are planning to cover that with an old chimney pot to force it next year and have an early crop. We might not be in the Tusky Triangle in Yorkshire but the thought of early fresh stalks next year is something that we’re looking forward to – as we take a sip of this year’s Rhubarb and Ginger gin…….
Keep an eye on the weather. If it snows – as Helen Willetts and Carole Kirkwood keep saying it will – then check your shrubs. A heavy snow fall will mean that the branches of those shrubs will become laden with snow and if you don’t get out there and gently shake it off then you run the risk of those branches snapping. That happened to us one year and we then had an even bigger job of trying to stake and support the specimen shrub in the damp cold snow. A job that we could well have done without!
Protect your tender perennials. And any other non-native shrubs and plants that might not cope with anything that the UK climate can throw at them. Here we’re thinking about getting some hessian sacking and horticultural fleece to protect our plants and the pots that they might be in and where we need to lifting those pots to prevent them from becoming waterlogged.
Think mistletoe! If you’ve been lucky enough to get a peck on the cheek at Christmas – and whilst you’re pruning your own apple tree – press some of those mistletoe berries into the bark of your own trees to try and establish your own mistletoe plants next year!
And that's about it for this month and for 2020.
We've got a few jobs that we know we need to tackle. If we're able we might spend some time over Christmas tacking the things that we don't seem to have time for so far this year - mostly up at the allotment!
Anyway if you have any questions or would like us to look at what you need to have done in your garden, then we’d be delighted to hear from you.
You can contact us through our facebook page, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07734 365028.