Jobs for the productive garden in December

Life’s getting a bit easier now that winter is here.  Not too much hard graft to do and it’s more about clearing up and planning for next year.

Kitchen Garden

grape vine
Prune ornamental and edible grape vines, and prune soft and tree fruits including currants, gooseberries, apples and pears (don’t be tempted to prune plum or cherry trees now – leave them until summer).  Save pruned stems from apple and pear trees to use for plant supports for perennials during the spring and summer.

If you have bare-rooted fruit trees and bushes to plant, get them in as soon as possible. If the ground is frozen over or too wet, heel them in (plant temporarily) until conditions improve.

Harvesting leeks

Harvest celery, beetroot, turnips, sprouts, kale, parsnips, leeks and carrots.  Earth up tall Brussels sprout stems to support them against winter winds.

Force rhubarb to produce a tender early crop – insulate the crown with straw and then cover with a forcing pot or upturned dustbin.

Make sure that you store fruit and vegetables in a cool, airy, frost free place: check regularly and discard any that show signs of rot.

Order plants of early crops such as seed potatoes, summer bulbs, onions sets, cabbages, cauliflowers and lettuces from specialists for early spring delivery.  It is worth ordering early as suppliers will run out of the most popular lines.

Cutting garden
For fragrant flowers indoors, pick stems of Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet), Lonicera fragrantissima (winter honeysuckle), Sarcococca (Christmas Box) and Viburnum.  Collect winter foliage, colourful stems and berries for Christmas decorations.

Rose hips

Roses grown for cutting and their hips should be planted now as the bare-root season is in full swing.

Pinch out the tips of autumn sown sweet pea seedlings once they have two pairs of leaves.

If you planted scented Narcissi and Hyacinth bulbs in pots last month, bring them in from the greenhouse now so that they flower in time for Christmas.

Picture credits:  Janet Bligh

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Jobs for the productive garden in November

With winter approaching, there isn’t a great deal to do in the kitchen garden at this time of year, but here are a few ideas to keep you busy.

Start winter pruning apple and pear trees, and fix grease bands to fruit trees to protect them against winter moth.  If you are planting new trees this winter, they should be available by now so it’s a good time to make a start.

Loganberries

You can also begin planting bare-root raspberry canes and currant bushes.

Plant garlic sets and shallots and sow broad beans.
On the window sill grow herbs and salad leaves.

Rhubarb should be divided every 5 years to keep the plants strong and productive – and this can be done any time between now and spring, as long as the ground isn’t frozen.

Harvest leeks and Brussels sprouts.  If you haven’t used carrots and parsnips either cover them with straw or dig them up by the middle of the month and store in the fridge.  Protect cauliflower heads from frost by pegging or tying theirs leaves over them.

Tulips by Firgrove Photographic

This is now the best time to plant Tulip and Hyacinth bulbs, and if like me, you haven’t quite finished planting your other spring bulbs (!), crack on with that this month – providing the ground is not water logged or frozen.

You can either risk leaving your Dahlias in the ground over winter (protecting them with a thick compost mulch), or if your soil is heavy and wet and they are likely to rot, cut them down and dig them up (once the frost has blackened the foliage), and store the dried off tubers until you can re-plant them in late spring.

Photos:  Janet Bligh & Firgrove Photographic

Jobs for the productive garden in September

My seasonal tips if you’re growing fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers for cutting

CUTTING GARDEN
Keep deadheading annuals and late-flowering Dahlias & Salvias to prolong flowering (and don’t forget to support them as the plants get bigger and top-heavy).

Direct sow hardy annuals (such as Nigella, cornflowers and Calendula officinalis) in to the ground now for early flowers next summer.

Teasels by Firgrove Photographic

Dry seedheads of Eryngium and Teasels to use in flower arrangements.

Tulips by Firgrove Photographic

Order your spring bulbs now if you haven’t done it already – if you leave it too late you may find it hard to get exactly what you want.   If you’re looking for ideas on what to plant, take a look at my blog on choosing bulbs for the cutting garden.

Move tender plants under cover as the night time temperatures drop.

KITCHEN GARDEN
Keep on top of your harvesting to beat damp weather which can damage produce.

Pick sweetcorn as soon as it’s ripe, and if frost is forecast, harvest tender veg. such as courgette, peppers and tomatoes.

Plant out any new strawberry plants now.

Let squash and pumpkins ripen in the sun.

Sow fast-growing oriental greens such as Mizuna and Pak-choi.

Cover leafy vegetable crops with bird-proof netting.

Before slug damage spoils them, dig up any remaining potatoes and store in a cool, frost-free place.

onions

Take up the last of this year’s onion crop and leave them to dry before storing.  You can now sow onion sets to mature next summer.

There’s still time to sow green manures which will release nutrients back in to the soil when they are dug in over spring.

PESTS AND DISEASES
Clean your greenhouse & coldframes to help prevent pests over wintering.

Start to clear up plant debris in borders to keep fungal diseases at bay over winter.

To avoid Vine weevils damaging your plants apply nematodes this month and next, to treat freshly hatched grubs (I get mine from www.ladybirdplantcare.co.uk).

 

Picture credits:  Janet Bligh & Firgrove Photographic

Jobs for the productive garden in August

Get the most from your kitchen garden and cutting garden this month by keeping on top of your seasonal jobs

CUTTING GARDEN
Keep up with cutting, feeding and/or deadheading on a regular basis.  Dahlias don’t open in the vase so only cut them when the flowers are open.

Angelica archangelica

Collect seeds as they start to ripen, and either sow them now or store them carefully to sow next year

KITCHEN GARDEN
Harvest plums & damsons as soon as they ripen to get to them before the wasps and birds do!

Lift and pot up, or re-plant any rooted strawberry runners which you want to keep as new plants for next year’s fruit.

Fruit trees – prune over vigorous growth on wall trained plums, cherries, apples and pears.  Cut our badly placed and weak shoots in order to encourage growth and reduce the risk of disease.

loganberries

Remove old fruiting canes on loganberries and early fruiting raspberries, and tie in new growth.

Sow Oriental vegetables, spring cabbage, and salad onions. And keep sowing cut-and-come-again salad.

Sow green manures in empty beds in the kitchen garden. The crop can be dug into the soil in spring and will feed your soil. This is a great way to add nutrients and improve soil with the minimum of effort.  There’s a really useful video on the RHS website about how to do this.  Recommended viewing!

Contine  to pick courgettes, cucumbers and beans as this encourages further cropping.

Lift onions, shallots and garlic when the leaves turns yellow and papery.  If the leaves haven’t already bent over, do it yourself and leave the bulbs in the ground a little longer.

Potatoes

Harvest second earlies and main crop of potatoes when they start flowering.

PESTS AND DISEASES
Watch out for signs of Tomato & Potato Blight, which are common at this time of year.  If you’re not sure what the symptoms are, take a look at the RHS website which is full of very useful information on this and other pests and diseases.

Picture credits:  Janet Bligh & Firgrove Photographic