Planning the Year Ahead

The first in a series of new articles about growing vegetables and crops. If you’re new to veggie growing then this is the ideal time to start planning for the year ahead.  Think about what space you have available for your crops and plan what you would like to grow and where.

December is perhaps the one month where, in the build up to Christmas with roaring fires and shorter days, even the hardiest of gardeners may struggle to get out there and do the necessary for their plots.

December often means hard frosts and you need to harvest your winter cabbages, celery and cauliflowers this month. Parsnips and swedes are pretty hardy so if you are a bit over-run with your crop you can keep these in the ground until you need them. If bad weather is forecast then keep some straw handy to cover them over and stop the ground from freezing them in. Make sure that you check your stored crops for any sign of disease and remove any that look problematic.

If the ground isn’t too sticky then this is also a great time to get out your hoe and work between your vegetable crops. Look out for any plants which might have been lifted by frost and press them gently back into the ground.

Keep an eye on your Brussels too – these should be starting now so try cooking them in different ways in your meals before the ‘big day’ (adding a spot of garlic can make all the difference) until you find something suitable to go with the bird. You don’t just have to eat them on Christmas Day you know!

Be mindful of any snowfall this month or in future weeks and help out your plants and shrubs as best you can by brushing off any settled snow. This helps to prevent any damage with branches breaking under the weight. Just make sure that if you have small children, they don’t take this as an opportunity to flick snow everywhere otherwise your quiet gardening time could suddenly turn into an impromptu snowball fight!

Birds at this time of the year need all the help they can get too. There are some great plants that you can introduce to help them as well as popping out the traditional feeders. These include hawthorn, holly, beriberi and indeed your holly can double up as a craft project for indoor decorations over the festive season.

If you are planting these types of shrubs for our feathered friends then do try and put them somewhere quiet in the garden where the birds won’t be frightened off.

Sit back at your window and watch them feed contentedly whilst you enjoy the view. Why not get out a few gardening books, grab a cup of tea and imagine how you’d like your garden to look next summer?  More or less vegetables?  Bigger shrubs, more colour?  Whatever you choose, pat yourself on the back for all the hard work you’ve done this year and think how green your fingers really could be!

Jobs for December & January:

  • Continue collecting falling leaves and put them in a leaf mould cage ready for next year
  • Take hardwood cuttings of soft fruit
  • Cover your compost bins
  • Pop some more manure into your digging efforts
  • Keep an eye on any slugs trying to get at your potatoes
  • Keep your bird feeders topped up, especially if there is ground frost or snowfall
  • Keep mice away from your harvested produce
  • Cut back any creepers that have become a bit excitable during the year
  • Plan your crops
  • Protect crops against the cold and from pests such as pigeons
  • Sew lettuces indoors
  • Start rhubarb crowns