There’s a fine frost all round the kitchen garden this morning, and it feels like Winter has gently landed at last. This plot gets very little direct sunlight between November and February, so the whole growing space becomes almost sleepy.
There isn’t too much left to do on the plot this year, as most of the soil preparation and winter planting was done by early November. However, I have turned the mini greenhouse over to cold weather salads in the last week, and might do some more of that in the next few days. That includes sowings of rocket, coriander, mizuna, Pizzo mustard, hardy types of baby leaf lettuce and a pot of choi sum.
Preparation paying off
Most of the winter vegetables that were started off earlier in the year are doing fine. There’s a couple of good sticks of Brussels sprouts that have buttons on them already, plus a smaller one that will at least give us a sprout top and some side shoots later. The first two sowings of kale are growing strongly, and there’s a little Lucullus chard and leaf beet on the go, plus a few established spring greens plants and some Palla Rossa chicory. There are one or two small parsnips too, grown around the tomato plants, waiting for the first hard frost to sweeten them.
As with all gardens in the real world, there’s been some user error and pest trouble. User error because the purple sprouting broccoli, and final sowings of kale and spring greens were mostly chewed to nothing after I forgot to put them under netting. Caterpillars and snails chomped away, and now I have what looks like just the one weedy little PSB, and maybe a couple of baby cabbages left. Who knows, brassicas can sometimes surprise you with their powers of regeneration…
That darn cat
Speaking of pest trouble, ASBO Kitty is back to her old tricks. The beast dug up all the lovely leeks in the raised bed and shredded them, every single last one. On a happier note, I had so many leek seedlings earlier in the year that I put some of the spares in pots around other plants, so we do still have quite a few small, healthy leeks growing. For some reason, ASBO Kitty leaves things in pots alone most of the time, so while we don’t have lovely jumbo sized Musselburghs, there will at least be some sweet and petite ones.
As the weather’s been fairly mild, I also planted out some more cloves of garlic. These were just split from what was harvested at the tail end of the summer, and their ancestors were two unmarked bulbs from the 99p Stores that are some kind of softneck type. Yes, I know they say you should buy good quality, virus-free stock every year, but doing that doesn’t work so well for a small garden run on a strict budget because the initial outlay is high and you don’t have economies of scale. It’s an experiment, let’s see how it goes.
Winter salad weirdness
The outdoor October and November seed sowings were very hit and miss this year, even though most of them were done under mini polytunnel cloches. The idea was to have winter salads from the baby leaves, and a few early crops in the Spring. Only the rocket, Matador spinach, half the mizuna and a few mixed pak choi came up in the end. The new leaf beet, chard and hardy lettuce were no-shows. Haven’t decided whether to re-sow or replace the bare areas yet, but next year I’ll raise some plug plants for those areas instead of sowing directly, as it’s probably due to a mixture of sowing too late and a lack of sunlight. Bigger leafy plants will probably fare better.
Two other things I need to consider are lack of water and slugs. It’s easy to forget to water during November and December, because it’s grey and cold outside, but we haven’t had that much rain over the last few weeks. If it isn’t frosty or snowing, I need to remind myself that it’s fine to water the plants and keep seed beds hydrated. Tidying up in the last few weeks has uncovered plenty of slugs and snails too – they’re still active in this garden from the looks of things, so it’s time to break out some more slug pellets and crushed eggshells. Maybe they’ve been mowing my seedlings down as they emerged.
On a happier note, we’re still getting autumn raspberries. They’ve done well in spite of the kitty damage to their roots earlier in the year, and the makeshift fruit cage I cobbled together seems to have done the trick. Some of the leaves are starting to die back now, but the fruits are continuing to ripen and the cooler weather doesn’t seem to be much of a problem.
Getting out of the cold
Moving indoors, the last of the sweet peppers are ripening on the warm, sunny windowsill. A couple of the plants have needed treating for red spider mite, but apart from that the crop is fairly good. We’ll be having home-grown peppers picked fresh from the plant in one of our festive meals, and we’re still getting fresh multi-coloured chillies from the pretty New Mexican Twilight plants.
It’s also time to start thinking about new windowsill crops, especially since many outdoor seeds failed to germinate, but so far all I’ve managed is a large ramekin of cress over the weekend. More about the windowsills next time, then.
Coming up soon:
- Winter windowsills: herbs, sprouts, microgreens, shoots etc
- What worked this year (some top seed picks), and what didn’t
- Planning next year’s edible garden
How’s your kitchen garden or allotment growing? Do you have any December plans, or are you more relaxed and leaving it until next year now?