‘The end of the year. But the garden doesn’t come to a standstill. There is always work to be done. The main job is to carry on with the digging and general tidying up of the plot. Also you must fight the weather, anticipate frosts or gales and protect your crops. You will have been aware of the weather throughout the year, but now you must be even more watchful.‘ (David Mabey, 1978)
‘Digging over can continue, when weather allows. Particularly with clay soils, digging when the soil is wet and sticky can do more harm than good. It’s also harder work. As a rule, if your boots become heavy with soil sticking to them, it’s too wet to dig‘. (John Harrison, 2011)
As we saw in the November kitchen garden calendar, with vegetables growing on raised beds, there is no need for all this deep digging that was so consistently recommended throughout the twentieth century, and is still being recommended by many traditional gardening authors today. As we saw last month, deep digging at any time of year may be harmful to the soil by disturbing the beneficial micro-organisms that live in it, whilst standing in wellies on wet soil in winter and turning your plot into a heavy sticky compacted mess of a mudbath as so many gardeners still do even today defies all reason and commonsense.
Instead, the modern organic gardener simply walks along the barkchip or straw paths between the raised beds to tend the crops that are over-wintering under the protection of netting and fleece, whilst harvesting those vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, parsnips, swedes, cauliflower and spinach that form part of the traditional fresh fare for this otherwise bleak season of the year.
This is also the time of year for tidying up the garden, sweeping up any remaining fallen leaves, and bagging them up to make leafmould, whilst pulling up any plants that have gone over, and adding them to the compost heap to make compost.
Roots and tubers
Swedes and parsnips can still be harvested throughout the winter. Grown on modern raised beds with access paths between, there should be no waterlogging of the crops to contend with. Even so, after heavy rainfall, check for signs of rot, and lift any susceptible plants.
After high winds or rainstorms, check on any autumn-sown Aquadulce broad beans and Meteor peas that you may have growing on raised beds under fleece, and replace the fleece or batten it down securely.
Onions, leeks and garlic
Check on any autumn-planted onions and garlic, and keep them free of weeds, to help keep the soil around them as open to the sun and dry as possible. Any leeks still in the ground should be weeded and continually earthed up to keep them white with long blanched stems.
Continue to keep over-wintering cabbages, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflowers and kale netted against pigeons, whilst removing any yellowing leaves from the plants and keeping the stems well earthed up. Keep protecting any crops of ‘cut and come again’ perpetual spinach (leaf beet) from frost and pests with a covering of horticultural fleece.
Copyright (c) 2013 Torbay Organic Gardening Society, 25 Church Road, St Marychurch, Torquay TQ1 4QY
Tel 01803 328055 Leaflet No: CAL12