The win­ter gar­den

The short­est day of the year has been and gone. Win­ter veges are full of crunch and flavour, but slow grow­ing, just like the weeds. Time to pre­pare for the new grow­ing sea­son.

Element - - Lifestyle - By Janet Luke

This is a time to catch your breath and start plan­ning for the com­ing year. Use this time to over­haul ir­ri­ga­tion, clean and sharpen tools, and tidy away all climb­ing frames and stakes.

Ripe for the pick­ing

Pro­duce that is ready this month in­clude cit­rus, leeks, onions, bras­si­cas, cos let­tuce, car­rots, peas and broad beans.

Veg­gie gar­den

Keep sow­ing broad bean seeds di­rectly into the soil. You can soak the seeds in warm wa­ter for 24 hours. This can has­ten ger­mi­na­tion. I sprin­kle some gar­den lime in fur­rows and then poke each seed into the soil with my in­dex fin­ger to the depth of my sec­ond knuckle. I pre­fer to grow the dwarf­ing va­ri­ety as they don’t re­quire as much stak­ing. Leeks are a great plant to keep plant­ing in small amounts over win­ter. I buy them as small plants as seeds can take a long time to ger­mi­nate in the colder months. Make a hole with the end of a broom­stick or use a spe­cialised dib­ber. Drop the plant in so that it is buried up to the start of the white stem. As the leek grows heap the soil up the stem with dry soil. This will in­crease the length of the ten­der white stem. If space is at a pre­mium you can plant per­pet­ual leeks (Al­lium fis­tu­lo­sum) Th­ese lit­tle plants form baby leeks around a clus­ter of par­ent leeks. Har­vest th­ese outer baby leeks year round. Planted in a block th­ese plants oc­cupy lit­tle space.

Herbs

Bor­age: this annual has hairy leaves and small star-like blue or white flow­ers. The flow­ers have a cu­cum­ber like taste and are lovely through sal­ads or in drinks. The flow­ers are loved by bees. This plant will hap­pily self seed. Grow in a well-drained, sunny po­si­tion.

Lemon balm: this plant looks sim­i­lar to mint but has larger leaves. It pro­duces small white flow­ers in summer. Th­ese flow­ers are very at­trac­tive to bees. You can grow this plant by di­rectly sow­ing seed or by di­vid­ing large plants in early spring. The leaves make a re­fresh­ing tea and can be used as a sub­sti­tute for lemon in any dish.

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