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.
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.
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.
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.