Cut down the tops of pot-grown late flowering chrysanthemums to their base. Store them in a greenhouse or cold frame
Place forcing jars over clumps of rhubarb to encourage early stems
Fork over bare patches between plants to relieve soil compaction, working compost into the soil as you go
Prune birch and acers when dormant, removing any dead or diseased growth and cutting back to a healthy bud
Look out for bargain bulbs such as Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’ and Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ which will still flower the following spring planted as late as December
Keep your forced Christmas hyacinths cool to stop the leaves growing too rapidly and obscuring the flowers ●●Recut any lawn edges that are looking scruffy ●●Continue to clear away debris to stop slugs and snails hiding under it ●●Harvest Christmas broccoli, parsnips and leeks ●●When pruning apples and pears, save the long offcuts to use as plant supports for perennials or as pea sticks in spring and summer
Best of the bunch
ORNAMENTAL cabbage WELL, you can eat it, but I prefer to look at it as the ornamental cabbage is quite a glamorous candidate for pots and at the front of beds and borders in winter, with its colourful mauve, pink or cream hearts with green frills
SHALLOTS I THINK that shallots are tastier and crunchier pickled than regular pickling onions, but you can pay a premium for them in the shops and it’s easy to grow them yourself and impress your relatives at Christmas having pickled them as well.
Simply prepare your site in early spring by forking it over to loosen the soil and work in a little general fertiliser unless the area has been manured for a previous crop.
You don’t need to add organic matter. Push individual bulbs (sets) into the soil so the tips are still around the edge.
It does well as the focal point of a pot and can stay colourful all winter, running to seed in early spring.
Ornamental kale is similar, but with shaggier leaves.
Both thrive in reasonably welldrained soil or in pots, in sun or light shade.
Good enough to eat
covered, 15cm apart in rows 30cm apart, in March or early April, weed the area regularly and by July they should be ready, as soon as the top starts to dry off.
The original bulb will have multiplied into a dozen or so shallots. Lift the clumps out of the soil to leave to dry in the sun, or bring them indoors if it’s wet.
Fully ripened shallots should store well into the following winter and early spring.
Spread them in a single layer on wooden trays and keep them in a cool, dry place.
Good varieties include ‘Delicato’ and ‘Topper’.