Plot 29

Hang bird balls, clean tools and pon­der the riches, says Al­lan Jenk­ins

The Observer Magazine - - Gardens - Al­lan Jenk­ins’s Plot 29 (4th Es­tate, £9.99) is out now. Or­der it for £8.49 from guardian­book­

I am tempted to tell you to do noth­ing much in De­cem­ber. Ex­cept, per­haps, to cloche or cover any vul­ner­a­ble crops you care about par­tic­u­larly, say, chicories or pi­geon­friendly kales; to lift leeks and store your root crops if frost is look­ing im­mi­nent. Dig over empty ground now. It will be harder in the com­ing months.

Rocket, corn salad, land cress and win­ter purslane should still do fine un­der cover out­side or on a sunny win­dowsill. Plant rasp­ber­ries and black­ber­ries if you haven’t al­ready. It’s time, too, for prun­ing fruit trees, though best leave cherry or plum un­til spring.

It’s a good time to plant rhubarb or di­vide old plants while they’re dor­mant. Cut them with a sharp spade and en­sure each di­vi­sion has both root and buds. Re­move any rot and re-bury with the crowns a few cen­time­tres deep. Use much ma­nure or your pre­ferred fer­tiliser.

If you wish to ‘force’ your rhubarb, cover the crown with straw and use a large pot to block any light. There are lots of at­trac­tive terracotta forcers (mostly priced up­wards of £30), though a dust­bin would likely do as well if aes­thet­ics aren’t your thing. Your candy-pink win­ter rhubarb should be ready in a cou­ple of months.

It’s time for wildlife house­keep­ing: hang bird balls or feed­ers or build or buy a bird ta­ble. Try not to be too upset when squir­rels steal the food. And, please, keep a watch­ful eye for freez­ing ponds.

Use the quiet time to clean and oil any tools. Clean and clear up pots and seed trays. And try not to be scared of spi­ders.

Take time to look back on the suc­cesses (and fail­ures) of the year. Think about learn­ing from them.

Sit out­side, wan­der around, rub a herb or marigold leaf, breathe it in. Be thank­ful for all the year’s gar­den­ing has given you.

Win­ter’s tale: rhubarb will be ready in a cou­ple of months with a few tricks

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