Getting into the Christmas spirit with John Stoa
As Christmas is just a few days away we are more likely to get into relaxation mode rather than try and catch up with all those outstanding gardening tasks.
Main problem to solve; will the gooseberry wine, the Saskatoon wine or the redcurrant be best for the Christmas table, and will Santa bring along a couple of bottles of good malt whisky.
Anna will need my best sprouts, and this year they are huge, some Swedes, cabbage, kale, leeks and parsnips.
We still have plenty beetroot in the ground and so far there hasn’t been any frost to bother them, and after the Christmas meal it is no a bad idea to keep some salad ready for the following days when you need something a wee bit lighter.
The three rows of winter lettuce are all ready to use as well as rocket and spring onion.
After a long dry spell in autumn the early winter rains started in mid-November and stopped soil cultivations, so the winter digging is running behind schedule, but as a lot of the allotment has a covering of green manure the digging can wait a few more weeks.
Areas of cleared crops will get composted and dug over first remembering to allocate compost quantity to heavy feeders, those that just need an organic top up and root crops which get none.
It is a great task to keep you warm on a cold and frosty morning.
Pruning rose bushes is another task I often keep for an early winter task when I’m keen to get outdoors but the ground may be frozen, and there is always the chance that I may get a couple of blooms at Christmas.
Looking ahead the mild winter phenomenon is almost becoming normal, but this year the bets are on for a bad winter to balance out and follow on from the brilliant summer.
However, at this point in time as my snowdrops begin to flower I am betting on another mild winter.
In mid-December the weather has turned reasonably mild, the sun is out so I wander around the garden to see if winter is upon us.
Some roses are still flowering, pansies and polyanthus in tubs are still colourful, Fuchsia Mrs Popple shows no signs of giving up and my border pinks are still in bloom.
The winter weather might restrict outdoor gardening, but there are still a few odd jobs to do in the greenhouse and indoors on the windowsills.
In the greenhouse the old tomato plants have now been removed and chopped up for the compost heap.
All the grape vines have gone dormant and dropped all their leaves, so these get cleared up. Grape vine pruning will be done in early January both under glass and outdoors.
I had a fair few geraniums lifted from flower borders and potted up to give me a good start next year.
These were in my cold greenhouse, but with cold weather now settling in they had to be moved indoors in a cool but sunny windowsill where they will stay till next March. Geraniums grown from cuttings take up less room, but I still keep them cool otherwise they will grow away fast and need potting up and more space.
Impatiens grown from cuttings in jars full of water quickly rooted, then got potted up, and are now happily blooming in a warm room.
My Amaryllis bulb dried off in the greenhouse after growing throughout the summer got started into growth again in early November, but I doubt if it will be in flower for Christmas. Fingers crossed.
My Christmas cactus is also flowering, but not as good as previous years so next spring I will take the shoots as cuttings and start again from a young plant.
Poinsettias are now available from garden centres and stores and are not expensive, but almost essential as festive decorations in the house.
However, this year there will be no orchids in bloom over Christmas as my two phalaenopsis are taking a break.
They flowered so profusely for almost the whole year so I think they deserve a wee rest.
Wee jobs to do this week
Bring in outdoor garden furniture made from wood such as tables and chairs.
Once they have dried out they can be cleaned and repaired if required, and sometime over the winter give them a coat of varnish to freshen them up.
Sun loungers are usually put into storage in October as it is then too cold for tea on the patio. It will be the end of March or early April before these get dusted off and get back to the patio.