The early winter weather so far has been more traditional, with our first frost coming in the first week of November, but we have had rather more than our fair share of rain! If you have any root vegetables in the ground it is best to get them out as soon as you can although it is nice to leave the parsnips in until we have had a good frost or two, as it improves the flavour. With the ground so wet but still
fairly warm we can expect an attack of slugs and also an increase in rotting diseases.
We are likely to get some frost this month (and probably more rain!), so be ready to protect any non-hardy species. If you are going to wrap up a garden shrub or pot plant, make sure the foliage and stems are dry to reduce the risks of rotting. Be careful to avoid using anything heavy as this might make the plant more vulnerable to damage in windy conditions; plastic sheets or ‘bubble wrap’ will do the job.
We will see the grass continue to grow for a few more weeks yet so keep up with the mowing but only a light cut now; this will help with picking up the leaves. If you are a keen composter don’t forget that a mixture of fresh mown grass, green vegetable waste and wet leaves will be a big help with the composting process.
Don’t be too keen to rake the leaves out of the bottom of hedges or dense shrubs as these form an important winter habitat providing shelter for many species including frogs, slow-worms and hedgehogs.
Winter pot plants are now in the shops and I have seen some excellent Cyclamen and Poinsettias on offer in our local garden centres. I recommend that you buy your winter flowers from a garden centre as it is more likely that they have been kept cool in a well-lit environment and probably watered properly – remember that too
much watering will lead to the leaves falling off. The best way to keep these winter flowering pot plants going for as long as you can is to continue to keep them cool and in a bright place with watering kept to a minimum, but of course don’t let them dry out!
Now is the time to plan for growing your vegetables next year. Aim for a simple crop rotation to avoid planting the same plant in the same place, thereby making it much more vulnerable to root pests and diseases and to balance the nutrients they are taking from the soil. If the soil dries out then dig over your plot, making sure to only use old rotted manure or compost where you will be growing beans, peas, potatoes and salads. Our Tatsfield clay is much more workable in the spring if it has been dug, left rough and had some good penetrating frost to break it down naturally.
Here’s hoping for a good growing year in 2014!
Jon Allbutt (Tel: 577100 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)