Keep Smiling

What a week! As we head back into lockdown here in the UK, it’s easy to feel some unease.

But if you need an escape from the struggles and strains of daily life, then get out into your green spaces. Despite the shorter days and colder weather, there’s still plenty to be done to keep your minds positive, your bodies active and your gardens looking good throughout these dark months.

If you’ve been growing swede this season, then don’t be in a rush to pull them up. Swede, parsnips and sprouts always need a good frost to turn their stored starches into sugars, thus improving their flavour.

Fancy an early crop of broad beans next year? These can now be sown straight into the ground, or grown in root trainers and kept either in a greenhouse or cold frame. These are greedy plants, so if you’re planting straight into the ground ensure there’s plenty of organic matter. Plant them in double rows at nine inches apart. I always place fleece or mesh over them, not so much to keep the cold out, but to stop mice and other hungry animals from digging up the seeds.

It’s not too late to get your garlic into the ground. This is a great crop to grow and it needs little attention. And while you’re at it, plant your tulip bulbs – here’s a short video to help you. 

Fallen leaves might ruin the appearance of a well-maintained garden, but they’re a gift. Packed with minerals, leaves provide a feast for worms and a mulch for your garden. If you have the space, build a leaf pen. Hammer four stakes into the ground to create a square, and wrap chicken wire around the outside. Make sure everything is secure before gathering all your fallen leaves and placing them in the pen. Leave them for at least twelve months to decompose, and this time next year you could be filling your beds with this wonderful soil conditioner. If you don’t have the space for a pen, place the leaves in large bags or dustbins, create several holes to create an airflow and store them out of sight.

As you get rid of the last of your tomato plants, don’t be in a hurry to dispose of the grow bags as you can still get use from them. This year, I’m reusing a couple for my winter salads; lamb’s lettuce and miner’s lettuce. I turned out the compost from the other bags into my beds.

The idea of gardening on a cold, wet day may not always seem appealing, so this is a good moment to retreat to your sheds, greenhouses and garages to carry out tool maintenance. Clean, sharpen and oil your tools to ensure they last for years to come.

Finally, with all the food you should now have in storage, it’s time to bring out those cosy, warming recipes! Our big discovery this autumn has been baked quinces. With maple syrup and cinnamon, these are served with either greek yoghurt or creme fraiche. What a treat!

I hope these few jobs will give you the drive to get outside and enjoy your gardens. Of course, if you want a whole list of jobs to do throughout November, then check out my gardening column in Eastlife Magazine or over on Mr. Fothergill’s.

But for now, stay safe and keep gardening!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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