December is another quiet month in the garden, when the bad weather is a good excuse to spend time indoors planning for next year. What worked well this year? What wasn’t as good? What do you want to add/remove/change? Winter is traditionally the time when structural changes are made in the garden, so you could be out there on nice days, building new beds or improving the paths. Try and stay off wet or frozen soil, as compaction will hurt the soil structure. Walking on boards is an option, if you need to be out there.
If you don’t have a compost bin, or a water butt, now is a good time to think about putting them in. Whilst compost rots down slowly over the winter, water butts rapidly fill! Both are invaluable assets in the garden.
And, of course, thinking about what to sow and plant next year might give you some ideas when friends and relatives ask what you want for Christmas!
Vegetables to plant in December
- Garlic, but only if the ground isn’t waterlogged. You can plant into pots for planting out in spring.
- Bare root fruit – trees and bushes, including rhubarb.
If you have bright windowsills, you can sow salad mixes and peashoots indoors. They will take a little longer to reach cutting height in the short days of winter. Sprouting seeds, which you don’t need much light, is another option for producing fresh veg.
What to harvest in December
It’s the winter brassicas that are the star of the show in December, from Brussels sprouts and cabbage through to kale, cauliflower and winter radishes. You may even have Oriental brassicas (mustards and pak choi, etc) to pick under cover.
And, of course, there are leeks and parsnips, celery and celeriac, and the Jerusalem artichokes. If the weather has been kind you may find the leaf beet and chard standing firm outside, alongside the parsley. If not, there’s always stored pumpkins to eat!
Grow your own Christmas dinner?
If you fancy growing the vegetables for your Christmas dinner next year, it’s time to start thinking about it now! You’ll need to plan what you want into the rest of the garden, making sure the timing is right.
Whilst parsnips can be sown from February, you can expect better germination from later sowings when the soil is warmer – so plan for April or May. Parsnip seed is notorious for being slow to germinate (which is why rows are often ‘marked’ with radishes, so you don’t accidentally hoe them over), and for only germinating from fresh seed. If you sow an early batch, you’ll have plenty of time to fit in another sowing if things don’t go according to plan.
Likewise, if you want homegrown Brussels sprouts, these long-lived brassicas will need to be sown in March or April. For Christmas carrots you’ve got a bit more time – the best time to sow them is in July.
And the potatoes? Well, you can grow maincrop potatoes, planted in March or April, lift them at the end of the season and store them for Christmas. Or you can attempt a ‘second cropping’ – new potatoes for Christmas. You can buy special seed potatoes, which have been held back to plant in June or July. They’re early varieties of potato, and you could just try saving a few when you buy normal ones at the beginning of the season, and keeping them to plant later. Second cropping potatoes need to be planted in containers, and taken into a frost-free location once the weather turns colder.
And if bad weather threatens for Christmas, don’t forget you’ll need to go out ahead of schedule and bring your crops in. No one wants frozen fingers when they’re trying to open their presents!