Preparing for a merry Christmas garden

AFRICAN DAISIES: Flowering profusely at this time of year.

JUST a week to Christmas now, so here are some urgent jobs.
If there could be a frost in the next few days, it is wise to harvest any new potatoes that you have nursed along since September as soon as possible.
I have quite a nice crop and since the recent rains and generally sunny weather, should be able to harvest the first small but tasty broccoli heads.
Likewise salad leaves have grown large.
In fact, it’s difficult to keep eating salads, so a pre-Christmas soup is on the menu. Lettuces, broccoli leaves, young garlic, onion, rocket, radish and carrot leaves with a little added Jamon Serrano should make for an interesting lunch.
My attempt to grow a bigger turkey this year worked but the 44.1 pounds, 40 last year, proved too much for the turkey’s left leg, so it had to be killed two days ago and weighs 37.5 lbs oven ready.
Salvias and euryops continue to give bright colour to the garden and during the past week African daisies have started to flower profusely.
Roses are giving a good show, so vases of roses may well grace many a Christmas table.
Fruit trees are very confused.
In our garden a plum tree has unseasonal new fruit and, similarly in a neighbouring garden, a pear tree has fruit.
The branches can be cut to mix in with other greenery for Christmas decorations.
On the way to the village, grape vines are being pruned early, as although the autumn coloured leaves have all fallen, new buds are already opening three months early.
Thinking about crops in the vegetable garden beyond Christmas, there is still time to sow some final peas and broad beans and plant plantlets of onions, leeks, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflowers and lettuces.
Now is the time to obtain a few vegetable and flower seed catalogues to select things to sow in the spring.
Unfortunately the choice of vegetable seeds in many garden centres and agricultural cooperatives in Spain gets less each year due to the increasing number of hybrid genetically modified seeds which do not reproduce well a second year if you try to harvest and dry some seeds.
A Spanish website and catalogue still worth trying is Madre Terra and an English Catalogue, Chiltern Seeds, who source many seeds from Mediterranean countries.
By the way, each year more and more readers are setting up mini 10-tub vegetable gardens, a concept which we first introduced in our book ‘Growing healthy vegetables in Spain.’
To achieve good crops mix up a good growing medium from sacks of dried manure, an earth based compost, worm compost and Terra-Cottem gel based soil improver to prevent the tubs from drying out.
So with that, it’s a happy Christmas to you all.

© Dick Handscombe December 2014


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