Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - December 2011

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 31st December 2011

December started off really mild here on the East coast throwing most of us gardeners into confusion as to what to do and when!  Years ago our weather followed more predictable seasons dictating when gardening jobs needed doing but not any more!  One thing that does remain constant is the daylight hours still shortening until the winter solstice on the 21st and then slowly the days start to lengthen and we will be sowing seeds before we know it.  When the light goes mid afternoon in the kitchen garden I retreat to the potting shed and start to plan!

We sit down in late autumn and discuss what has grown well and what new varieties to grow in the coming season and then the task of planning what to grow in our third of an acre plot begins.  Trying to fit everything in that we want to grow is a challenge and we always introduce and trial new products that we have added to the latest Harrod catalogue too. So always a busy time in the kitchen garden no matter what the month is.

Although the milder weather has disrupted some of our usual autumnal routines, it’s also given us more time to get the jobs done including the autumn planting of our Aquadulce broad beans which are now under these mini greenhouse cloche tunnels which are protecting our seedlings from frost and mice!  The milder conditions have their benefits too, the garlic and onions planted in early November are coming through well and the green manure is establishing itself before the onset of the winter weather. One job that we will be glad to see the back of is clearing up the autumn leaves, they are still falling so the clean up job seems to be constant.  We will still be raking them up by Christmas at this rate!

The greenhouse has had its annual steam clean, the job had been delayed due to the tomato plants that still had trusses of green tomatoes. Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to these remaining tomatoes as the cleaning up would never have got done.  We still have chilli plants in the greenhouse and once all the chillies have been harvested the plan is to cut the plants back to about 10cm and try and get them to survive the winter. They did really well planted in the self watering Chilli Grow (these are a must for the serious chilli grower). Hopefully these will come back to life again in the spring and we will get earlier chillies next summer. 

A good tip on a dry, windy day is to aerate your greenhouse and leave the door ajar for a while to get some fresh air in – don’t forget to turn the heater off first though!

Whilst clearing up the squash beds I made a discovery that made my day – I saw something orange out the corner of my eye in the hedge and found a lovely butternut squash that had grown undiscovered into the neighbouring hedge.  That cheered me up on a chilly December day.

Lots of little jobs have been completed in the garden this month – we have weeded the leeks using this Sneeboer long handled ladies hoe, mulched or should I say 'strulched' the horseradish, turned the compost (try the compost stirrer), sorted seeds into this handy Seed Tin, put cloches over our broad beans and have made some enquiries for manure from a local horse sanctuary.

Unlike last year we have had no sign of any snow yet but we have planned ahead and got one of these fabulous Sneeboer Snow Shovels on standby at the kitchen garden for when the inevitable happens.

We have lots of exciting new products in the Harrod Early Spring Catalogue many of which are in use at Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden already but many are on their way over to the garden as we speak. More on the catalogue below and I'll be introducing those in next month’s update.

We are looking forward to getting back into the swing of things in the New Year after all the Christmas indulgences by getting those seed packets out and starting the whole growing year off all over again.

And if one of your new year's resolutions is to spend more time in the garden growing your own, you can pick up loads of handy tips by using the expertise we've got to hand. We're always here to offer advice and support - just e-mail kitchen gardener Lynn, pest control expert Julian Ives and horticulturist, Master Composter and Tweeter Martin Fiddes (also known as our Ask the Expert panel) and they'll do their best to help!   

With winter well and truly here and daylight/gardening hours at their shortest, why not take the opportunity to fire up the PC/laptop and join the social media revolution! Sounds complicated? Well, it's not as all you need to do is click on either the Twitter or Facebook icons above to visit our bustling Twitter feed and Facebook pages. We're busy tweeting about all things Harrod Horticultural - what we're doing, special offers, gardening tips and advice and you can always use Twitter or face book to get in touch with us as well. With our webteam manning the Tweet decks and Facebook site, you can be sure you'll get the best service we can offer!

And finally, some reading material to while away those long winter evenings! Our 116-page 2012 catalogue is out now and it's packed full of gardening ideas, products and solutions to the problems every gardener faces. There's even a flip-over 19 page Garden Structure section for all your arches, obelisks, plant supports and much more - just request a copy and find it on your doormat in a couple of days time.

Happy New Year!