The cold, dark nights are ace for a glass or two of something warming and a few seed catalogues, but surely we need a little more excitement than that, don’t we?
So, what can we actually do on the plot in this weather? When it’s not waterlogged, here’s what I’m working through.
Starting off broad beans?
If you’re planning on an overwintering experiment (it would be an experiment, in some areas, rather than a sure thing) with broad beans, there may well be time to get them started off in your greenhouse, under glass or maybe even in the ground if you’re expecting a few more weeks of mild weather.
Mine are just starting to show themselves after around a month, directly in the soil. They’re Bunyard’s Exhibition (I know the recommended overwintering variety is Aquadulce Claudia, but these were an extra packet I won from the wonderful Seed Parade – so I’m willing to risk a few).
Look after your mates!
If you’ve a wormery, bring it inside and/or keep it stocked up with vegetable peelings, shredded paper and the like. They will need plenty of food and bedding to get curled up in during the coldest parts of winter. Mine are still breeding despite the cold weather; I’ve brought the wormery into the shed to keep it warmer and topped it up.
I might do a post on constructing your own wormery – mine may not be beautiful but the worms are happy and they are a gardener’s best friend, turning scraps into lovely rich compost and worm “tea” which is a cracking fertiliser.
Tidy your room! Get your hair cut!
…and clear the allotment. Anything that’s dead, dying or rotting in the ground can be cleared whenever the ground is dry enough to walk on. I’ve dug out the remnants of my Bright Lights swiss chard (bolted or struggling), removed the beetroot that sadly weren’t going to make it, and cut down my autumn-fruiting raspberry canes. The strawberries have been tidied up, with the healthiest runners potted up and taken home, and as I harvest parsnips I’m clearing that ground a patch at a time.
Think about snow.
Last year, this happened to my beautiful cabbage netting. The weight of snow snapped the canes supporting the net and pulled it out of shape. A right pain in the ‘arris.
This weekend I took the chance to remove my cabbage net, do a little weeding and take the supporting stakes out from between the cabbages.
The netting must go back over to keep the wood pigeons at bay, but it can just be draped over the cabbages as the dreaded cabbage whites and their little caterpillar buddies are gone for the year.
The same goes for those of us with greenhouses, I imagine – repair any cracked panes that may buckle under the weight of any white stuff.
Dig it over (or don’t, if you like!)
There’s a nice decisive one. Err, sorry about that.
If you’re of the inclination (a traditional gardener like me), this is a good time to take a flask to the allotment and spend a day breaking up the compacted soil. This will let the birds get to any nasties that were looking to spend a winter in snuggled up in your soil and aerate the soil.
It’s commonly regarded as good practice to do this between now and mid-winter; afterwards, the massive clods of earth can be left where they are – the weather will break them down leaving you with a nice tilth to sow into.
If you’re a no-dig gardener, layering up on cardboard mulch, manure, grass cuttings, home-made compost and any other bulky organic matter you can lay your hands on is a good bet — the worms will pull the good stuff into the soil and enrich your growing area, leaving you with a weed-free, highly fertile layered bed to plant up.