Hello friends, how are YOU.
How is your autumn so far? As of next week we are officially in meteorological winter. Gosh that year went fast! December brings a welcome respite to the garden and the allotment. The weeds are still growing and the bushes need pruning back, but other than that we can retreat inside and simply plan for the new year. By now you may have planted your bulbs for spring or planted out crops like onions and garlic. Your work is done, so enjoy your Christmas, pop open a bottle of bubbly and rest knowing full well the garden is thriving under the soil waiting for new life to emerge next year. If this was your first year of gardening then start by giving yourselves a very well deserved pat on the back! Not only did you manage to grow things through one of the worst droughts in the last 30 years but also through one of the biggest blight outbreaks too! You started in a HARD year. So bravo! If you didn’t have time to jot down some notes about your gardening experiences during the summer, now is a good time to reflect on the past year:
What grew well? What didn’t? Why didn’t it? Is it the right place for growing? Should I move it? What would I like more of this year? What would I like less of in the garden? What seeds should I order? And so many more questions to ask yourself. But be sure to rest. Allow yourself December. Many of the jobs that need to be done in winter can be done in January or February. It is all too easy to fall into a habit each year as the mad Christmas rush takes us, to quickly tidy away the garden and tick every box on the list. December is family time. Concentrate on being with loved ones more than moving shrubs. The shrubs will still be there in January, still dormant and waiting. It also fills January with purpose, a reason to go outside and to actually DO something. January and February for me, are hard months. I have the post Christmas and holiday blues, the weather can be foul and usually one or other of my children - sometimes both! - are ill with a winter bug.
But getting up to the allotment or into the garden gives me a sense of drive, of purpose. I’m needed. Doctors are starting to prescribe gardening as a “green medicine” to help boost mental health and serotonin levels so it makes sense to leave some work for the darker months. Once a week in January I have my absolute number one job that needs to be done WITHOUT fail! I MUST go to the allotment with a flask of coffee, and talk to the Robin. I have to, it’s now a self written law. And by gum it makes me feel better! There is nothing like the pure power of nature and falling in sync with its clock to help give your energy a boost. Last chance for autumn sowing. If you still have a flush of energy and just want to do that extra bit the be prepared for next year, then you could do some last minute autumn sowing. November is a great time to sow outdoors some wildflowers and even hardy annuals. For example: Foxgloves Cornflowers Pot marigolds The trick to sowing these are simply down to the seeds themselves. Fresh seeds! A seed when kept in a packet will last for months, but once water hits them their enzymatic process starts. If they dry out after that has happened they will surely die. So keep them watered and don’t let them dry out. Not soggy, but moist. However a pack of old seeds (may) work, but usually only in spring due to their age. Be patient, each seed will grow at a slower rate than they would in spring so transplant them as and when the seedling is ready. There is no rush, this is gardening after all. Hardy annuals (which are usually sown where they are meant to grow, as they don’t mind the cold temperatures.) Poppies Calendula Annual Cornflowers Love-in-the-mist Pot marigolds Hardy perennials Foxgloves Rubeckia Hollyhocks As long as the ground is kept damp they will thrive. Sowing wildflowers in autumn falls in with their natural cycle of falling from the mother plant in autumn. They get the vernalisation they need (the repeat freezing and thawing) to start their germination. So they will be much stronger than if they were to be sown in Spring. The trick is to “rake them in” with annuals (most of the corn family). And with any perennial they must be cut back and all off last year’s growth removed (think of hay). Just make sure you know which type of soil you have and buy the right mix for that soil. So what about veg? Winter lettuce (winter gem) Spinach Peas Broad beans Onions and garlic Varieties that are hardy and well adapted to cold weather may still benefit from cloches to protect them from soggy soil and heavy rainfall. You will certainly come across pests such as slugs and snails which thrive in wet conditions. Sharp grit will be your best friend to protect your veg patch as nematodes and other biological products don’t work as well in cold weather. I have to say that although flower seedlings may thrive in autumn sowing conditions, vegetable seedlings are not guaranteed to succeed. You are up against a lot of hurdles such as the weather, pests, fungal disease and wildlife. But hey, that’s gardening for you. And if they do succeed you will be met with a much quicker and larger quantity of food next year. You want to have these sown and Any autumn sowing needs to be done by the end of November. So if you want to do it, grab your rake, grab your seed and grab your coat! Let’s get it done!
As always friends