December is the time of year where we are all thinking about the festive season, meeting family and friends and having a jolly good time and we now hibernate into our cosy rooms and forget about our plots until the weather warms up.
Well surprisingly December is not necessarily a month where allotmenteers can stand idle as you might think. With luck the brassicas should be at their peak and you will be picking Brussel sprouts cabbages cauliflower and the indestructible kale. Fresh root vegetable, will also be available for those hearty soups and roast dinners. A few salad delights such as endive, winter purslane, corn and even perhaps Lettuce and rocket will be ready to harvest if you have grown them in a cold frame of greenhouse or even under cloches.
Lifting and storing root vegetables need space which some may not have, so making, soups and blanching for the freezer may be an option or indeed pickling. Celeriac and parsnips can stay in the ground if there’s no risk of their being “frosted in”. Straw will help protect them.
Now is the time to check wires and ties, staking of plants, clean tools, pots and seed trays. Give the pots and trays a thorough clean. This will prevent any diseases or viruses carrying over and infecting the new seedlings next year.
Remove dying leaves from your brassicas and check for slugs and snails in-between the outer leaves.
You will know that rats and mice as winter approaches are a problem on site, they tend to nest in compost heaps and dig up broad bean seeds, garlic, shallots and onion sets, planted in the soil for early cropping. Turning over your compost may well help stop the nesting of these animals.
In my last Hints and tips, I said November was the month to plant out garlic and rhubarb, bare root trees and prune trees and outdoor vines. Inspect the trees for canker and cut out the diseased wood as well as any damaged branches. Renew grease bands on the fruit tree trunks if necessary.
However, it’s not too late to dig your plot in December although digging on our allotment this time of year will be hard going as it tends to get waterlogged so perhaps it’s now best to leave it until March next year. But what you could do to make it easier for yourselves is to mulch the area you wish to cultivate or cover these area with black plastic until you have the energy to dig. Remember our plots have to have three quarters of the ground cultivated in order to meet with the rules and regulations.
Of course, digging is an option and there is another way to make sure the condition of your soils in your cultivated areas are ready for sowing and planting.
Talking about digging gives me the opportunity to talk about soil which I think is quite fascinating and I hope you will too after having read the following article.
Anyway its time to move on and in closing I would like to wish you all a good festive season and to meeting you all on site next year.
Richard Cox - ARDAA Secretary