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5 December 2013

December Tasks for the Vegetable Gardener

The days are getting shorter and colder but there are still jobs to get you outdoors when the weather allows.

If you haven't already dug over vacant areas of your vegetable plot and added compost or manure, it's not too late. However, if you have heavy clay soil, you are best to keep off it when it is wet and sticks to your boots.

After digging over an area, cover it with polythene to warm up the soil ready for early sowings next year.

You may want to prepare a bean trench to help next year's plants. Dig a trench 2-3 feet wide and 18 ins deep, line the base with a thick layer of newspapers, then add green kitchen waste, compost or manure.

Stake any tall brassicas to prevent wind rock which will loosen the soil around their roots. Make sure that your netting is still in place as pigeons will be on the lookout for food.

Protect cauliflower and broccoli heads by bending over their outer leaves.

Lift celery as required, covering any plants left in the ground with a thick layer of straw to protect them from winter frost.

You can either dig up your parsnips and swedes before the ground becomes frozen and they are harder to harvest, or leave them in place until required, as they are both very hardy. Parsnips are reputed to taste better if they have been frosted.

Leeks are best harvested as required, but this can be difficult when the ground is frozen. If you lift a few leeks then heel them in to freshly dug soil, they will be easier to harvest as this will not freeze solid.

It's not too late to force chicory - just pot them up and keep them in a dark warm place. In three to six weeks the chicons should appear.

Onions sown around Christmas time will make good plants, as they benefit from a longer growing period. Sow them in seed boxes and store them in your greenhouse or a frost-free cold frame.

If you have a frost-free greenhouse, you can continue to sow winter salads. Successional sowing will mean you always have fresh plants coming through.

If you live in a mild area and have well-drained soil, you can still plant garlic and shallots.

I hope you have a merry Christmas and a happy December in the garden.
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