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This is the first in a series of monthly Grow It Yourself (GIY) blogs from Diane, one of TTL’s most keen and experienced fruit and veg growers.  These will be a regular feature so if you have any questions or topics you’d like covered, please leave a comment.

December in the Garden
There’s not a lot to do outside at this time of year now that the garden has gone to sleep for the winter, but there are things you can do in the comfort of your armchair, e.g. planning next year’s crop.  When planning your plot for next year, think about crop rotation.  It doesn’t have to be according to the book, so long as you don’t put the same group of plants in the same place as last year.  Remember that leafy crops need as much sun as possible and root crops don’t like newly manured ground.

Now you know what you want to grow, order your seeds or do some swapping.  There’s a useful guide from GIY about how long you can keep seeds at the end of this entry.  If you can grow more than you need yourself, or are especially good at a particular crop, then think about growing extra for swapping at the Growers Market.

Before you settle down with your favourite seed catalogue, make sure that you have covered any bare soil in your veg plot with a layer of well rotted manure or compost, topped with cardboard or black plastic sheeting to stop the rain leaching out the nutrients. Weight it down to stop the wind carrying it away.  Never put compost or manure onto frosted ground – it will just seal in the cold.

Cover any over wintering semi-hardy crops such as corn salad (also known as lambs lettuce) with fleece or clear glass/plastic and you’ll be able to crop it all winter.  (I salvaged a plastic skylight a few years ago when my neighbour was re-building her kitchen ceiling and it does a brilliant job of protecting low growing plants or warming the soil up in the Spring.)  Brassicas, leeks and root crops do not need protecting.

Remember to feed the birds and put water out for them especially in sub-zero temperatures.

GIY International’s guide to keeping seeds

1 YEAR :   parsnips, beetroot, leeks, sweetcorn, peppers, spinach, onions, parsley
2-4 YEARS :  squash and pumpkin, courgette and marrow, peas and beans and carrots.
4+ YEARS :  sprouts, cabbage, kale, cucumber, lettuce, radish, tomato, turnip.
Always keep seeds in a dry tin in a cool place. They keep longer if unopened.

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