December 2021

 Happy Winter Solstice

 

21st December - The Winter Solstice is one of my favourite days of the year, because although it marks the first day of Winter, it is also the shortest day, which means from tomorrow the hours of daylight increase once more

In mythology, it is the day when the Holly King is at his strongest, while the Oak King is reborn, to come to his full strenght in six months time, at the Summer Solstice: the personifications of Winter and Summer in a never ending cycle

Here, the cycle of the seasons goes on of course, see through the slowing of harvests and of growth in general. This week's harvests have included some Florence Fennel, which is not likely to last that much longer if we get really cold weather. It is rather good roasted

Other harvests have mainly been evergreen herbs

I have almost covered all the paths on #145 with nice clean new woodchip now, and it makes everything look neat and tidy again. Ten large builders' trugs is all I can mmange in one session, but it is enough to  be able to feel I am getting somewhere

I weeded the Cabbage bed, and without those yellowing leaves and tufts of grass, they look really smart! Time to start eating them, me thinks....

Out On The Plots This Week:

I had a lucky find in some old wooden planters someone the other side of town was giving away. Although they look, at first glance, a bit ropey, they are actually pretty sound and can easily be re-assembled

 

And given that I aim to build a new cold frame where the strawberry tables are currently, these will make a very useful run of raised growing space there. Perhaps early Carrots or Beetroot at the end of February/beginning of March? Sounds OK so far.....

At Home This Week:

Lots of time spent writing cards and wrapping presents, which has now come to an end, so I can enjoy seeing the parcels all ready to share at the end of the week!

One of the jobs was to plant up the Crocus bowls and big fat Amaryllis bulbs, which are being given as gifts. Moss from the damp, shady grassy area alongside my parking space by my plot improved their appearance no end, and will help keep them damp too. 

A bit of an issue today though when the clutch went on the car, and as the AA man was organising  a rental car for me, I found out my driving licence was out of date by over a year!!! Much negotiating with passport number, National Insurance number and car insurance confirmation, I can have one tomorrow morning (Whew!) and I completed renewal details for a new licence as soon as I got home!

 

The other pressing job was to repair the little teddy dug up whilst we were clearing that unused plot a few weks back. He was plain dark brown, but after two trips through the washing machine, he is a completely different colour,  and with some felt patches, he looks much happier. My youngest grand daughter made him a sticker, saying "I have been brave"after his new ear was sewn on

Patch has now gone to his new home at my friend Gary's house as Assistant Data Handler for the Site. Gary was the one who dug Patch up, so that seemed the best arrangement

On the happy note, I shall wish you all a happy time over the Christmas Season, and aim to be back with one more Blog for 2021 next week.

Hope you have something you have grown to add to Christmas Dinner... that always feel quite special. Soon be sowing time again!

 

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com

13th December - I can hardly believe how mild it is at the moment. I saw a Bumble Bee yesterday at the plot, and the soil is warm enough for weed seeds to be germinating! The few frosty mornings we have had in the past couple of weeks haven't put the weeds to sleep, although the Nasturtiums in the polytunnel have given up the ghost now, lying in a rhetr limp heap

Harvests have been a bit hit and miss, because most of my time has been spent at home, involved with the bedroom renovation and seasonal shopping etc. This year most of this shopping has been done on-line, which has been so much less stressful than going to the town shops. Very appreciative of those delivery drivers!

There have been a few pickings though, and Harvest Monday begins with a fairly unusual one for this time in the year

Potatoes! I had planted a couple of tubers in a large bucket back in April, harvested a fair number of Potatoes a while back and left the rest of the compost in the bucket to use whenever. These were definitely Kestrel.  I tipped it out and lo, and behold, a rather handy little harvest!! I think it may have been a tiny Pink Fir Apple that I was given rather too late to put in the ground, as all the space was taken.. certainly not Kestrels. Very welcome now though!

Celery continues to grow. The stems are very useful finely chopped with Onions etc as a starter for casseroles, curries etc and the leaves are tender enough to be used too. These were cut into fine ribbons and added to Dhal yesterday. I hope they carry on through the Winter, as last year's plants did

Pak Choi has been a really superstar this year, and although tiny slugs eat holes in the outer leaves, the thick juicy stems and the hearts remain untouched so far. Stir fry won't be the same when the last one has been eaten! This morning I noticed that the green ones outside had started to flower, but the red leaved ones are still good to eat. I shall have to use them up as they won't enjoy any cold weather we may eventually get

I have been encouraging other growers on our site to  try these, as they really are an easy crop if you sow them at the right time in the year, and it has been really heartening to see how popular they are becoming

And another non-seasonal harvest is Basil, which is growing very well in pots on my kitchen windowsill. A nice fresh addition to the Leek and Cheese pasta this week! This is such a successful way of extending the harvest, I shall defintely do the same next year. A little splash of pot plant food now and again, and it just keeps on growing

Other harvests have included Leeks, Celeriac, Lettuce leaves and Thyme

Out On The Plots This Week:

Things around the Forest/Forage Garden were looking pretty miserable, with everything covered in leaves, so I set to, cleared leaves and rotted woodchip from the paths, added it to the growing areas, and put new woodchip on the paths.  Having the definition between where you walk and where things grow immediately made a difference. Once I had cleared the dead stems of Japanese Anemone and Coronaria away, the fresh growth of Muscari leaves could be seen, together with a few Primrose plants, as well as masses of Forget-me-nots coming up. Much more relaxing to look at.

I also spotted several self-sown Black Seeded Simpson lettuces too, which made me think that perhaps next Spring I could sow a few seeds of Salad leaves. The might do quite well in the more open shady areas, despsite the acual soil still being quite shallow. It will build up over time though. I put new wooden edging along one side of the path, to retain the soil a bit, or it spills onto the path. 

I cleared up around the pallet compost bins too, as the paving was slippery with fallen leaves, and some seedlings of Goosegrass were coming up. Good to get these out before they run everywhere again, such a nuisance with their sticky seed balls

The Leeks haven't done as well as I would have liked in that bed on the side of this area. I remember Onions being quite poor there a few years ago, and I do wonder if there is some white rot in the ground

I shall be careful where I dispose of the Leek roots now, perhaps putting them in the Council Green waste instead of my own compost, and will make sure I don't plant any of the Onion family there again for several years

I think there is also a bit of a disadvantage with a large overhanging Cherry tree branch, which I shall remove as soon as the tree starts back into growth

Next season this bed is earmarked for Peas and Broadbeans. Hopefully, without that branch, they will get sufficient light, plus the soil is pretty good after the addition of extra compost, so they may grow well

There are now three small Honeyberry plants in the bed with the Rugosa Roses. This is something I haven't grown before, so did a bi of reading to see what conditions they need etc. One key thing is that, being a relative of Honeysuckle, they are "edge of woodland" plants, and secondly, they need more than one plant for pollination. Hopefully they will thrive... I even gave them some mycorryzal fungi to help their roots grow strongly! I am not expecting any sor of crop for a couple of years at least. Thye are very tiny bushes at the moment

I actually managed to weed the bed with the Cauliflowers in it this morning! That seems to have been on my list for ages, so I was glad to have time.... hmmm, they are not all Cauliflowers!!! Two are Swedes, albeit rather small, and two are definitely Khol Rabi. OK, I can eat both of these. The Cauliflower plants are supposed to give nice large heads around early April, and as soon as they are finished, Potatoes are going in. I have been slightly concerned they may not be ready in time for this quick turn around, but no.... another two have grown a tiny head already!! At this rate there will be none left by the Spring and plenty of time for planting Potatoes


  • Elephant Garlic is at last beginning to poke up


  • And the Shallots are looking quite promising

In The Polytunnels This Week:

The Lettuces are growing away really strongly, and I have been able to harvest a few leaves. The four Spring Cabbages are looking healthy, but the Khol Rabi, which was decimated by voles when the plants were tiny,  despite having some strong-looking leaves, have no signs of growing actual Khol Rabi. I shall just have to wait and see!

There is a lot of clearing up needed in the tunnels, which I am saving for rainy or cold days when I can't work outside! 

At Home This Week:

The bedroom has been painted a gorgeous shade of turquoise, and now has a grey carpet, which feels incredibly luxurious after having one laid in 1968, that was as thin as a pancake! I shall have a bit of a blitz after Christmas, before moving the wardrobes in. I am determined to only put in there things that are useful and/or I really like!!

To that end, I bought this in a charity shop yesterday. Next time you see it, it will be beautifully white, with pastel roses to match the ones on my bedsite tables, and be sitting on top of my new sewing cupboard with a beautiful plant inside it. OK, I have the tables and the cupboard still to paint, but these are Winter jobs I can get on with when the weather to too poor to work outside, even in the polytunne

In the garden, the Blackbirds continue to squabble over Yew berries and fallen Apples, and the ever-reliable Viburnum bodnantense is in full flower, scenting the air so beautifully The flowers began to open in mid-November, and they usually continue right through until February, so there is plenty of time to enjoy it. The tiny birds love it: I think there must be lots of small insects amongst the flower buds as they forage on it constantly. 

Luna the cat miaows at them quietly under her breath, from the bedroom window, always disappointed they don't come closer. As soon as she appears outside, they stick to the highest branches of course!

 

The Christmas Rose Helleborus niger, is living up to its name. It is in a trough outside the back door, and it is lovelt to se it up close instead or partyl smothered in the flower bed, so I am glad I moved it

There is always plenty to do mid December, with presents to wrap and cards to write, but it also the start of the new season, so sowing plans to draw up, at least in draft, and this year, plenty to do on our Allotment Site as we plan for developement project in the New Year.

Most important of all though, is having time to take stock, to celebrate what has gone well, plan to improve where needed and introduce a new idea or two

I hope you are all enjoying preparations for the festive season, and I shall do my best to be back next Monday, getting ready for the Winter Solstice

 

info@alittlebitofsunshine.co.uk

 Comments and suggestions are most welcome, and I shall reply as soon as I can

And if you'd like to know more about Harvest Monday, look at

www.ourhappyacres.com