Grow Your Own - A rare treat

Mary Llewellin
Monday, December 12, 2016

The weather may be getting colder and wetter, but the December garden has some surprises

Winter is well under way now, and here in the West Country we have suffered torrential rain with flooding, and frosts of nearly minus ten degrees, both of which make any serious planting or digging off-limits.

We have an ancient medlar tree in the grounds of our nursery in Keynsham, fallen long ago, but still clinging onto life, and this year it produced enough fruit for us to try to make a jar of medlar jelly.

The fruits look a little like a rather small, hard russet apple crossed with a rosehip, and are too sour to eat raw. Picked while they are green, they are inedible until they have been ‘bletted’, which means they have been stored until they become soft and brown. That’s the stage we’re at, so the jelly should be coming soon and we can’t wait to try this rare aromatic treat.

Meanwhile, in the garden we have planted some blackcurrant cuttings, with some redcurrants coming to join them soon. Among them we have sown lamb’s lettuce, which should be ready in March.

The rest of our cartwheel-shaped vegetable plot has been planted with a green manure to nourish the soil or covered with flattened cardboard boxes weighed down with logs to suppress the weeds, ready for spring.

To do list

  • If you are not suffering from either waterlogged or frozen ground, now’s a good time to plant new fruit trees and bushes.
  • Prune apples, pears, quinces and medlars.
  • Clear fallen leaves, twigs and dead plants from your plot and dispose of it. Compost it if you can.
  • Plant shallots and garlic in mild areas with well-drained soil.
  • Autumn raspberries, red and white currants and gooseberries can all be pruned now.
  • Hungry mice and pigeons are on the prowl so protect new sowings and crops still in the ground with netting or fleece.
  • As ever, keep an eye out for slugs.
  • Remove any yellowed leavesfrom sprouts or other brassicas to prevent grey mould and downy mildew.
  • If you have unplanted areas then this is the time to dig in soil improvers such as well-rotted manure to your soil.

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