Granted December probably isn’t the most exciting time to be thinking about vegetable gardening. The soil is more or less frozen solid, tender plants have finally succumbed to the frost (the nasturtiums are headed for the compost bin today) and everything else is looking a little sad. Not to mention the unappealing prospect of cold hands. Apart from a few hardy rosemary bushes, there will be nothing to eat in my garden for the rest of the winter.
But there are a few practical things you could be doing to get a head start on next year’s growing season.
You can use plastic, old carpet, or sheets of cardboard to cover large areas of soil over the winter. This will protect the earth from heavy rain and frost, as well as suppress weeds, and crucially, will help warm the ground up so that you can start sowing seeds earlier next year than you would otherwise (yes, it really does work). The same applies to containers.
*Get hold of containers
If you want to start planting in the new year, and like most people in London, haven’t got a proper garden, now’s the time to build some raised beds or get hold of as many containers as you can to put out on your patio or balcony. Build raised beds from discarded wood, and collect plastic bottles and pots, tyres, old bins and cooking pots (see Starting Out under the Resources tab at the top of the page for details). You can use more or less any container to plant in, as long as it has a hole in the bottom for water drainage, and doesn’t contain anything toxic (stay away from old tins, or anything that may have contained chemicals – this includes treated wood).
*Plan your planting
A lot of your seed sowing is going to start around February and March, so place a seed order this month to be sure to have everything in time. There are so many places to get seed from, but my favourites are Real Seeds, The Organic Gardening Catalogue and Suffolk Herbs. I’ll very shortly be updating the Resources section with advice on what to plant and where to plant it. Maybe it’s just me but I think ordering seeds for vegetables like those below is really exciting, especially when it’s freezing outside and summer seems like forever-away:
If you don’t already compost, start now! Nothing is more valuable in your garden than compost. See Starting Out under the Resources tab at the top of the page for details.
And if none of that warms you up, maybe this will: