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This month in the garden - 2018

December

If you timed it right you'll be lucky enough to have your own parsnips for Christmas dinner. You should also to be able to roast your own potatoes and eat your own brussels sprouts and kale. If those August plantings worked out, you'll have your own tomatoes too, for the starter. The last winter sowings of habas, peas and garlic can be made now. Radish and spinach can go in too as well as winter salad crops such as rocket, lettuce and Asian greens.

With Christmas looming, now is a really good time to review your garden tools. A maintenance session to oil wooden handles, sharpen blades and do a general check of the condition of your tools will reveal what you are lacking,what needs to be replaced and give you some good ideas to put on your list for Santa. The end of the year is also a good time to look over the successes and failures of the last year and make a plan for the coming year. This of course will involve looking through your seed stocks. Yet more ideas for Christmas presents!

With so many catalogues available online making seed purchases is very easy. You can buy lovely presents for your friends and family. Even if they don't have a garden, or any interest in having one, why not buy them something to grow on their windowsill? Basil, chives or parsley are commonly bought in little pots in supermarkets. Wouldn't your loved-ones like to grow their own? There are many small ecological seed companies online who really need support to keep the ethical seed trade alive. Try the The Real Seed Company in Wales (http://www.realseeds.co.uk) or plantaromed in Málaga (http://www.plantaromed.com).

Christmas is becoming more and more commercial and disposable, so why not give a present that produces something? Seeds already come in a lovely package so there's no need for wrapping paper and they are light and cheap to post.

Tip: Giving brassicas a nettle feed will deter white flies.

Reader's question: With the olive season coming up we will have lots of brush to process. Burning, although quick and effective, seems a waste of resources. How else can we get rid of such a large quantity of brush?
Processing the olive prunings is a huge task every year. Goats love olive leaf and, if you know some, they would happily dispose of your leaf for you. You can either transport the prunings to a local goat herder or bring the goats to the prunings. If you bring the goats to the prunings, you will be left with the branches. These still need to be processed and can be chopped up for kindling if you have a wood burner. If you have a lot of prunings, this is a soul destroying task and how much kindling do you need? At this stage getting hold of a shredder or wood-chipper would be very useful. Ask around your neighbours or see if there is one available to rent or borrow, before you consider buying one. It's good to use one before you make the commitment to buy a large and possibly expensive piece of kit. The smaller ones are generally harder to use and the job takes longer. Big ones go through the sticks like butter but are very expensive.

Another option would be to build a hugel bed. “Hugel” culture means hill culture and is a system where branches, logs, leaves and any other biodegradable matter is heaped into a mound and covered with soil. Your veggies are then planted on top of the mound. The gradual decay of the wood provides nutrients for many years and also provides heat to the bed. The large volume of decaying matter also holds the moisture in the soil and there is much less need to water. Altogether a great way to use those prunings.

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