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This month in the garden - 2019

December in the garden

Deepest winter … but here in Southern Spain we are lucky to have perfect gardening weather on most days through our coldest months. Although the garden has slowed down, salads and Asian greens are plentiful and you should have daily harvests. Kale should also be ready to harvest. Just keeping plucking off individual leaves which will encourage the plants to sprout more and ensure a harvest over many months. Any aubergine, pepper and chilli plants that are still going can be pruned back by about a third and mulched. They may survive the winter as they are perennials in their native climates and if they do, they will give an early harvest next year.

Continue to sow radish, spinach and salad leaves. It's last chance for garlic, habas and peas. Beetroot, carrots, turnips, leeks and potatoes can be sown now too.

We're getting a welcome break from the vigorous summer grasses so there is an opportunity to dig out those invasive roots while cleaning up the beds where summer veg has finished. Try not to add the tuberous grass roots to your compost. Chuck them out onto a river bed somewhere or burn them. They will never be fully eradicated from the garden but they can be minimised.

The end of the year is a good time to plan for the coming new year. A great aid to garden planning is a moon calendar. Although it sounds cosmic, gardening with the moon is an ancient and well founded practise. At it's simplest, it means being aware of the moon's cycle. The gravitational pull that affects the ocean tides also affects the moisture content in the soil and the sap in plants.

Simply put, plant things that go down; roots, such as carrots, on a waning moon and things that go up; leafy things and plants like beans, on a waxing moon. A bio dynamic moon gardening calendar is a complex guide to all tasks in the garden. Based on the interactions of the sun, planets and stars as well as the moon, it will tell you the best days to work on all aspects of the garden including compost, pest control, tree pruning and seed saving and will also tell you days that it is not recommended to work in the garden at all. Rudolf Steiner is well known for his work on developing these ideas in the 1920s and Maria Thun started her extensive research in the 1950s. The beauty of these calendars is that you don't have to work it all out for yourself, or even fully understand it. It is all laid out for you. Most of them have beautifully illustrated charts and tables and are very easy to follow. It's all your garden planning done for you built on ancient knowledge and modern scientific research. They make an inspiring Christmas gift.

TIP: Sprinkle wood ash around brassicas to deter pests

Reader's question: I planted some bergamot seeds expecting to grow a leaf I could use in home made Earl Grey tea. The plant however has leaves that smell more like oregano, nothing like the delicate Earl Grey flavour. I'm confused. Can you give me an explanation?
You have seeds for Monarda fistulosa or bee balm, a wild flower of the mint family also known, confusingly, as bergamot. The bergamot you seek, the one used in Earl Grey tea, is Citrus bergamia, bergamot orange, which is a fragrant citrus fruit the size of an orange although shaped like a pear. The small tree is thought to be a hybrid of a lemon and a bitter orange. It is grown commercially in the south of Italy and in Southern France. I don't know of any in our area but if there is one I would love to hear about it.

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