It might be a bit wet, cold and miserable but December is a very good time to start sowing for a return in the spring, Planting at this time of year brings your garden to life earlier than if you wait for the spring
Think of lettuce and you think of lovely summer salads with crunchy, fresh leaves. However, now is a great time to sow them.
Winter Gem was bred especially bred to not only grow at low temperatures but to also provide a harvest. It might well be too cold and wet to plant straight outside, but it will work well in cold frames and in pots in unheated greenhouses. It’s pretty hardy for a salad leaf.
Another variety that works well in the greenhouse in the colder months is Lamb’s Lettuce. So called because the leaves resemble a lamb’s tongue, though I am not sure that adds anything to its delicious, crunchy taste. Keep the lower leaves clean while in the pot and start gathering after four or five leaves appear.
Other leaves to consider at this time of year include mustard greens and microgreens. They can both be grown on the windowsill indoors and you can grow them easily to add a bit of flavour and colour to your meals. Mustard greens might go dormant if it gets too cold where they are being grown, but will start up again when the temperature increases.
Even during mild winters, birds will be feeling a little peckish as their food sources dwindle. It’s a good idea to protect vulnerable fruit and vegetables from hungry animals. Kale, cabbages and other brassicas can be covered with netting.
While you are seeing to your brassicas, remove leaves that have started to turn yellow to prevent disease taking hold. If you haven’t already, cane your sprouts to improve their sturdiness against strong winds.
Onions and garlic can be sown in December. It is a tradition to sow onion seeds on Boxing Day. It would certainly be an excuse to get outside and avoid the in-laws or if ‘another’ game of charades is not an option you’re willing to accept. Onion seeds should be started in pots indoors before planting out in the spring.
If it’s a mild December then garlic sets can be planted outside 10-15cm apart as long as the soil is well drained. If your soil is heavy or waterlogged then start them in a greenhouse.
Talking of soil, December is good month to dig in some well-rotted manure. The worms will love it and so will your plants.
Again, in mild conditions, you can sow broad beans outside. Don’t be alarmed if they germinate and then stop. They will enter a dormant phase until the spring, but will be ready for harvest much sooner than those sown in the spring. If the weather turns colder you can protect the young plants with cloches or fleece. They can also be started indoors.