No seasonal break for this busy gardener

'You can't be doing much gardening at this time of year, surely!' It's unbelievable the number of times this is thrown at me as winter deepens.

Saturday, 30th December 2017, 2:25 pm
Perfect Charlotte salad potatoes were unveiled to provide a perfect treat for the Yuletide dinner table. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

There are those who clean and oil their tools, then put them in store until spring, enthusiasm totally restored after a well-deserved break. Then we have the all-weather gardeners, who need more hours of daylight to complete all the tasks in hand. God knows there’s room for both.

Enthusiasts will speak of their daily routine, which is based on a series of checks.

The unheated greenhouse is first port of call for this fellow because both overwintering and actively growing plants need monitoring.

Stacked trays and towers of pots were never cleaned through the growing season. This means that disease pathogens and garden pests are poised to infest. Soaking containers overnight, washing and drying next day is an essential job.

Salad potatoes Charlotte were planted in pots three months ago with Christmas harvesting in mind.

It takes first early potatoes, started in late March for mid-June digging, 10 weeks to progress from garden fork to dinner fork, but that’s with warmth in the soil and air. Cultivating for Yuletide demands more time because the containers are left outside and only moved into an unheated greenhouse when November arrives.

Three large pots were planted this year, three prepared tubers in each. Top growth was vigorous and only suffered when December brought the mother of all frosts. With days to go until harvesting, the haulms were pruned and anticipation of what lay beneath the surface heightened.

Turning out the contents is akin to unwrapping a Christmas present and wondering what lies within. The result did not disappoint and deserved a photo-call.

And the gardener, despite protesting that anyone could have done this, received Brownie points for producing a delicious out-of-season treat.

Frost-induced, rock-hard soil, has ruled out digging and planting, but there will be windows of opportunity throughout winter. Meanwhile, bundles of hardwood stem cuttings will remain fresh in a bucket of water.

Even frozen beds and borders have their good points. Take advantage of the access without harming the soil structure. This allows us to prune apples, pears and certain shrubs. Removing spent top growth from herbaceous perennials and clearing border debris follows.

Wrapping up warmly and getting into the heart of your borders on a frosty day can be both healthy and illuminating.

Happy gardening in the year ahead!