Home & Garden

Garden cleansed after big freeze

December 31st, 2022 11:50 AM

By Southern Star Team

Joyce suggests trying to grow some microgreens – and getting the kids involved too.

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THE shortest day is behind us and Christmas speeds us all on towards a new year. It’s time to relax and enjoy all our blessings with family and friends and it’s time to reflect back on what the last year has meant. I hope that the garden has been a beautiful and productive influence, whether it is a small patch of colour or a large vegetable plot. Well done for all the digging and growing throughout this year and here’s to the next! Season’s greetings to all and may your gardens continue to bring joy in the year ahead.

A bit of a freeze

Well, it has certainly been cold in the last few weeks and some plants may look a little sorry for themselves after the low temperatures. Taps may have frozen and a few leaves may be burned black by frost. I always think of hard frosts as a cleanse for the garden and, although some plants may be knocked back, there’s a chance that some problems will be resolved. A lot of unwanted pests will be reduced in numbers, if not completely destroyed.

Most winter vegetables are pretty hardy and although leaves might flop at sub-zero temperatures, they will bounce back and recover once temperatures return to a more normal range. 

Ease off picking kales for a while if a lot of leaves have dropped, or at least just take one or two leaves from each plant until they are over the cold shock. Winter cabbages and their spring cousins will both stand through cold winters although a few outer leaves may be lost. Sprouting broccoli will survive down to -10C and still crop well in the spring.

Brussels sprouts are very hardy and will be perfect for Christmas dinner. 

Pick and use them as they come ready – roll cooked sprouts in butter, salt and pepper for the traditional taste.

Early bulbs

Some bulbs are popping green leaves through already and some are even further along than that. A pot of bulbs is always a lovely gift. It doesn’t much matter if flowers are open, since there is a real pleasure in watching shoots grow and open new buds. Early Narcissi can easily flower before Christmas but you do need to provide a little shelter to ensure that they don’t get knocked back. These pretty flowers do well in a container in a cool porch or conservatory, or put them in a sheltered corner against a house wall.

Daffodils planted in lawns can be vulnerable now. It’s hard to spot the emerging shoots among the grass. Try to avoid walking where bulbs are planted – broken shoots will mean fewer flowers in the spring.

Microgreens

If you want to keep sowing and growing, then this is a good time of year to start some microgreens in the kitchen. This is a great way to get a fast crop and children love to help. It’s also a good way to use up any old seed before you start buying fresh packets for spring sowings.

• Put a thin layer of compost in the base of a shallow plastic fruit punnet.

• Put a layer of kitchen roll over the top and water until all is damp.

• Scatter seed thickly over the surface of the kitchen roll. Seeds can go close together since each one only produces a small thin shoot. Use beetroot, chard, spinach, cress, brassica, mustard, salad, peas, or any edible vegetable seed. One type of seed per tray works best.

• Put the punnet in a plastic bag on a kitchen window ledge and water every few days so all stays damp

• Seedlings should pop through in a few days and you can remove the bag when plenty have germinated

• Leave the seedlings to grow about 8cm tall or until a couple of small leaves have opened

• Cut through the stems with scissors, taking care not to pick up any compost. Microgreens are best eaten fresh in salads and sandwiches. 

• You can have several trays growing at once and if you stagger sowings you should always have some fresh microgreens to cut.

Poinsettia 

I love this festive plant! It really shouts Christmas with its flame-like leaves. 

Put it in an empty fireplace and you will almost stand close by to warm yourself. Well, maybe not with heat, but with some good thoughts about traditions and how they run through families. 

We all have special things that we associate with this time of year. Poinsettias can last for several weeks before the leaves turn more green than red.  It can be hard enough to nurse them through from one December to the next and harder again to make sure the red comes back at its bright best. Look on your plant as a temporary thing that brings joy and maybe some memories in those flame red depths.

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