Welcome to the December article written by local resident and keen gardener, Lee Stevenson (aka An English Gardener in Çalış).

Now it is starting to get cold at night and the rains are here you may think there is little to do in the garden. You might be surprised to know that, as well as planting bulbs and trimming overgrown bushes and trees, there’s quite a bit to do.

Feeling Fruity

Autumn is a time to harvest many citrus fruits including cumquat, lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges. There are several different varieties of each fruit with many different uses.

For example, lemons can be rough, looking like a boulder. They are known as bush lemons or rough lemons and have a strong taste but very little juice.

How does your garden grow? Lee’s gardening advice - December's winter garden to-do list.
Bush lemons. Photo Credit: Happy Retiree’s Kitchen

Eureka lemons are the predominant lemon in most countries of the world, recognized by the prominent nipple end. It grows on thornless trees which bear fruit all year, long making it very popular amongst growers.

An unusual variety is the misshapen and very fragrant Buddha’s Hand Lemon also known as the Finger Citron Lemons. It is not a round fruit but instead has numerous “fingers” that start at the top of the lemon. Consisting mostly of pith and rind, this variety doesn’t offer much in the way of culinary benefit as there is no juice or pulp in the fingers. They do however, symbolize good fortune, happiness, and longevity in places such as China and they are often included in temple offerings.

How does your garden grow? Lee’s gardening advice - December's winter garden to-do list
Buddha’s Hand Lemons. Photo Credit: Homeperch

Limes were one of the first plants I wanted to grow in Turkey after reading on social media that ‘you never see limes in turkey’- partly true, as shown by the price in the shops for limes and you rarely see them at the markets. This may be because some varieties are fussier then other citrus fruits when it comes to growing in rocky soil. I bought my Key lime tree three years ago from Saffet Yağlı at Evim Home and Garden Centre in Ovacık. The tree is now producing in excess of 50 limes a year. These are great limes for juice or juice concentrate.

How does your garden grow? Lee’s gardening advice - December's winter garden to-do list
Key Lime tree. Photo Credit: White Flower Farm

A few facts about limes.

The lime is a hybrid fruit and, although the precise origin is unknown, it’s thought limes came from either Southeast Asia or Indonesia.

Contrary to what many people think, limes have much more acid and sugar than lemons do.

The top three lime producing countries are India, Mexico and China in that order.

Limes are not always green, In fact they range from light yellow to orange (Rangpur limes) and different shades of green, There are even limes in darker colours such as blood red (Blood limes) and maroon.

Limes have many uses other than just eating, The juice is often used in products such as cleaning products, aromatherapy items and even perfumes.

Rooted to the spot

The majority of vegetables that we harvest this time of year are root vegetables such as carrots, onions, leeks, potatoes and kohlrabi. For those of you who miss swede and parsnips (I’m growing both myself) here in Turkey I have found that if you mash kohlrabi and carrots together you get quite close to the taste of swede.

How does your garden grow? Lee’s gardening advice - December's winter garden to-do list.
Kohlrabi. Photo Credit: sagegarden.ca

I have also been told that the black carrots you see at the market and in local shops that used here to make juice and salgam (a traditional lactic acid fermented beverage) taste like parsnips when roasted. I have yet to try black carrots myself but they are high in nutrients that are good for us with an anti-oxidant value four times higher then a traditional red (orange) carrot.

How does your garden grow? Lee’s gardening advice - December's winter garden to-do list
Black carrots, a healthy addition to any diet. Photo Credit: organic facts.net

This wet weather brings out slugs and snails to eat our flowers and edibles. If you can’t bring yourself to stamp on, or remove them by hand and feed to local chickens, and want to use the tried and tested slug and snail pellets, please cover the pellets with an upturned pot, leaving a small gap for the slugs and snails to crawl under (rest on a small flat stone). This will safeguard other wildlife such as birds, cats and dogs. Don’t worry that the pellets aren’t around all your plants as they give off a scent that attracts slugs and snails to them and the snails will also look to the upturned pot as shelter.

Flower power

Apart from bulbs mentioned in the November article, there are also other flowering plants that can make your garden look brighter at this time of year and supply any bees and wasps with nectar.

Winter pansies are in most garden stores and I have spotted them at Çalış market for 2TL per plant. Chrysanthemum’s are also available in a variety of colours and sizes. Most types of chrysanthemum will come back the following year so don’t be too hasty to pull them up once they have finished flowering.

How does your garden grow? Lee’s gardening advice - December's winter garden to-do list.
Winter pansies, a colorful addition to your winter garden. Photo Credit:Thompson & Morgan

Cyclamen make great indoor plants during the winter but will also happily flower and grow outside. I have also found that French marigolds, although smaller then when grown during the summer, will happily survive the Fethiye winter. If you see any about, primroses also make for great winter/spring colour.

Getting Dirty

Now the ground is workable, if you don’t mind a bit of mud, it’s a great time to remove any large weeds or plants that you might want to re-home. Be careful if moving any plants that you want to keep by ensuring you dig up enough roots with the plant. Most tree roots grow out wards from the base not down so dig a a largish circle around when moving any trees.

Its also a good idea to improve your soil at this time as the worms are most active and will happily create air pockets dragging nutrients around your garden. I use the bags of manure (I think its sheep poo) from the man in the truck who drives around complexes and there is also one at Çalış Sunday market opposite Zayra Bar who will happily deliver if you ask him to.

Either dig the manure into your soil or place around trees and plants for the worms to do their thing. If you have a problem with local cats thinking they have a new toilet, cover loose soil with long sticks, upturned plastic pots or the plastic crates you see thrown away by the bins to make it difficult for them. I have other ways to deter cats, apart from getting a dog, but I won’t go into this here.

Enjoy your Christmas and New Year with the fake swede and parsnips!

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An English Gardener in Çalış