Welcome to Lee’s gardening advice for December written by local resident and keen gardener, Lee Stevenson (aka An English Gardener in Çalış).
Now is a great time to prepare your growing area for the year ahead so that your flowers are at their best and vegetables produce a good crop in 2021.
If you’ve recently acquired a piece of land for growing and it is covered in weeds etc, an easy way to clear this is to simply cut or strim down to ground level and cover the area with dark polythene plastic for 2-3 months. The annual weeds underneath will die off and the worms will have pulled the rotten material down into the soil.
By the time you uncover it the soil underneath will have been naturally tilled and fertilized and most likely be ready for planting.
The above method can also be used for soil already free of weeds to help warm the soil up earlier for planting sooner and stop any unwanted weeds growing.
In soil that requires no digging (like the above where the worms do the digging for you) it is possible to grow almost anything. You will still have to remove large stones and weeds but, unless you are growing root vegetables (carrots, parsnips etc) that require fine soil, there is no need to dig.
If you have already grown vegetables in one area try not to use the same area for the same type of vegetable next year as any nutrients, specific to that group of vegetables, will have been removed.
Trowel & error
Feeding your growing area whilst there is little growing will help your soil be at its best in the coming months. There are many chemical options that can be watered in or just sprinkled on the area but you can also use everyday household items.
I always put the wood ash (following day once cold) from my soba around trees and plants. Wood ash is full of lime and potassium and lightly sprinkled on your garden will feed the plants in the growing season. Try not to bury the plants as, in large amounts, the lye and salts that wood ash produce when wet may burn your plants. Ash can also be added to your compost which will reduce the lye and salt.
Used water from an aquarium or water that has been used for cooking can be used to fertilize the garden or potted plants.
Other everyday products are egg shells broken down to form small grit. They lower the acidity of the soil and also act as a deterrent to slugs and snails as they don’t like the grittyness.
Tea bags and coffee grinds are especially good for roses, blueberries and tomatoes and you can even make garden coffee for your plants by soaking the grinds for up to a week then using to water where required – might be worth asking your favourite coffee shop to save the grinds for you.
Animal manure (but not meat-eating animals) needs to be mixed well into the soil as it can be acidic to your plants.
Grass clippings can be used as a great weed blocking mulch around your plants as it is rich in nitrogen.
Kitchen food scraps – I soak the skins of bananas in water for 2-3 days for a great liquid feed.
Tree leaves are great as they also attract earthworms who will happily dig your soil taking the nutrients into the earth with them.
Still time to grow
It may be wetter and colder outside now but there are still plants that can be grown. Flowers that do well started now are lupins – which I intend to try again after losing several seedlings during the summer heat, sweet peas sowed now will give an earlier display of colour next year, foxgloves and hollyhocks in a greenhouse or cold frame to give them a start. Hollyhocks will most likely not flower until the following year but their tall blooms are worth the early effort. I grow the double variety, saved from seed every year.
Continue to plant daffodil bulbs and tulips. Remember not to plant tulips too shallow as this can reduce the winter cold that tulip bulbs need to produce flowers in spring.
Hyacinth bulbs and bare root roses can be planted any time between now and March. Plant out spring bedding plants such as pansies, violas and primulas.
Peas & quiet
Vegetables that can be sown now are broad beans (also known as fava beans). If they are grown early for harvest next year, they toughen up a bit and are less susceptible to pests. Hardy pea varieties can also be sown outside for an early crop next year.
Asparagus crowns can be planted outside now for tasty home grown spears (asparagus will do well if the soil is fertilized).
Why not try growing your own spring cabbage that can be bought at the plant stalls at the local markets? You will probably only need 6-10 plug plants.
I’ve recently started pots of basil and coriander that will be ready to use in early January. Coriander should do better in the cooler climate as the sun causes it to go to seed early.
I’m also going to start growing onions (ailsa craig variety) from seed this week. I’m hoping they grow to a really huge size.
There is nothing stopping you from growing lettuce or salad leaves in pots now that will be ready to eat in 8-10 weeks.
I leave you with this funny…
I’ve started to plant my herbs in alphabetical order. People ask me how I find the time, I tell them “its next to the sage.”
What do you want to know about gardening?
If you have any questions or suggestions about gardening and there is something in particular you wold like me to cover in future articles, please let me know via an English Gardener in Çalış or Fethiye Times.