The shortest day of the year is fast approaching and the year is coming to an end, but on the bright side, the days begin to grow longer and it’s a slow advance towards next Spring!
Gardening in December
The weather outside might be frightful but you can still enjoy a spot of polytunnel Gardening even though it’s December. It’s a good opportunity to place your seeds orders, start chitting first early potatoes and plan what you’re going to sow and plant next year. Don’t neglect those half seed packets you have put for safe keeping in the cupboard either. If you’ve kept them cool, dry and dark many seeds retain their ability to germinate for more than one season. One exception, old parsnip seeds are never any good. Use them or throw them, but don’t save them.
Repairs and Maintenance
It’s also a good time of year for repairing and renovating, there’s always something to do if you look hard enough. Frost, rain and winds are increasingly common. Any tears or holes in the polythene cover can cause serious trouble if not repaired, especially in challenging windy weather. It’s always handy to have a roll of polythene repair tape on standby for those unforeseen emergencies. Polythene repair tape is a flexible long lasting translucent tape designed to effectively repair accidental damage or tears in polythene covers on polytunnels. Service any heaters that you’re going to rely on this winter and make sure they are in good working order. Check the wheelbarrow wheel for punctures, you may have a lot of carting around to do over the coming months.
Sunshine hours are much reduced and if dirt, mould and mildew have invaded your Polytunnels Polythene cover you may notice plants growing in poor light may look somewhat drawn and don’t make strong growth. Fortunately, a problem like this can soon be sorted out with a single application of Algon Organic, no scrubbing or rinsing required! It’s a good idea to give all this year’s pots, seed trays, and other equipment a thorough wash and clean. It will help prevent any diseases or viruses carrying over and infecting next year’s new seedlings and Ventilate the Polytunnel on warmer days to reduce humidity and the risk of disease.
Clear debris – this is vital to prevent slugs and snails from setting up home in those lovely warm and damp conditions!
Snow is falling! Although a light layer of snow can provide good insulation, try to avoid letting it freeze and build up in excess, on smaller Polytunnels a soft long handled sweeping brush can be used to clear off as much fallen snow as possible. Tapping the inside of the polythene covers with the palm/back of your hand will help dislodge any lingering snow. You could also increase the temperature inside the Polytunnel with a heater, as this will allow the snow to slide off.
Insulate garden taps and exposed pipes from frost. Turn off the water – Shut off and drain irrigation systems that may freeze during cold weather. Prevention is better than cure!
Parsnips and leeks can be left in the ground to be lifted as and when needed. Keep picking Brussels sprouts and harvest winter cabbage regularly although according to the variety they can remain in the soil for months. For many vegetable growers, providing plenty of fresh produce for the family and serving Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, and ‘King Edward’ potatoes fresh from the Polytunnel for Christmas dinner is a point of honour and something to be very, very proud of!
Another fun job for December is to write your Christmas list. Do you really need some more socks? No, I thought not. How to Grow Food in your Polytunnel all Year round is an indispensable book for any Polytunnel Gardener………and if you’re looking for gifts to give the gardener in your life, then don’t forget that gift vouchers make perfect pressies.
Plan, plan, plan
Take time to reflect on the gardening year and repeat what went well and find out why things maybe didn’t just go to plan with other crops and make improvements or change
Merry Christmas everyone! Here’s to platefuls of yummy homegrown veggies in 2016!
Sean Barker is the MD of First Tunnels, and is enthusiastic about providing quality gardening supplies to gardeners across the UK