December in the vegetable garden is very like November. Early in the
month the last of the real summery things can still be planted. Seeds
of bush or french beans, either yellow or green, the ones that grow
about knee high are often best planted now, and you can still plant
out plants of zucchini and expect to get a good crop by February.
Beans are about the only thing in the garden that you do not need to
water that much in the dry hot and windy weather that we have been
having lately and I also find that they are best sown in bare, sun
baked soil. Mildew-like growths seem to be their main problem down
here, so water them well once after planting and then leave them until
they are well through the soil.
Everything else should be surrounded by piles of mulch to keep down
the transpiration rates and minimise the amount of watering you need
to do. But do make sure that the soil is damp before you pile on the
mulch, for not only does it stop moisture getting out but it can also
stop the little rain we might get from reaching the soil.
Check underneath mulch every now and then for slugs and snails. They
like the damp cool environment as well as your lettuces and broccoli.
Unlike some environmentally friendly gardeners and allotmenteers in
the UK, I squash slugs rather than transport them live down the road
to an empty section.
Now is also the time to think about the winter garden. If you have not
done so already, plant parsnips seeds; they have a long growing
season. You can continue to plant carrots, however, until February and
these can stay in the garden over winter.
You should also aim to have all your winter seedlings - broccoli,
cauliflower, cabbage of various hues, leeks and celery - planted out
by the time your zucchini are morphing into giant marrows overnight.
So plant seeds now.
Leek seed should be sown by mid December. Leeks are usually looked
upon as a Welsh vegetable (though I never saw one in my childhood in
Swansea) and the commonest varieties have names like Welsh Wonder and
Cardiff. There are others like Carentan Giant (French?) and it is
worth experimenting because, as with many other vegetables, you might
find one that better suits your garden conditions.
Any seeds you plant directly into the garden at this time of the year
will have to be regularly watered. In hot, dry weather, the evening is
the best time as the water will not immediately evaporate.
by Derek Onley
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