As I write there is a wonderful hoar frost this morning.The foliage and grass are glistening white and the soil is frozen enough to easily break a spade. Frost is good for the allotment of course, and there have been a healthy number already this winter. This has provided a lovely spectacle and certainly focused our minds towards the onslaught of winter.
It feels more seasonal too, with Christmas now only just around the corner. There are plenty of gifts for keen allotmenteers, to suit all budgets and tastes. Perhaps the ultimate gift is a greenhouse or polytunnel, wouldn’t we all like one of those? For something a little more modest, a heated propagator will come into its own in the New Year and is a timely gift. Thinking of practical things, I really wouldn’t want to be without my secateurs. Fitting handily in my pocket they are a boon. Finally a gift voucher is a safe bet and is something I rely on, when unsure what to buy.
Tradition has it that Brussels Sprouts taste better after a good frost or two and I can’t disagree. Modern varieties such as F1 “Content” and F1 “Brigitte” are sweet and taste especially delicious. One of the best for Christmas dinner is F1 “Brenden”. This is a late season variety that holds particularly well. Gone are the days of bitter tasting sprouts. As a bonus my kids willingly eat them without bribes!
This week, I’ve been harvesting parsnips (which also taste nicer after frost), leeks, swede and Jerusalem artichokes. All are as tough as old boots and can be left in the ground until late March to pick when required. It is always good to take something home with you after a visit to the plot. These four stalwarts fit the bill nicely.
My winter cabbage is ready too, though the heads are a little smaller than I’d like. We can’t complain though. In the end we are fortunate to be able to grow our own food, even if it isn’t always perfect.
If the land dries out a little, I intend to hunt down a particular patch of those residual black, bootlace style roots belonging to horsetail/ marestail. This prehistoric weed is slowly colonising. Any dry winter weather gives a perfect chance to redress the balance.
During inclement weather, the shed is a valuable sanctuary. It is the perfect spot to escape the throng of the Christmas High Street, with all the retail mayhem that entails. A flask of hot coffee, gives me the encouragement and impetus to repair, tidy and clean this often neglected aspect of my plot. It is amazing just what accumulates in there, dead wasps, woodlice, dead spiders (and live ones), junk and more junk. Luckily there are no mice in my wellies, or indeed anywhere else for that matter.