This month in your garden

Stop watering your amaryllis now and let the bulb die down and rest until after Christmas, when you can start to feed and water again. If you want your Christmas Cactus to bloom over the festive season, pot it up a size now and start to moisten the soil. Proprietary cacti and succulent compost is available in garden centres. Whilst you are doing that you could re-pot another good succulent, Stapelia, as well.  Mine has flowered for such a long time and put on so much growth that it has become top heavy.  Take off some of the stems and let the cut ends callous over before you pot them up.

Towards the end of this month you may find spring bulbs appearing in the shops and garden centres.  The packets are full of promises of bright, colourful flowers to brighten up those lengthening days as the garden comes alive again in the New Year. Do select your bulbs carefully. They often come in plastic bags, which make them sweat and go mouldy. Test each bulb for firmness and even if there is even one bulb in the bag that doesn’t feel good, put that bag to one side. Some bulbs come in net bags, which is a much better idea and I noticed more and more loose bulbs last year. There were some particularly pretty small (nana) gladioli for sale that grew very well in my garden. My advice about buying them that way is to keep them in separate paper bags with the name of the bulb on the outside!

Tulips are fickle bulbs and can look amazing in drifts of bright colours but rarely do they give a good show a second year, so it’s best to start again each season. Narcissus on the other hand, will flower and flower each year until the group gets too crowded or you haven’t fed them. If your daffodils haven’t flowered for some time, you still have time dig them up carefully, separate them out into groups of five bulbs and replant them, remembering that they need to be at two to three times the depth of the bulb for best results.  Over the years they seem to creep upwards, but in fact the cause is the soil compacting or being washed away in winter rains. Last year I planted some tiny narcissus called ‘Minnow’ in urns and they were exceedingly pretty.  Other I tried for the first time were disappointing, particularly ‘White Lion’, which had a complex head so heavy that the stem couldn’t hold it up and consequently they were felled by the continuous rain that we had in the spring. I like old favourites like ‘Ice Follies’ and ‘Cheerfulness’ as they do so well here, and ‘Paperwhites’, natives of this region, which start to grow as soon as they are planted and do as well in pots as in the garden.

If your vegetable plot has been resting during the heat of the summer and you grow in the same area all the time, start to make preparations for sowing winter vegetables by digging in some garden compost or even some bags of potting compost if you don’t have a heap. Try not to grow brassicas (brassicas include cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts and broccoli) in the same area year after year as this can cause club root, so change the position each season and alternate with something like Broad Beans or potatoes.

As leaves begin to fall add them to your compost heaps or bins to make dry layers as well as wet ones, which would include salads and raw kitchen waste.  The contents need to be turned several times so as not to congeal and make a smelly mess. Once it is ready for use it shouldn’t smell at all and can be dug into your plot to enhance the growth – much better than chemicals!

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