Gardening: Enliven festive displaysBy Linda Fort
December 11, 2009
The truth is that the one of the most reliable ingredients of the Christmas dinner is the Brussels sprout.
There are those who hate this fine winter vegetable, but I am not one of them.
If you wish to have your own spouts from the vegetable garden next Christmas, you need to sow them in March.
The best way to deal with them is to sow them in seed trays at the beginning of March and then plant the seedlings out when they are big enough – about 6ins tall.
They should be planted out at 2ft 6ins apart and make sure the ground around them is reasonably firm. As they get bigger they will need staking and in late summer it helps to earth up the roots and clear off yellowing leaves.
The plants take up quite a lot of room in the vegetable patch and so it is a good idea to plant catch crops between them during the summer – like radishes and lettuce.
The thrill of harvesting them on Christmas Eve ready for the big day is a joy although the frost can sometimes be biting.
It is also good to have fresh herbs in your stuffing for the turkey. I have mine in pots by the back door for easy harvesting.
You can bring a pot of parsley inside and keep it on the windowsill in winter, but mine is so protected I can generally harvest it through most of the cold weather.
As a precaution I cut a few handfuls in November and freeze them, just in case I run out in winter.
Fresh herbs in any recipe are always an improvement on the dreary dried pots from the supermarket and make even the most workaday cook seem like a professional.
Other important things to harvest from the garden for the festive season are the evergreens for the decorations.
Even if you have no holly, you can liven festive floral arrangements with some shiny green leaves from the garden or berries.
Choisya, viburnum, even laurel and rosehips, can all turn a small bunch of expensive red flowers from the florist into a fabulous Christmas display.
If you have nothing in your garden then the hedgerows can usually furnish you with a little holly and ivy. Bear in mind that you are probably stealing and don’t be too greedy.
I now have a source of holly with berries from my mother’s garden – my own tree is taking forever to grow. And as for ivy, I drive about looking at the hedges along the road for ivy with black berries and find the most suitable site to stop and cut a little just before Christmas.
My decorations are not elaborate. However just a few fronds of holly and ivy lying on the windowsill and in table decorations make the house look festive.
And spare the time in all the Christmas rush to tidy round the garden, because visitors will notice if it looks a mess.
If you can’t mow in the wet, then at least rake the lawn and trim the edges. In all the hurly burly of Christmas there is always a little time to remember the garden – if only for your own sanity.