narcissus just sprouting in blue delft bowl

"Will love be true as December frost"

Will love be true as December frost, or fickle and fall like the rose in June? ~Clement Scott, "In Sight of Home," c.1883

This time of year, out in the garden, everything seems to be hunkering down in the cold and wet; birds are migrating and wildlife hibernating. Leaves have fallen.

There seems little to sow presently. Bulbs are promoted now both for outdoor planting in baskets and containers but especially for indoors. I have ‘Narcissus Bridal Crown’ planted up and just starting into growth. Hyacinths are popular for their scent and of course the spectacular hippeastrum, better known as amaryllis are favourite gifts.

If you have additional lighting and heat (propagator or grow lamp for example) then cacti and coleus can be sown now as indoor plants. The seedlings will require good light and a minimum of 21 C to prosper throughout the winter months.

I find it useful to gather together all my packets, unopened or not, all the odds and ends tucked away in drawers, the shed or tatty jacket pockets. Looking them over I can decide which did well, or my favourites to grow again. Any remnants can be sown as microgreens on a windowsill to add some pizzazz to soups and sandwiches. You can also buy a wide range fresh for this very purpose. Quick and easy, you don’t even need compost; a takeaway tray and kitchen towel will suffice.

Next the perennial problem – do I just stick with the tried and trusted or add something new? I didn’t grow any chillies this year and miss their piquancy. Runner beans are a must. I like dark greens, curly kale, spinach and chard; being on my own I can then just pick what I need. Limited on space I shall grow a courgette in a large container; fed and watered regularly it keeps on giving. Herbs, both annual and perennial, are expensive in the supermarkets and a packet successionally sown in pots keeps me supplied throughput the year. Ooh and some broad beans, and er, some mangetout, sweet peas, salad leaves, flowers for cutting, cherry tomatoes, nasturtiums, pot marigolds…………………….

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