Preparing for Christmas in the organic garden
The end of August in the kitchen garden and we are planning for the autumn sowing and planting season and Christmas.
Leeks and Onions
On the herb side, sage is indispensable at Christmas. Who can imagine turkey without sage and onion stuffing? Our sage was a small plug when it was put into the herb garden in mid March. Now it is a small bush, so I have no worries there.
The onions and leeks, are both coming along nicely. Both have been grown from plugs planted in April. Some are ready for picking now, I like them young and tender. Depending where you are in Andalucia, you should be able to plant leeks and onions in late September, early October to grow over the winter.
Leeks need blanching to give them that lovely white stem. I aim to have about 30cm, an old foot, of blanched stem and the way I do that is this. Fork over the ground in which the leeks are to be planted to a good fork’s depth. Rake it until the surface is a reasonable tilth and level. If you have any compost rake it into the top couple of inches at this stage. Then take a wood or metal pole about 2.5 cms diameter, I use my metal rake handle. You will be making holes into which the plugs will be slipped, one inch, 2.5 cms diameter is about right. Many years ago, I wrapped insulation tape around my rake handle at the one foot mark to make it easy to judge the depth of the holes. Then I push the rake handle into the raked soil every 4 inches, 10 cms. I generally make a bed four holes wide so that I can straddle the raked soil rather than compressing it again by standing on it. I find it easiest to work backwards doing this job.
If you are on shallow soil then you can make ridges about 6ins, 15 cms, high and 2 foot, 60cms wide and plant in those. I grew decent leeks on heavy clay soil in Sabinillas using this method.
When you have made all your holes, slide one leek plug into each hole. Do not worry if only the green tip of the plug is peeping out at the top of the hole. Now water in carefully with a watering can, not a hosepipe. Do not collapse the holes more than you can avoid. Enough soil will cover the roots and the holes act as reservoirs in the early weeks taking water down to the roots. That’s it, perfect leeks in about 14 weeks.
Onions are a little different. Fork and rake the bed or create a ridge as for leeks, plant each bulblet so that about half the bulb is beneath the surface and the top growth is self-supporting. Some people cut the top growth back by half at this stage although I have never found this necessary. Use the same spacing as for leeks.
As you clear your courgettes, tomatoes, and squash beds, dig in as much compost as you have. Next month you will be sowing peas, broad beans, turnips and beetroot in the composted ground and planting garlic for growing over winter.
Julie grew sprouts from seed sown in April and I planted them out in July. They seem to like the vaguely alkaline soil we have here and are doing well. All being well we should have sprouts for Christmas.
I also like to have some peas ready for Christmas. I do not know how they will cope at over 700 metres so I will put one row in in mid September as an experiment.
Another treat is new potatoes on Christmas Day. Down at sea level on the Costa del Sol, I could plant seed potatoes in September and have new potatoes in late December. In Almeria at over 700 metres above sea level things are very different.This is the great potato experiment. I have never done this before so we shall have to see how I get on. I do not really have room for potatoes at the moment so, on the 20th August, I took one small sprouting potato and put it on 2 inches of compost in a large tub. I barely covered the sprouting tips with compost. When the leaves showed through, I put in more compost until they were just covered. I will do this until the compost is on a level with the rim at the top of the tub. I am keeping the compost moist but not soaked.