Hoe, hoe, hoe: If you dig Christmas, consider this …
It's that month again …
Yes, it’s December – which presents the challenge of presents to come; hopefully they are useful and functional!
If you dig Christmas there is, fortunately, very little to do in the garden. You could, however, consider Mother Nature’s bounty which, in the spirit of things, would cover a fair amount of the festive table – sugar cane for rum; wheat, corn, rye, and potatoes for vodka; barley, corn, rye and wheat for whiskey; juniper berries for gin. Then we have apple cider and apple vinegar; grape cultivars for brandy which, when mixed with eggs and sugar, produces advocaat and eggnog. There is also, of course, the grape for port and sherry.
As the old adages go, ‘man cannot live on bread alone’ so, to help absorb all the above libations, cherries, nuts, raisins, cloves, nutmeg, ginger are all found in the Christmas pudding. Then we have the ingredients, candied fruit, dried fruit, nuts, spices, sugar, and flour, which produce a rich and satisfying Christmas cake.
Turkeys are not keen on Christmas, but they always show up and provide a major statement when accompanied by sage and onion stuffing, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, turnip et al sides.
Now starts the fun part. You are stuffed to the gills, you have imbibed freely and now await the giving of gifts. It's that, ‘Just what I wanted moment’!
Growing one’s vegetables has seen an uptick of late – which is no surprise considering the cost of groceries. The experience of eating one’s home-grown produce is fulfilling for both the mind and the body! Tools and equipment for the veg garden include a hand trowel, dibber, iron rake (with teeth), spade, garden fork, garden line, Dutch hoe, watering can, hose pipes, hose end fertiliser applicator, handheld sprayers times two – one for pesticides and fungicides and one for herbicides – plant labels (wood or plastic), the indelible lead pencil, gloves, trug, small wheelbarrow, veggie fertiliser, general pesticide and fungicide, general herbicide and very importantly, a selection of garden seeds including herbs to start ‘the farm’.
For those properties with limited land to grow veggies, consider planting in large containers or a square foot gardening plot. Large containers can be used for sowing carrots, beetroot, spring onions, onions, radish, herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, turnip, swede, etc.
Square foot gardening has been around a while and consists of creating a square/ rectangular piece of land that is ‘edged’ by wood or similar in arresting soil movement. If soil depth is shallow, rail ties can be used to give an increase in soil depth, especially required for root veggies. The design is simple – line out the piece of ground in squares of one foot so the result looks like a chessboard. With careful planning and contingent on the size of the plot, you can tailor your growing requirements to grow twelve carrots per square, eight onions per square, one tomato per square, etc. Using this approach enables you to control cropping by not creating an oversupply of any one crop. Select a protected area of land – from wind and salt spray – that receives a good amount of sun throughout the day
Whichever method is used, the most important issues in producing a successful crop are regular weed control, fertilising, controlling pest and diseases and watering. If you have pets, you may have to create a barrier around the plot to save them from being dug up.
So, there you have it. You have grown your produce, prepared and dined and digested it whilst quaffing on the best of spirits. And now, to complete the day, it’s time for the liqueurs…………
Cheers, and a happy New Year – whilst remembering that in the 17th century when the Puritans were the Government, Christmas was outlawed and all the above would have gone to waste!
PS: And when it is all over and the food and drink are making their presence felt – known as surfeiting – Mother Nature is once again to the fore with remedies ‘from days of olde’. Taken as directed, they will have you back to a reasonable condition to repeat the exercise on Boxing Day.
Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the UK. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society