Published: 19 December 2012
The Festive A-Z... Part One
As Christmas draws near and a new year beckons on the horizon, we put together an A-Z of gardening ideas and thoughts which are timely to the festive season. Here is part one, A to H.



The Apotment is a new look at how to grow edible crops in containers. The Gardening Times is trialling different crops and methods in order to maximise harvests using minimum space and resources. With food prices set to rise further in 2013 we could all reduce our food bill a little by growing more of our own. Please share your container growing experiences with us at


Brussels Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts have become an integral part of the Christmas lunch, possibly only during later years for many of us! This crop is relatively easy to grow even though it has quite a long growing period, from sowing outdoors in March to first cropping in the autumn. In a small garden this space could be better used for faster maturing crops however. Good early varieties include F1 ‘Brilliant’ or F1 ‘Bridgette’, a recommended late variety being the F1 ‘Silverlines’ that has the Award of Garden Merit [AGM]. These varieties are available from Suttons Seeds.



Compost heaps may not be the most exciting things to think about during the festive period, but all gardeners know that they play an extremely important role in providing organic matter and nutrients to our soils. During the colder months the composting process slows down dramatically as the billions of bacteria stop working. Now is a good time to think about improving your composting methods and possible take advantage of the winter sales to buy an extra bin so you are ready for the new growing season. Alternatively you could write a last minute note to Father Christmas!



Design a new garden or feature. Sitting indoors during the winter period can be frustrating for any gardener. We feel that there is so much to do but unable to get on with. Try taking advantage of this time by getting out a blank sheet of paper and sketching the layout of your garden. Draw the boundaries, then the existing features, and then let your imagination draw in your dream garden. This little exercise could lead to some interesting thoughts. For those with a technical streak take a look at, this is a company with an amazing online design program that will lead you up a whole new garden path, quite literally.


Enjoy it!

Enjoying more time in the garden during 2013 should be on every gardener’s New Year wish list. It is so easy to spend too much time working in the garden and forgetting why we are doing it. We should try to make time to sit down and take a closer look at what we have achieved and observe the sheer beauty of each aspect of the natural world that can be found in our gardens. Lightweight seating is perfect for this as it can be easily moved to different areas or a sheltered position during cooler weather.



Fleece is one of the most useful artificial materials available to gardeners. It is lightweight so can be applied quickly by draping directly over plants without damage. It provides protection from low temperatures, direct sunshine, warm drying air movement and cold drafts plus an excellent deterrent for many flying pests attacking vulnerable plants. Fleece can be purchased in many forms; from single sheets, as windbreaks and tunnel cloche covers to individual plant wraps with draw cords. For a wide range visit your local garden centre or see



Greenhouses at this time of year can be extremely useful for giving protection to slightly tender plants brought in from the garden. Place the plants away from the glass to reduce the risk of scorched leaves. When extremely cold weather is forecast, line the inside with bubble polythene or drape layers of horticultural fleece over the plants. Always be vigilant when there is any change in the weather, an hour of sunshine can raise the temperature inside by several degrees triggering some plants into new, soft growth that is extremely vulnerable to low temperatures. A rise in temperature can also create conditions where pests and diseases will start becoming active and infect plants. Opening the vents and doors for a short time will reduce these risks, however it is essential that they are closed before the temperature drops as the sun goes down during the afternoon. Try to keep the glasshouse dry, a damp atmosphere will also encourage pests and diseases.



Holly is a diverse family of plants found around the world from sub-tropical, temperate and northern regions. There are up to 600 species in the family Aquifoliaceae. The common Holly found in the UK is Ilex aquifolium and has the dark evergreen foliage. Holly plants growing in different regions of the world can vary from evergreen or deciduous trees or shrubs, and even climbers; they can have large or small leaves with or without prickles, or dark glossy green or bright variegations. The foliage has strong connections with Christmas as a floral decoration. Planted in the garden they can form a good hedge to protect against the wind and if dense enough, deer too. Kept as trimmed specimens they can also create interesting focal points in more formal settings. As hardy plants they will tolerate extreme climatic temperatures so worth considering when planning new planting schemes.


Title image reproduced with kind permission of Natasha Sluman.

Reported by Chris Allen  

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