While many of us strive to boil, mash and roast the perfect Christmas Dinner for our families, a wise few gardeners know the secret to a lip smacking, fresh crop of veg bursting with flavour that will no longer serve to accompany the meat and stuffing, but will storm to centre stage. The secret of course is to grow your own Christmas Dinner vegetables!
We’re now approaching the late spring; and there’s no time like the present to start sowing the seeds which will flourish in the next few months, giving you a robust set of vegetables that will end up on the eagerly anticipating plates of your family this Christmas.
Potatoes: 1 seed potato = 5-10 potatoes
From the end of July/early August, you can start to plant second cropping maincrop potatoes such as the Potato Maris Peer or Potato Charlotte which are great mashed or roasted! It is estimated that 1 seed potato can produce between 5 and 10 potatoes, so choose your quantity accordingly. You should plant your seed potatoes in rows spaced 18 inches apart and 4 inches deep in the ground. When the shoots reach 20cm, ‘mound’ the soil around the shoots leaving a few centimetres on display. You will need to repeat this process every three weeks. When the foliage begins to die back, you can harvest the potatoes, leaving it until mid-October at the latest. On a dry day, lift the potatoes and allow them to dry for two to three hours. Once dry, store in hessian, paper sacks or in boxes in a frost-proof shed. You can then keep them until Christmas Day. If you have limited space, why not grow potatoes in bags?
Carrots: 1 seed = 1 carrot
Another Christmas classic, carrots are a must for the Christmas Dinner gardener. When planning on growing carrots to eat in the winter, go for hardy varieties such as Eskimo or Autumn King. You can sow the seeds directly outdoors from now until July for a Christmas crop. They should be planted in a sunny position in fertile, well-drained soil. Seeds should be sown thinly at a depth of 1cm, and the rows 30cm apart. When large enough to handle, thin the seedlings to 10cm apart. If you have limited space, why not grow carrots in bags?
Swede: 1 seed = 1 swede
Another hardy winter vegetable, you can sow swede from now until the end of May in a sunny position in fertile, free-draining soil. Ideally, plant in soil that has been treated with manure or fertiliser. Sow seeds 2cm deep in rows 38cm apart. When they are big enough to handle, thin the plants to 23cm apart. You can then leave swede in the ground until Christmas. We recommend the full-flavoured varieties Magres, Angela or Wilhemsburger.
Parsnips: 1 seed = 1 parsnip
Who can resist the crunch of a honey roasted parsnip? This hardy crop can be sown from now until the end of May and left in the ground until you need them on Christmas Day. You should sow 3 seeds at 15cm intervals, 0.5 inches deep and in rows 30cm apart. When you see the foliage starting to die down, you can use a fork to gently lift them, however they can be left in the soil and lifted on Christmas Day.
Winter cabbage: 1 seed = 1 cabbage
For winter cabbage, you should sow seed varieties such as Holland Bison or January King. Sow the seeds 12cm apart and about 2.5cm deep from now until the end of May. When they are 10cm tall with three or four leaves, transplant them to their main bed – this should be done by the end of July at the latest. Give a liquid feed to promote growth, and keep them well watered. You can harvest winter varieties from December.
Cauliflowers: 1 seed = 1 cauliflower
Another favourite, cauliflowers can be sown now until the end of May and lifted in December. Sow the seeds thinly 0.5 inches deep in a seedbed, in rows 15cm apart in fertile soil, digging in plenty of well-rotted manure or organic matter. Thin the seedlings to 7.5cm apart when they are large enough to handle. For best results, start the seeds in seed trays using multi-purpose compost. All The Year Round or Skywalker varieties are recommended for winter harvesting.
For that extra special touch, why not grow your own sage to go in the stuffing? Unless you are growing your Christmas Dinner for next year, it is advisable to use cuttings taken from an established plant, which will better results in the few months left til Christmas (seed-sown sage will not perform well in the first year). Once your plant has fully grown, you can dry the herb and save it until Christmas.