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The best garden produce this week, plus gardening jobs checklist

PUBLISHED: 10:30 21 December 2014

Ivy berries in a wreath. PA Photo/Handout/Hannah Stephenson

Ivy berries in a wreath. PA Photo/Handout/Hannah Stephenson

Archant

Feasts for the eyes and for the table can be found in the garden this week. Here’s what to look out for and how to get the best from it.

Garden checklist

:: Protect plants and pots vulnerable to frost damage

:: Add colour to your garden with hardy Cyclamen coum, which produces a carpet of pink and white blooms in the winter months

:: Earth up Brussels sprout stems to support them

:: Bring bay trees under cover to protect them from cold

:: Water plants which are overwintering under cover sparingly, to stop the roots rotting

:: Continue to clear garden debris which may be harbouring pests and diseases

:: Clean moss and algae from paths to stop them becoming slippery

:: Prune tall rose bushes, cutting them down by half to stop wind rock

:: Earth up spring cabbages to give them better anchorage in strong winds

Ivy

So many people ignore the stunning black berries produced by certain ivies at this time of year, but they make a dramatic addition to door wreaths and table decorations - and they are pretty easy to grow in the garden.

Hedera helix, the common English ivy, is a rampant climber but very useful for hiding eyesores in the garden.

Nectar-rich flowers are produced from late summer until late autumn, an important food source for bees and other insects, while the black fruits which ripen in winter will sustain desperately hungry birds.

Ivy is easy to grow and very hardy but prefers limy soil.

Add a sprinkling of lime when you plant - to the base of the planting hole - and be patient because it takes a while to get going but once established will be long lived.

Turnips

As New Year approaches, many people will be serving haggis with the traditional ‘neeps and ‘tatties, which taste much better if you grow your own.

Winter varieties of turnips are slow growing and need to be left to mature for storing though the winter.

They are easy to grow, faring well in a slightly alkaline soil and don’t need added organic matter, but it’s better if they follow a crop manured the previous year.

They can be sown in July and August, spacing the rows 30cm apart.

Thin them early to avoid root damage, leaving 15cm between turnips.

They don’t need regular watering, but make sure the soil doesn’t dry out completely or they’ll end up tasting woody and tough.

By September and October they should be ready for lifting, or can be left where they are until the New Year.

Roots can be stored in boxes filled with sand in a cool, frost-free place. Good winter varieties include ‘Golden Ball’ which stores well.

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