Bertrand Russell said that when he talked to another philosopher, he felt that human happiness was no longer possible. When he talked to his gardener, he felt exactly the opposite. I bet he didn’t talk to his gardener in December, when the poor fellow was hunched in his potting shed, warming his hands on a mug of cocoa and gazing morosely out over his frostbitten borders.

On the other hand, December is perhaps the best month for that important job, winter digging.
The soil should be warm enough to work, and dry enough to walk on
without causing compaction. And at other times of the year, of course,
it is likely to have stuff growing in it.



If you have heavy soil, dig a trench one spade depth deep (a spit, it is
called) and then turn the soil next to it upside down into the trench.
Repeat with the new trench you have just created, and keep doing so
until you are exhausted – about ten minutes, in my case. This buries
weeds, and allows frost to break down the exposed clods. But we can do
better, can’t we? If you throw down a thick layer of rotted manure or
composted waste before you start, you will bury that as you go. This
will help the structure of any kind of soil, and also put back some of
those important nutrients that have been washed out by the summer rains.
If this sounds too much like hard work, just use your compost as a
mulch, and let the earthworms do the job for you.

From one of the hardest jobs, to the easiest. This one worked when you are in primary school: it still does. Fold a couple of kitchen towels in the bottom of an old ice cream container. Wet them, and add a sprinkling of mustard or cress – or both, but sow the cress a couple of days earlier. Keep this on your kitchen windowsill, and don’t let it dry out. Edible in less than a week, and a handy addition to salads and sandwiches. Obviously no right-thinking green activist will have paper towels in the house: I am afraid you will just have to scrounge some from a neighbour. Vermiculite works, but it ain’t cheap.

Our thanks to Jon Gunson of TTL for his Winter gardening tips. 

Take a look at the TTL Food group page for further information on growing food.