If you want to enjoy your kitchen garden all year round, you can also be active in December. Some plants are happy to be pruned. In addition, some vegetables can still be harvested now without any problems.
Currants do not need to be pruned immediately after harvesting! The aim of pruning is to promote new shoots for the next season. Every year, about 25 percent of the shoots should be removed completely. The reason for this is that over-aged currant bushes and stems produce only a small amount of young and therefore productive fruiting wood. The berries and grapes thus become smaller year after year, are less sweet and lose their aroma.
And: Harvesting the many but small berries on mini grapes is a laborious task. In addition, pests quickly nest in bushes that are too dense. Now you can see the bushes without leaves, and the old shoots are easily recognisable!
In the kitchen garden you can therefore reach for the freshly sharpened shears in December (or in the following months until March) and take out one to two thirds of the old branches at the base. The rest are gradually removed over the coming years in favour of young ground shoots.
Rules of thumb: Currants fruit best on 2- and 3-year-old wood. When pruning, 4 to 5 medium-aged shoots can remain on a bush. When pruning, leave small “stumps” so that new shoots can grow there.
Harvesting Jerusalem artichokes
The tubers can be harvested as early as October, but they keep best where they have grown: they do not wilt and there is no risk of frost damage to the extremely robust tubers.
Nevertheless, you should start digging in the kitchen garden in December at the latest, because once the ground is frozen solid, it is difficult or impossible to get at the healthy tubers. Once harvested, Jerusalem artichokes do not keep well, so it is best to harvest only as much as you can use in a fortnight. They will keep that long, protected from evaporation, in the refrigerator.
The alternatives: Cover the bed with a thick insulating layer of leaves plus fleece. Then the soil remains open. Or harvest a larger quantity, put them in boxes with damp sand and place them in a cold but frost-free place.
Kitchen garden in December: Harvesting salsify
Salsifies are ready for harvesting from October at the earliest. However, there is no need to rush. The frost-hardy root vegetable can be harvested in the kitchen garden until the end of December. The long, mostly straight stalks can be harvested with a digging fork, for example. Or you can carefully uncover one side of the row with a spade and then loosen from the other. This way, no roots are likely to break.
Tip: Leave thin salsify in the ground – they are difficult to peel. Next year, pretty yellow flowers will appear.
If salsify is leggy, i.e. has developed branched roots, the soil was not loosened deeply enough when sowing or contained stones. It is also possible that the seed bed did not settle sufficiently before sowing. The roots do not taste less good, but they are much harder to clean.
Burying green manure and crop residues
Whether already frost-bitten or not: do not simply leave leaves and stems of green manure plants or kohlrabi stalks on the beds! If they are buried superficially in the soil, rotting will start slowly in the cold winter soil. When the soil warms up again in spring and the first crops slowly get hungry, the soil organisms gradually convert the organic matter into water-soluble, mineral nutrients. Lettuce or radish roots then greedily suck them up.
It is also advisable to compost the biomass, because in this way cabbage stalks, bean straw and phacelia greens, together with other components, are converted into organic fertiliser, which also provides the soil with sustainable humus.
Quick harvest with sprouts
In December, hardly a leaf grows in the kitchen garden. In mild years, at most, a little parsley or thyme is still ready for harvesting. In the warm room, on the other hand, you can harvest fresh and spicy greens easily and continuously – even in the season with little light. On damp cotton wool or damp kitchen crepe, the seeds of cress, mustard and radish germinate within a few days.
On a warm windowsill, the spicy-hot leaves are ready for harvesting just one week after sowing. Broccoli or alfalfa (lucerne) grow only a little slower and produce equally aromatic but milder leaves. Broccoli sprouts are even considered to have anti-cancer properties. If you want to grow the sprouts in sprouting jars, you should rinse the germinating seeds and the sprouting plantlets with fresh water once or twice a day.
Cutting without crushing
Classic bypass garden shears leave wounds that heal well, provided you pay attention to three things. Only sharp shears cut really smoothly through shoots up to a maximum diameter of 2 cm, while blunt ones can lead to splintering wood. In addition, it is much harder to work with blunt tools. If the shoots, especially in hardwood such as quince or lilac, are so strong that the shears can only be driven through the wood by moving them back and forth, it is better to use a saw and smooth the rough edges with a knife.
And finally: Hold the scissors so that the cutting blade points towards the tree. Then the counter-blade, which lies flat, will squeeze the shoot to be cut. If you hold them the other way round, the bruised area will remain on the tree. Wood-destroying fungi would then have an easy time there.