How to: Grow Your Own Christmas Feast

Grow Your Own

Why not make it your New Year's Resolution to produce the vegetables for next year's festive spread? Grow-your-own expert Tim Rumball reveals how to cultivate everything from vegetable sides to herbs for your stuffing. 

Parsnips

Sowing: From March to May, sow seeds bought the same year in shallow drills in moist soil (water if necessary) 1in/2.5cm apart. Cover the seeds with a sprinkling of multi-purpose compost and mark the
row with a label.

Growing: Keep the soil moist and, in early June, thin the seedlings to 6in/15cm apart (the baby roots taste great, so don’t waste them). Remove weeds from around the plants, and water regularly throughout summer.

Storage: Lift mature roots from October. Just take what you need as they can stay in the soil over winter, only running to seed in spring.

Cooking: Roast well-oiled parsnips sprinkled with cumin, blitz-boiled roots with butter to make parsnip puree, or try parsnip and pear, or apple, soup – yum.

Brussels sprouts

Sowing: Sow in April, pot up seedlings singly and grow on for planting out in early June in well-prepared soil with lime added.

Growing: Plant 24in/60cm apart, put a brassica collar around each and protect them with fine netting. Weed and water regularly, supporting tall stems.

Cooking: Try sprouts sautéed with bacon.

Herbs

Sowing: Sow thyme seeds on the surface of small pots filled with seed compost (but don’t cover) in April. You can buy young rosemary, sage and thyme plants at any time.

Growing: Pot up seedlings when they're 4in/10cm tall, and young plants straight away into slightly bigger pots filled with John Innes No 2 compost. Pinch out growing points to create bushy plants. Plant them in the soil when they are growing strongly, or plant sage, rosemary and thyme together in a big container.

Storage: You'll be able to pick fresh leaves or stems from April to December, and you can also dry bunches of stems with their leaves attached to use throughout winter.

Cooking: Make sage and onion stuffing, mix thyme into butter to glaze boiled vegetables, and crush garlic and rosemary to rub over the turkey before roasting.

Onions

Sowing: Sow seeds from February to April, spreading them thinly on the surface of a tray filled with moist, multi-purpose compost. Lightly cover
the seeds with compost and place the tray on a warm, bright windowsill.

Growing: When seedlings are 4in/10cm tall, prick them out into trays of moist multi-purpose compost, 2in/5cm apart. Plant out from April to June when seedlings show strong growth. In late summer, when top growth falls over, lift bulbs and dry on a rack until the bulb, roots and foliage are brown.

Storing: Remove roots and leaves. Store bulbs in an airy, dark, cool and dry spot.

Cooking: Roast whole bulbs until soft and creamy, use in chutneys, or slice and coat in spiced batter to make onion bhajis.

Raspberries

Sowing: Set canes in the soil 10in/25cm apart, water well and mulch around the roots.

Growing: In spring, sprinkle Growmore fertiliser around the root area. New canes will sprout from the soil, flower then fruit. Pick fruits when brightly coloured and tender. After harvesting, cut the canes down to ground level.

Red cabbage

Sowing: Sow from late April for maturity in late autumn. Place around 12 seeds in a 3in/7cm pot filled with well-moistened seed compost and lightly cover them with a further sprinkling of compost. Place the pot on a bright, warm windowsill.

Growing: Prick out seedlings into 3in/7cm pots or cells filled with multi-purpose compost. In early June, plant out in well-prepared soil that has been limed. Set plants 18in/45cm apart, put a brassica collar around the stem of each one and cover plants with fine netting. Alternatively, you can grow plants one per 10-litre pot filled with multi-purpose compost.

Storage: Mature cabbages will stand in the soil for up to a month. Before they spoil, lift the whole plant, brush soil off the roots and hang it upside down in a cool, draughty and dark shed for a further month’s storage. Or cook up classic red cabbage and freeze.

Cooking: Classic red cabbage is sautéed slowly with vinegar (which preserves the red colour) and brown sugar, but it’s also great when shredded raw into salads or a colourful coleslaw.

Potatoes

Growing: Some varieties can be grown in winter, but April is the best time to plant seed tubers of maincrop varieties. Set them 8in/20cm deep in well-prepared soil, or plant one in a bucket-sized pot filled with multipurpose compost. Water regularly through summer. When top growth dies down in late summer, lift and store the tubers.