The Northern Star

Preparing your Christmas salad

IN OUR house, we have a very strict rule that absolutely no Christmas decorations can go up until 1 December. (They then sometimes stay up for six months, because putting them up is such fun, and pulling them down is so sad and boring!)

But, nevertheless, I will be indulging in a little Christmas preparation this weekend. In fact, I’ll be starting on Christmas lunch.

I’ll plant a lovely mix of salad greens, including red and green mignonette, baby butter, some red and green oakleaf, and some frilly pink, which has lovely light green leaves with pink freckles.

I love using lots of Italian parsley, and that will grow happily with the lettuce. It gets a bit large after a while but the lettuce will have been and gone by then. All of these can be side-picked, so I can pick the leaves I need, when I need them.

I’ll also put in some Lebanese cucumbers, shallots and spring onions. I have to confess that I’m not great at growing tomatoes, so I might just stick with some cherry tomatoes which are more tolerant of my rather neglectful approach to the vegetable garden.

The herb garden needs more oregano, sage, rosemary, marjoram and thyme for roasting potatoes and stuffing the turkey or chickens. The dill is looking a bit tired, so I’ll add some more of that too – delicious with smoked salmon or potato salad.

I’ll need plenty of coriander and basil, both so versatile and essential summer flavours. Because it’s getting a bit hot now, the coriander can grow where it gets a little shade from the cape gooseberries. The basil will be happy out in the full sun along with the chillies and capsicum. I’ll plant Thai basil for Asian-inspired dishes, as well as the more common sweet basil.

My mint is going beautifully after a bit of a feed and more frequent rain, but the little green grasshoppers are finding it a bit tasty. Every morning there are dozens of the little critters munching away, so another spray with Eco-Oil and Eco-Neem (an organic pest control combination) is in order.

And because I love to have flowers in amongst the vegetables, I’ll tuck in some marigolds, maybe calendula and one of my favourites, the little white annual chrysanthemum, which makes a gorgeous quick-growing groundcover.

Petunias love the summer heat, as do zinnias and vincas. Some brave little violas that I planted back in autumn are still flowering, but they will be pretty well exhausted by the end of the year.

I don’t have the heart to pull them out now, though!

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