A very productive Pastime - Richard Sandford on gardening this time of year

PUBLISHED: 14:45 29 November 2013 | UPDATED: 14:45 29 November 2013

The canes drip with tempting raspberries during the their season

The canes drip with tempting raspberries during the their season

Naomi Slade

Richard Sandford is storing his harvested crops and is not averse to keeping pumpkins under the bed.

Near Maidenhead in Berkshire is a fine productive garden where former chef Richard Sandford has turned an acre-plot into a food-producing phenomenon. In summer the plants grow tall and lush, canes drip with raspberries and beans and brassicas of all persuasions thrive. But this does not all happen by magic; there is lots to do in the winter months and Richard is kept busy.

“Rhubarb produces a lot of leaves and growth during the summer and needs a boost of nutrients,” says Richard. “Once I have pulled up all the leaves I tip a barrow full of compost, manure and leaf mould round the plant and leave it over winter. This will also protect the crown from frost and cold.”

“You can also sow overwintering broad beans. Plant them so they get four to six inches of growth before winter sets in and cover them with a cloche,” he suggests. “We get broad beans about six weeks earlier than if planted in the spring. Garlic, too, is best planted out in either September or November. You can wait until spring, but they don’t tend to be so good.”

Richard takes care to bring in as much of his crop as possible, harvesting root vegetables such as celeriac, carrots, winter radishes and beetroot and storing them in a large tub of coir in a frost-free place. The pumpkins and squashes come in too, and are kept in a cool room or even under the bed until they are needed. The salad plants and herbs like parsley that remain outside are covered with fleece or cloches to protect them from the worst of the weather.

“I tend not to harvest potatoes though,” he says. “As long as you don’t have a slug problem they keep perfectly well in the ground.”

During these short, cold days, Richard and his helper Alena keep warm by double digging the heavy soil and incorporating sand and leaf mould to lighten it. They also sieve out composted material from the bark chips that make up the paths to make mulch and compost. But despite all this dedication there is no time for martyrdom. “This is a good time for potting on any salad or herbs that will remain in the polytunnel over the winter. There is still just a bit of growth in November and it’s a nice way to keep out of the rain!”

Lower Lovetts Farm opens for the National Gardens Scheme www.ngs.org.uk

Latest from the Berkshire Life