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Shutterstock/Chantal de Bruijne

Fed up of sweeping up Christmas tree pine needles? Save them, they could prove handy

Tips on making the most of your seasonal produce, as well as a delicious vegetable pie recipe from GIY’s Michael Kelly.

HARD TO BELIEVE it’s mid-December already, and yet here we are with just weeks left in the growing year. Things are relatively quiet in the vegetable patch – apart from preparing beds for next year (which is almost finished), there’s very little to be done.

The weather certainly hasn’t helped to create any enthusiasm for GIYing. I heard a guy on the radio saying that November was the dullest, wettest and windiest for decades – that certainly seems to sum it up. I find I am literally craving light at the moment. If it continues at this pace we will run out of alphabet letters to name the storms before the winter is over (will they go back to A and start again??).

So, really the only work I have been doing in the veg patch is putting the black plastic covers back in place when they blow off in the storms (they always blow off in the storms).

On the other hand, I am glad to report that in the polytunnel, the oriental greens that I sowed back in September are doing well. I sowed mizuna, mibuna, red mustard, komatsuna, salad rocket, texel greens, tatsoi and claytonia in two separate sowings – one ‘broadcast’ or spread liberally in thick bandsdirectin to the soil and the other in module trays in the potting shed (and transplanted later).

The latter are much further along now, since they got a boost from the warmth of the potting shed before having to contend with the colder soil in the tunnel.

I have started harvesting a little from them at this stage, but only a little. That’s ok, because (a) we’re not big in to salads at this time of the year and (b) amazingly we still have some lettuce that we can harvest outside in the veg patch – particularly the super hardy red variety Matador which seems impervious to the attentions of frost.

Outside in the veg patch, I am still harvesting carrots, parsnips, celeriac, leeks, beetroot and white turnips. If the weather was better I would probably lift and store the beetroot and carrots but I just can’t be bothered.

We also have a good bank of the always-reliable hardy perpetual spinach. From stores we still have plenty of pumpkins, squashes, onions and garlic but our spud crop is almost done.

We will, alas and alack, be back to buying spuds before Christmas.

Things to Do this Week

  • Study and compare the various seed catalogues carefully before deciding on the best varieties to grow to suit your needs. Check out the GIY seed selection at
  • Start a Compost corner or heap.
  • If you don’t already have one, plan a fruit garden/area to include at the very least some soft fruit like raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries and currants; and some fruit trees like apple, plumb and pear.

shutterstock_295936124 Shutterstock / Amallia Eka Shutterstock / Amallia Eka / Amallia Eka

Recipe of the Week – Root Veg Pie

I’m really in to warming, root-based, one-pot dishes at the moment and this is a delicious and healthy pie that will utilize vegetables that are still available in the December vegetable patch like carrots, celeriac and squash. It’s one I return to again and again at this time of year.

You don’t need to stick too slavishly to the recipe – use whatever root crops you have and experiment. You can leave out the pepper if you want (it’s not likely to be seasonal). Serves 4.


• 1 quantity short crust pastry – 350g

• 300g potatoes

• 300g celeriac

• 300g squash or pumpkin

• 4 medium mushrooms

• 1 red pepper

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary

• 300g fresh ricotta (I’ve used feta too and it’s lovely)

• ¾ cup grated cheddar or goats cheese

• ½ cup grated parmesan


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. To the make the filling place the potato, celeriac, pumpkin, mushrooms and pepper in a baking dish and toss with the oil and rosemary – season well. Bake for 30 minutes until golden. Leave to cool.

Roll out the pastry and use it to line a pie dish, trimming away the excess. Mix the vegetables with the ricotta and cheddar, and then fill the pie dish. Sprinkle the parmesan over it. Bake for 35 minutes until the pie is golden.

shutterstock_119847889 Shutterstock / Chantal de Bruijne Shutterstock / Chantal de Bruijne / Chantal de Bruijne

Tip of the Week – Save Christmas Tree Pine Needles

Its annoying when the needles fall off your Christmas tree, but don’t throw these on the fire when you sweep them up.

Save them up and spread around your blueberry bushes. The blueberry bush will love the shot of acidity that the needles will give the soil as they rot down.

Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY.

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