WITH many towns switching on their Christmas lights and a myriad of festive adverts now appearing on the television, I’m sure we will all be tired before Christmas itself arrives (except for kids, for whom it cannot come fast enough!).

Although Christmas week is the time when I sow my exhibition onions and leeks, I prefer the Robinson strain of marathon improved onions and leeks, which when fully grown make very large specimens for the show bench but are also good for eating.

Sowing seeds is something I seem to do throughout the year and earlier this week I sowed some lupins, verbascums, foxgloves and sweet peas which have been sown in pots and celled trays and placed in my cold frame to germinate over the winter. By sowing them now, these will provide slightly earlier blooms for next summer.

I also have a heated windowsill propagator in which I've sown a few pots of herbs, such as basil, chives, dill and parsley. These will be grown in the kitchen windowsill and used as they grow. I have also sown some spring onions, winter-hardy lettuce and pak choi, which I will be planting under cloches in my kitchen garden in the new year.

Despite the recent frosty weather, it is good to see my first-batch sowings of garden peas and broad beans are germinating well – it shows that we still have some warmth in the ground. I’m thinking of covering the germinating peas with garden fleece to give some added winter protection, though mainly to stop pests eating the young shoots. Talking of young shoots, it’s also good to see that my autumn planted garlic, shallots and onions bursting into growth. They have kept me busy with pulling out germinating weeds growing between the emerging shoots.

The frosts have in effect killed my sweetcorn plants, so I have harvested the cobs that were left and popped them in the freezer. I have now prepared the ground and intend to plant my spring cabbages, which are currently growing in small pots.

The kitchen garden has done well this year and the crops I planted in the late spring and early summer are going to provide the Christmas meal. The brassicas and root vegetables are looking great and the frosty weather will help to sweeten then up a bit. As the weather cools it helps to preserve the crops from bolting and being harvested in one batch as for summer crops. I often find that cauliflower is the one crop which seems to go to seed so easily, even over winter, so it often ends up in the freezer.

The problem with having a kitchen garden full of crops over the winter is the threat from pests that may be scavenging for food at a barren time of the year, mainly from birds or rabbits. I find that covering the crops with netting and pinning it down to the ground helps to protect them.

Talking of Christmas, as you can see from my photograph this week my Cotoneaster ‘Cornubia’ is looking very Christmassy with all its red berries. This particular one is one of the largest cotoneasters, making a large shrub or – with a bit of selective pruning – a small tree.

I grow this form because I was wanting a plant with a bit of height that give seasonal interest. In the spring it produces masses of white flowers which are densely clustered. These then produces large berries which are among the largest in the genus. The pea-sized berries turn shades of vivid red in the late autumn and well into late winter if the birds leave them alone. This cotoneaster has also been given the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) which means it has something special about it. Although, it seems to germinate fairly easy from seed, I prefer to take semi-hardwood cutting which I find are easy to root and do more quickly establish, though remember it’s a tall growing and bushy plant that needs a bit of room in the garden.