We can look forward to a raft of delicious goodies from the winter veg garden.

However, we must be vigilant and on the ball to prevent pests, diseases, disorders and foul weather spoiling our harvest.

Traditionally, head gardeners would start the day with a walk round the kitchen garden and whenever possible I take a stroll through the garden after letting the flock out.

With vigilance, you’ll catch problems at an early stage. You’ll see when a bed needs tidying, notice any storm damage and how well different crops are faring.

For this to work, the beds must be tidy, with crops growing healthily, not throttled by weeds. Weeds soak up moisture and nutrients and reduce the air circulation that keeps fusts at bay.

Remove any yellowing, decaying vegetation: brassicas – sprouts, kale, broccoli – need a regular tidy up. This prevents a slimy mess and shelter for nestling slugs.

Cabbage aphids live in and around brassicas throughout the year and eggs are laid in autumn. Clearing away and composting the plants as soon as they’ve finished cropping prevents these eggs hatching in April.

Tidy-up applies in the herb garden too. Removing sorrel leaves as they go over lets you enjoy the final pickings and globe artichoke crowns readily rot unless decaying vegetation is cleared. Although artichokes, especially well-established ones, are quite hardy, a typical mulch also rots the crown, so a gritty covering provides the best protection.

Plants and bare ground nearly always benefit from some protective covering, a mulch. And you can sometimes trim plants to let them provide their own cover. The pruned little woody stems of winter savory or hyssop do just that. But, as with so much in gardening, one solution can cause another problem. Most of us have managed to remove fleece or insect net from broccoli now that the cabbage whites have flown off to Spain.

But the protective cover may have hidden more weeds than we’d like. Slugs can graze unchallenged and mice scurry around unthreatened by hungry predators.

You may be like me and are plagued by pigeons and deer, and I’ve also got avid little slug-seeking ducks who aren’t averse to a green salad. So covers may have to stay.

As winter dawns, this protection gives free rein to our foes. Slugs burrow deep into a cabbage and mice gouge out holes in the neeps or celeriac.

Living in the countryside, I’m afflicted by mice and voles much more than many gardeners, and despair when seeing a neat line of overwintering peas felled and left to rot.

There’s no alternative to regularly remove the nets, weed and deal with these so-called pests. Beer traps and organic slug pellets help solve the mollusc problem, and both are perfectly safe for birds. The net also lets you safely set traps for mice. Who knows, you might catch a hungry big Arion slug.

Although many of our winter crops are perfectly hardy, some, especially herbs, need protection against the coldest weather. I cover my bay tree and rosemary with fleece jackets and use fleece, not insect net, for overwintering peas, broad beans and spring cabbage.

When ice starts turning soil into concrete or snow is forecast, I dig enough veg for a few days as it tastes much the same in or out of the soil during an icy spell.

I always monitor how different varieties are performing, especially new ones, to help with next year’s seed order.

How long and well do early leeks stand? Do late winter sprouts fully grow or are they smaller than catalogues suggest? Should I modify sowing and planting times because varieties come too early or late? If, like me, your memory sometimes lets you down, make notes.