Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Round the Garden in February


If you fancy spending a bit of time in the garden this month then there’s plenty of tasks you can busy away doing whilst you’re outdoors.
  1. If you didn’t get time to plant bulbs last year, then now’s the time to visit a garden centre or DIY store. You’ll instantly transform your garden into an array of Spring colour with tulips, crocuses and hyacinths.
  2. Cut back overgrown hedges towards the end of the month.
  3. Check on any winter container plants you have. Remove dead heads and check if they need some water.
  4. Any bare-rooted plants can be planted now, such as roses or hedging plants, but remember to soak roots for an hour before planting.
  5. Clean down your paths and driveway and clear any moss.
  6. February is a good month to dress beds for your annuals. I use a fish and bone mix for a natural slow release feed.
  7. This month you can sow half-hardy annuals indoors and peas and beans in propagator trays on your window sill. You can plant them outdoors, but protect them from slugs and snails with pellets. Chillies are also ideal for sowing from mid-February.
  8. This month is perfect for buying potato seeds and starting the chitting process.
  9. Alpine and rockery plants often come out in spring, so do a bit of tidy up now and any weeding and removal of debris.
  10. February is good for pruning rose bushes by reducing stems to approximately half in length. Always cut to an outward facing bud.
-- Rob Amey

Friday, 27 January 2012

Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew


I really should take notice of this piece of advice myself, rather than making plans to grow enough food to feed a small country. But every January/February brings the sound of seed catalogues dropping on the mat and me grabbing them with excitement, drooling over all the pictures of beautiful healthy vegetables that I obviously need to grow!

So I plan all my raised beds (I have six of them, so am very lucky), making sure that I follow the principle of rotating them so that I don’t grow the same thing in the same one each year. I then place my seed order and look forward to the moment they arrive, hoping the weather improves and I can get into the greenhouse and plant them all!

And that’s where it all goes a bit wrong. It is all down to time, you see, or rather lack of it. I am sure that my plans would all come to fruition if I were able to spend every waking moment in my garden, tending the seedlings, planting out and nurturing them but unfortunately I don’t have every waking moment to spend in the garden due to work commitments, children, dog, chickens, etc....

So I come back to my piece of advice and the title of this blog - don’t bite off more than you can chew. This year I am planning to utilise only a couple of the raised beds and nurture these rather than failing miserably by doing too much. Let’s face it, you don’t need 10 courgette plants or 15 tomato plants and if you feel the need to plant lots of seeds so that you can pick the best ones to plant out, then sell the extra ones outside your house or give them away to friends and relatives.

This way you can make sure everything grows healthily and you will not have to try and keep up with the harvesting - usually of one type of vegetable at a time. So choose wisely and enjoy each crop as it comes along without getting stressed!

-- Jane Dubinski

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Potatoes rock!


People have been asking me recently what my potato plans are this year. We are lucky enough to have a fabulous Potato Day in our local area whereby you can preorder your seed potatoes in single batches and collect them on the organised potato day in mid February.

This is brilliant because you can try lots of different varieties and also get a mix of first earlies, second earlies, early maincrops and maincrops so you can spread your planting, growing, pulling up, eating and storing activities.

I'm really looking forward to another year of potato growing - it really is incredibly simple and so rewarding - digging up potatoes you've grown yourself is like finding treasure!

These are the key stages:
  • Buy your seed potatoes now
  • Chit your seed potatoes - put them in a light cool dry place for a good few weeks so they sprout really well (I use eggboxes which work perfectly)
  • Plant out your seed potatoes in April - sprouted end up
  • Watch out for frost - cover any plants if frost is due
  • Keep covering up the plant roots with soil so no tubers are uncovered (as they'll go green and poisonous if uncovered)
  • Keep well fed and watered
  • Start digging up first earlies in August
  • Dig up maincrops before first frosts and eat or store (perfect potatoes only) in a cool dry place out of the way of any potential pests
ENJOY!

-- Holly Rowan Hesson

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Plan your vegetable plot


Whilst it certainly doesn’t feel like it is January, I typically use this month to plan out this year's vegetable plot. Reflecting on last years growing season will help you to decide what worked and what didn’t.

Decide what you would like to grow this year. Are there certain vegetables that your family use often in cooking? Would you like to try something new or unusual like purple carrots? You could even think as far ahead as to what vegetables you’d like to grow to make homemade chutney as gifts next Christmas!

Reputable online seed companies usually have some great deals during January and February so it’s worth ordering them sooner rather than later. Asking family and friends if they would like to split the cost for half the seeds is a great way to keep prices down!

I also use this month to plan where I am going to plant each vegetable. I had a glut of green tomatoes last year so they could really do with being in a sunnier spot. Rotating your crops from last year will help soil fertility and will also help to control insects and pests.

-- Gemma Dray

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Adventures in the Garden - January 2012

Happy 2012!
Well, what a year it's going to be! Britain is hosting the Olympics, the Queen is having something of a celebration, and Cambridge will win the boat race - dragging us from the embers of financial meltdown. Let us not forget a new species of tree shall be discovered (according to my tea leaves). Fully hardy, with orange leaves, purple fruit and blue bark, and having an abundance of highly scented yellow flowers all year round, it never outgrows the space it is given!



So what am I doing to brace myself for this wonderful future?
Well, having put my sharp border fork through my last pair of wellies, I am trying my new T&C pair out. Lined with the fantastic Town and Country boot socks which my wife purchased as a Christmas present, I am warm and dry.



The garden or rather the gardens I tend are looking and smelling great. The grass is green, the trees are, perhaps less so, but they are still alive which can't be bad. This month I will be pruning the apples and pear trees. I always like to leave this little chore till after Christmas as then I can be sure they are asleep and not forgetting that January is the Wassailing month - although I don't think jumping around naked at this time of year is a good idea; never mind how much cider is drunk.

There are many ways you can prune an apple, and there are many books which suggest ways it should be done. However, I recently had a meeting with a man who grows about 50 or so acres and he gave me this tip. Prune out the dead, diseased and damaged. Then prune out all the crossing branches and vertical shoots above the height you want the tree to be. Leave all the other fruiting branches that are younger than 3 years old. Oh, and another thing remember the rule, “vertical is growth, horizontal is flower.” so if you want more fruit, weigh a few branches down, or if against a wall, train them. You can't go wrong with simple instruction. Unless you've been at the cider...

-- Guy Deakins