Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Look to your soft fruit this week:

Has spring sprung?
Here in the UK the weather has certainly take a turn for the better in so far as the temperature has gone up but we have not seen the sun for nearly ten days. Just dull clouds

There is nothing moving on my allotment right now but that does not mean that I should not be moving.

If you have not done it yet; Cordon Gooseberries need to be pruned now. This is done by cutting back the side-growths to within two or three buds of their bases, and slightly shortening the leading shoots. On the other hand, bush Gooseberries are better dealt with by cutting out wood crowding the centres of the bushes and retaining promising young growth at full length.

Red and White currants are pruned by cutting back side-shoots to within two or three buds, and then reduce leading shoots so that they remain at one-half their present length. As Black currants on the young wood, the method of pruning is different, merely consisting of cutting out old branches and keep young wood at full length.

If you want to re-arrange the perennial border, no time should be lost now. When you divide the old plants and selecting portions of roots for replanting, do not forget that young outside portions of roots will bear better flowers than the old and exhausted centres. Always replant in well dug and manure land.

If you are going to grow potatoes you should place them in single layers in shallow boxes and put in a cool light, airy but frost proof place, so that they may grow sturdy sprouts in readiness for planting. Sprouted sets start into growth much quicker than supported tuber and they will yield a better croup.

If you have cover like a Polly tunnel or glasshouse now is a good time to get the seeds of the vegetables that you are going to grow going.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Raised Beds Winter Managemaent

The weather here in the UK is a bit strange. We have gone from -17 c to +10 c all in the space of 38 hours. If I were a plant, I would be feeling a bit dizzi, I think.

So the snow of last week has gone and we are now into half term. When I was at school in the late forties, half term was a time to clear everybody out of the school; turn off the heating and open all of the windows for five days.

The idea behind that was to clear out all of the bugs that gather were people and heat get together in the deep mid winter. It was a good idea and worked very well and as far as I remember not many people came down with colds and the like.

This practice can be used in your garden to a certain extent. On my allotment (240 plots) there are many people who cover their beds with old carpets or plastic sheeting to keep the soil warm and the weeds at bay. To me, this looks very untidy particular when it is windy because you can never keep the plastic down no matter how many weights are used. There is also the cost of the plastic to take into consideration, which can be quite high. The only time I have used this method is if I am not using a bit of ground of some months.

I just leave my raised beds bare during the winter months (those without crops that is) This lets the weather get at the land and clear it out of “bugs”.

Take the last week; my raised beds have had deep snow on them, which contains nitrogen, and hard frost, which will kill many a lurking bug. If I had covered them I would of lost out on the free nitrogen from the snow and the bugs would have been very snug under the plastic where the birds’ by the way cannot get at them.

As for the idea that the soil is kept warm under plastic. It might well be true but at some point you have to take the plastic away to plant or sow and after a very hours the soil, I am sure is the same temperature as an uncovered raised bed.

I do not have any scientific proof of this; but if you get up in the morning and throw back the covers of you bed, within a few hours the bed is the same temberture as the surrounding air; would this not be true of a raised bed!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Seed Sowing Season or Not?

Here in the UK we have another load of snow on top of frozen ground so there is not a lot that can be done until the frost leaves the ground.

As the seed sowing season is rapidly approaching, and it is necessary to select and prepare your beds for onions, parsnips, peas and broad beans; if you have not already done so that is.

The pruning from bush fruits, such as gooseberries and currants may be used as cuttings, provided well ripened healthy young growths about one foot in length are selected. In the case of black currant leave all the basal buds, but remove them from red and white currants and gooseberries.

If you can get at it now is a good time to sort out your strawberry bed. Weed them and lightly fork between the rows and give them a top dressing of compost. Now is a good time to make a new strawberry bed, if that is in your plans for this year.

Another job for this week would be to remove mosses and lichens from the bark of your fruit trees. These growths do not harm the tree; in fact, they are a sign of good air. It is just that they can look unsightly and in my view, the tree is better of with out them. You can buy a moss killer form your local store if you wish. It will not harm the tree. I use a power washer with a good brome to clean the tree up; works a treat.

0. If you have a heated frame or green house now is a good time to sow celery. You can also sow the following crops: Brussels sprouts, spring cabbage, cauliflower, onions, leeks, lettuce and salad leaves

Among half-hardy annual flowers that may be sown now, there are the charming verbenas and petunias. For all your sowing a shallow box or pan is the best, this should be filled with finely sifted compost. Sow thinly and cover the seed very lightly with more fine compost. With out heat not a lot will happen for some time. Therefore, if you do not have a cold frame or green house just wait until the weather turns. There is no hurry.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Keep on top of garden jobs.

and greenhouse jobs with the help of our weekly checklists.

As I look out of my window this morning; I see 3 inches of snow and it is -5 degrees C.

Not much going on in the garden today you might think. Too true as well.
However, as soon as the weather clears they will be things to do.

If you have old fruit trees out there now is the time to go and look at them. Cut out the dead wood and prune the remainder so that the main branches all radiate in an even manner from a central trunk

May be you are thinking of growing Tiger Lily. Well now is the time to purchase and plant the bulbs. In light soil plant them in groups of six, on heavy soil plant them in groups of three. Remember that they will last for many years so make sure that you choose the right spot in the garden.

The raising of Border Chrysanthemums from seed provides a fascinating and instructive study. The resultant plants show a wide range in color, apart from which single, semi-double and double blossoms are all secured. Sowing in gentle heat now and growing the plants on under cool conditions ensure a display of bloom ensured from august until Christmas.

If you want to embellish your garden, with a real display of colour then dahlias are indispensable and it is surprising that the practice of raising a batch of seedlings is not more popular. It is quite an easy matter to sow now in the greenhouse or heated frame, and to secure an attractive display from July onwards until the winter frost.

Shallots are especially valuable in cases where it is difficult to grow onions from seed. They are very easy to grow on most soils but it is important to give them a long growing season. On the first occasion in February when the soil is dry enough, planting may be done in rows ten-fifteen inches square.

That great enemy of the broad bean- black fly- is not so much in evidence if the plants have been accorded a long growing season of growth. As soon as the soil is in fit state, the first outdoor sowing should be made. Sow the seeds in rows two feet apart, placing them two inches below the surface.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Febuary Seed sowing: Time Or Not Yet?

As cold weather approaches Europe with a high pressure system hanging over Scandinavia and western Russia is pushing raw temperatures as lows as -23c, we're reminded of course that we are in full winter and that the really quite mild and dry weather of recent is very unseasonal.

What we have to do with our plants is to go with the flow. The unquestioned acceptance of nature. In fact, proper seasons are really important and cold in the winter will help you later on in your plot by controlling pests and disease especially.

There are the cold loving vegetables, which really do like a bit of a chill. I have certainly good crops this year, as well as red cabbage, sorrel, celeriac, leeks and my garlic.

There are so many variables to growing veg and that is what can make so interesting. What is true for me may not be the same for you. Go round and see what other people are doing in their gardens. Take a note as to what they have cropping right now; maybe you can do the same next year.

I am using this time to build up my raised beds with homemade compost. It is a good idea to clean equipment and get organized for the coming months.

It is never too early to buy compost, pots, seeds etc as you might find yourself at home on the perfect sowing day without the few things you need to get on! 

Depending on your geographic position, Feb can be the start of your sowing season with tomatoes, peppers, aborigines, melons, cucumbers, and other Mediterranean veg varieties being sown protected on a sunny windowsill, heated greenhouse or propagator to give them a head start for the summer.

However, it is still early and not essential to sow during Feb - March and April are the key months. Garlic can be sown now and will like the extra cold, I have sown my first broad beans in pots in my polly tunnel, ready to put out as soon as nature takes a turn for the better.

You should never be in too much of a hurry this time of year. Let nature takes its time. I always look at the grass; when that needs a trim and has stared growing then is the time to sow your seeds.