Sunday, 1 April 2012



The mild winter has given way to an early warm spring, but do we forge ahead with the sowing and planting to take advantage of the unusual mild spell, or to we tread carefully knowing that a late frost or cold snap is just as likely to happen and set back all the early promise. I have no answer to this unpredictable weather pattern. It just depends on how much your personality allows you to gamble. However there are huge rewards if the gamble pays off, so I will continue to test global warming.
I got caught out last year when my advanced plants were enjoying the mild spring then along came some very severe gales and shredded the young leaves off plants all over the garden. Every year is different so I have hope that this year may not be the year with severe gales. Fingers crossed.

Begin the planting

Broad beans were raised in the living room under a table then after a good germination, put into my cold greenhouse and are now ready to plant out on my allotment. We still have some of last years bean crop in the freezer and is used for a superb soup, so a good crop in 2012 is essential. Beans are gross feeders so appreciate well composted soil prepared in the autumn. I plant mine out in a double row spaced out at nine inches apart with the rows also nine inches apart.

Sweet peas were also germinated in the living room then transferred to a sunny windowsill for a month before going out to the cold greenhouse. They were tipped at two leaves, then branched out to form quite sturdy plants which are now ready for planting. Sweet peas need very fertile soil so I always double dig a trench for them with compost added to both the lower spit and the upper spit.
I grow mine up a wire mesh fence six foot high for visual impact but still take many bunches of cut flower.
If you really want exhibition quality blooms then you must remove all weaker sideshoots from the branched plant just leaving the strongest shoot. This is then trained up a six foot cane as a single cordon with all sideshoots and tendrils removed.  The growing point is continually secured against the cane with a sweet pea ring. Weekly feeding will ensure strong blooms.

Start the sowing

Early salad crops can now be sown with lettuce, radish, spring onion and beetroot if you have a sheltered spot. It is still a bit early for beetroot, but if the mild weather continues you could get lucky and get some nice early baby beet. I will try some early carrots under fleece tunnels to bring them on early and hope to avoid the attentions of the carrot fly.

Pottering around

It is very pleasant to wander around the garden enjoying the warm spring weather which brings out the best of the spring flowering bulbs. You can always relax on a chair on the patio, but then you see a wee job needing attention, and you are back in casual work mode. Just as I was enjoying the flowers of the Kerria japonica I realised the rest of the coloured stem border (cornus and salix) needed cutting back to ground level to encourage fresh young shoots with the brightest colour.
Mild weather has brought out the flowers of my peach tree which need hand pollinating as there is not too many bees around at present. They are looking very good this year, so if I am lucky maybe both me and Anna will each get a peach this year.
I saw my first rose buds on my climbing roses, but then on closer inspection I noticed they had a fair covering of greenfly, so I need to get the sprayer out and give the aphids a wee fright.
Greenfly are also fond of winter pansies so always check them and add them to the spray programme.

Fruit tree grafting

I will be doing an apple tree grafting demonstration on the City Road allotment site on Sunday 1st April from 11am. Anyone interested in seeing how to graft fruit trees is very welcome to come along. It is not difficult and the success rate is quite high and very rewarding.

Plant of the week

Forsythia is one of the earliest deciduous shrubs to flower putting on a dazzling display of golden blossom in late March. It is very easy to grow and mixes well with Fosteriana tulip Red Emperor. Plant explorers found it in the Far East a couple of hundred years ago.
Lynwood is one of the best varieties.


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