THE GARDENING YEAR STARTS QUIETLY
Recent weather has curtailed progress of any outdoor gardening activities. The gales continued to blow and now my greenhouse has lost over twenty panes of glass, as well as the ventilator and the door which blew off. Another two days were taken up with collecting shattered glass fragments blown over a huge area of garden. Gales also blew down about thirty feet of fence panels, so I may change the fence to a ranch style which should not be so vulnerable to strong winds.
We have also had a lot of rain, and not much frost or snow, as I pen my thoughts early on Hogmanay, but knowing that when the magazine appears on Saturday 11th January 2014 we could well be seeing a wee bit of serious winter.
Who knows what global warming has in store for us in 2014.
It has been too wet to walk over the soil surface, other than for harvesting the numerous fresh vegetables available following the brilliant 2013 summer. However we did have a long dry spell just before Christmas when I got most of my fruit bushes pruned as well as some roses. The dry spell also encouraged a full team effort, (me and Anna) to get all the surface weeds removed and clear up all the leaves.
My main rose bed and all my climbers will be pruned and tied up in mid January to mid February depending on weather. Apple trees will also get pruned at this time to encourage a balance of fruiting wood and strong young growth. I will also continue to lower the crown on our old Bramley apple tree to allow most of the picking from the ground. I am told I am getting too old to clamber up trees to reach that perfect apple just slightly out of reach at the end of a long slender branch.
Pruning grape vines
My other pruning task to be completed in January is my grape vines both in my gale damaged greenhouse as well as all my outdoor vines. I am hoping that the greenhouse vines are well hardened off and quite tough so should not suffer removal of the greenhouse in winter and building a replacement around the main rods. My ten foot long greenhouse has a permanent framework of five upright rods spaced two feet apart in a row on the east side of the greenhouse. It is side shoots from this that produce the bunches of grapes. I grow my tomatoes on the west side as well as the south end. They all seem to be happy growing together.
I prune every shoot on my grape vine back to one or two buds in January, as if left till February or later they are liable to bleed as sap rises up quite early in the season by which time the cut ends should have healed over.
Geranium cuttings taken last autumn are now all well rooted and can be potted up in individual pots. I will add extra grit to my compost to improve the drainage and pot them up in the smallest pots available as geraniums are prone to damping off in winter. I also grow them cool otherwise they will grow too big for windowsills, and I don’t know when I will have a greenhouse ready for them.
My Amaryllis bulb pot started off with one strong flower spike, but then another three flower stems appeared. Finally two of the smaller bulbs in the pot have produced flower stems, so it is going to be an absolute cracker. The foliage and flower stems are all quite tall so they needed four bamboo stakes and ties to give them support.
Keep them moist but not wet and feed once a month at this time of year, but once a fortnight in spring and summer. Although they prefer to remain pot bound to encourage good flowering, I will need to pot mine up after flowering as the bulb growth has been very strong and the pots are now distorted and the top very heavy and liable to topple over unless they get a stronger pot with a wide base.
Plant of the week
Elaeagnus pungens maculata is an evergreen shrub with golden variegated leaves. It will grow on just about any soil and can reach up to 4 metres eventually, so is perfect for screening and adding bright colour to the garden in winter. It is happy in sun or shade, and although the flowers are very insignificant, they are said to have an exquisite perfume. My five foot tall elaeagnus planted eight years ago has yet to reward me with its perfume, but I am patient. It does not need any pruning other than removing any straggly shoots or those that revert back to green and lose their variegation.
It can be propagated by semi ripe cuttings in mid summer.