Tuesday, 1 March 2016



Looks like spring is coming early this year, or maybe the garden has awoken earlier due to lack of a winter. Although it has been very wet under foot the temperatures have been mild so the garden plants have not been hanging back. Aconites, snowdrops and crocus have all been showing flowers for several weeks, and it looks like the daffodils and tulips won’t be far behind, so it is time to get the show on the road and start off with the seed sowing. I make a start at the beginning of March to sow my tomatoes, onions, peppers, broad beans and sweet peas, and my tuberous begonias will get boxed up and given some heat as they need a long season. However my plants are for general use. If you are an exhibitor you will have started a couple of months ago to get the advantage of a longer growing season. We all have adopted our own system for sowing early crops. As my greenhouse is not heated, I rely on having plenty of warm windowsill space for germination.
Sowing tomato seeds

Broad beans and sweet peas are both quite hardy but need warmth to germinate. I sow broad beans individually in cellular trays with 15 pots of 7cms size to a standard seed tray. Sweet peas can also go in these cellular trays, but a slightly bigger pot will give a better crop when you put three seeds in each pot. Once these have germinated and grown on for two to three weeks they can be put in the cold greenhouse for a few more weeks before planting out at the end of April. After several leaves have formed pinch out the main stem to encourage branching. If you wish to grow them as cordons for bigger flowers then select the strongest shoot once the new growths emerge.
Tomato seedlings ready to prick out

Onions are sown in smaller cellular trays of 40 cells per tray and germinated in a warm place. Seeds are sown individually but if two or three seeds land in a tray just leave them to grow. You can pot up these plants into the next cell size later on or just plant as soon as they are hardened off. Do not separate plants if some cells have two or three plants together. They will be going into well manured ground that is very fertile as they are heavy feeders. This year I will try Globo.
Broad Beans

Tomatoes and peppers are sown into shallow seed trays and both these need warmth at all times. Sow thinly so seeds remain stocky, then prick out into individual pots before they get too big. Mind you it is easy to sow thinly when there is only ten seeds in the packet. No chance of sowing half the packet this year and keep the rest for next year. This year I am growing my favourite Alicante plus the yellow Sungold and my best cherry, Sweet Million. They will always need heat and good light so do not be in a hurry to transfer them into a cold greenhouse unless it is lined with bubble polythene and you have a heater handy if frost threatens.
Boxing up tuberous begonias

Tuberous begonias can now get boxed up with good compost and placed in a warm place. A dark corner is fine for a few weeks as they are quite slow to grow, but once the shoots emerge bring them into the light. I start mine off spacing them quite close together then once I see where all the shoots are I transplant them into bigger boxes and give them more room. As my corms are now about twenty years old they are a fair size so this is a good time to split the corms as long as each section has a couple of strong shoots. I just use a big knife and chop them up to no harm.

Wee jobs to do this week

Strawberry plants bought from nurseries are often fresh dug in the autumn, but cold stored for planting in spring. Although they don’t look great without leaves, the crown is strong and once warmer weather arrives they soon burst into growth. There are now so many new varieties that it is always interesting to try something new. This year I will try out a new early strawberry Sweet Colossus and a new Everbearer called Albion to extend my season. My existing perpetual strawberry Flamenco, stopped producing runners and has died out during the wet sunless winter.


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