Tuesday, 29 March 2016



Plant growth and emergence are determined by many different factors, but temperature and day length play very important roles. At this time of year as the days get longer a lot of plants are ready to grow and flower, but if the temperature is just not warm enough they will get held back. We are in spring so the crocus should be in full bloom with daffodils starting to show a lot of colour. Like humans the plants need a decent rest, which they normally get during the dormant season from November till March, but winter never really got cold and spring has not really took off, so the garden is not quite sure where it should go. The snowdrops started to flower in December and kept going till March as temperatures have remained fairly constant. Crocus have been very slow to flower then opening up sporadically over several weeks. Daffodils are slow to emerge, but should pick up once we get a few warm spring days. However some of my tulips are in flower, and my scented viburnum carlcephalum has started to flower a good month ahead of normal. If this is climate change it certainly makes the garden very interesting and unpredictable as it seems the normal season of growth and flowering no longer applies.
Crocus Yellow Mammoth
Spring bedding plants in tubs are very variable. Polyanthus and primroses are full of flower but winter pansies seem to be waiting on better days. Hyacinths and tulips are emerging but are in no hurry to grow.
The early allotment vegetable crops grown from seed are all looking strong. Broad beans, onions, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower and sprouts have all germinated and will soon need pricking off, other than those grown in cellular trays. Beetroot and spring onions have also been sown in cellular trays and are now just germinating. These salads will be planted out under a low polythene tunnel to give an early crop of fresh greens.
Seed potatoes have been placed in a cool room with good light so chitting can progress as the first earlies will get planted at the beginning of April if we get some decent weather.
Dogwood and snowdrops
Tomato seed sown a few weeks ago have now all germinated and been pricked out into individual pots. I am growing Alicante as my maincrop with Sweet Million as my best cherry type and a beef stake tom known as Costuluto Fiorentino. I am also trying out the yellow tomato Sungold as it got great reviews from growers last year, though you don’t get many plants from the packet. Ten seeds gave me eight plants. I have good wide south facing windowsills so my tomatoes can stop there for a few weeks as my greenhouse is bursting at the seams. In a couple of weeks we should get warmer weather and more plants can go outside for hardening off to make room in my borders for the tomatoes. I will again prepare the borders by excavating some soil and adding compost for the third year. Last year my composted border produced very strong tomatoes giving me eight trusses with a great crop and yet the summer was dreadful. Anna had to freeze the surplus crop, so now we regularly enjoy healthy home made tomato soup.
Polyanthus in a tub
Grape vines under glass are now beginning to show bud swelling letting me know the growing season is now well under way.
I have just taken delivery of two new strawberry varieties to try out. Sweet Colossus is said to have large and very sweet fruit and Albion will be my new everbearer taking fruit picking from mid summer into the autumn.

Wee jobs to do this week
The winter border has had a great year with Cornus sibirica and Mid Winter Fire, Kerria japonica, Salix britzensis and Japanese Maple Sangokaku all dazzling from leaf fall in autumn till the end of this month, but now growth is starting so now is the time to cut back the cornus and willow. These get cut back severely to ground level and always manage to grow again quite strongly. I use the ten foot tall willow cuttings as support for my rows of peas on the allotment. This keeps the coloured stem border well managed and allows the show of crocus more light. These are then followed by daffodils and tulips then tall scented oriental lilies in mid summer.


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