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Gardening in January & February
By Pam Pickard
Welcome to this column, it is designed to help to encourage and inspire you in your gardening endeavours.
Was one of your New Year resolutions to work harder on the garden and to create an oasis of tranquillity?
I hope that if you bought a real Christmas tree you’ve recycled it – most garden centres will take them or cut it up and place in your green bin for collection.
We will look at some jobs to do and take some time to look after the birds in your garden. The plant profile will focus on potatoes and celebrate Spring with a Snowdrop walk. Make sure you check out Events and Hot news!
If your fish pond freezes over, don’t smash it, melt a hole in the ice with the bottom of a saucepan of hot water to enable fish to breathe, then place a floating item to prevent freezing over again.
In the greenhouse; start off Sweet Peas, pot up Dahlia tubers and plant up Lily bulbs. Sow indoor Tomatoes, Carrots and hardy annuals.
In the vegetable garden; in February start pre-warming the soil by covering with a cloche or sheet of plastic. Plant new fruit tress and feed existing ones. Force Rhubarb by covering with a large light-proof container such as a terracotta forcer or an old dustbin. Add manure for extra warmth to speed up the process.
Spring pots; add Primrose and Viola to flowering bulbs for simple spring colour. Add some greenery with Ivy and Heather. Look out for stunning daisy-like white Senetti and mauve Anemone Blanda.
Place several different types of feeders around the garden; avoid under trees as this can result in bird droppings fouling the feed. Keep the feeders out of easy access from cats and other animals.
Keep feeders in the same place to establish a regular source of food. This will encourage birds into your garden which in summer months will help to rid the garden of pests like greenfly.
Potatoes will grow in containers as well as open ground; however, be prepared for less crop and maybe smaller tubers. There are three main groups of potatoes all planted in April;
First Earlies produce a crop in June. These are the ‘Jersey Royal’ type of potatoes, small and sweet. Recommended varieties include; ‘Accent’, ‘Lady Christi’, and’ Annabelle’.
Second Earlies produce a crop in July or August. These are the more waxy, salad varieties. Recommended varieties include; ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Anya’.
Maincrop tubers produce a crop in early Autumn but are most vulnerable to blight (see below). A recommended variety is the popular ‘King Edward’ for great roasties!
To get started choose seed potatoes now from catalogues. Once they’ve arrived they need ‘chitting’. This means to let them sprout by placing in a cool, light place before planting. When you plant use plenty of organic matter in preparation of the soil. Space rows of Maincrop potatoes 75cm apart and Earlies 50cm apart.
Plant each tuber 40cm apart and 15cm deep. Once the foliage appears; earth up and repeat at regular intervals adding a fertilizer like chicken manure pellets at the same time. The benefits of earthing up are that shoots are protected and it helps produce a bigger yield.
Dig up individual plants of Earlies when required and the Maincrop in October. Cut the foliage off at least two weeks before harvesting Maincrop potatoes to harden off the tubers’ skins.
Maincrop potatoes can be subject to potato blight, this is a fungal disease that spreads by airborne spores. The first symptoms are dark brown or black patches on the edges of the leaves. There is no way of treating blight and at the first signs dig up the plants and destroy all traces of infected crop. Do not place on the compost heap. Spray the area with a fungicide.
‘Which’ Gardening magazine did a potato trial and found the following varieties were blight resistant; ‘Sarpo Axona’ and ‘Sarpo Mira’ . Also recommended were; ‘White Sarpo’, ‘Kifli’ and ‘Valor’.
See events below for details of Lancaster's Potato Day, when you can get all kinds of free potato advice and choose from a range of organic varieies to start your own crop with.
The home of specialist snowdrops in Scotland is the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. Inverleith Row, Aboretum Place, Edinburgh. www.rbge.org.uk Tel: 01315 527171 open daily 10am – 4pm
Hodsock Priory, Blyth, Worksop, Nottinghamshire, S81 0TY Tel: 01909 891 204 www.hodsockpriory.com Open February 1st til March 4th 10am – 4pm
All items mentioned are available in most garden centres or look on the Internet. Photographs are taken by Pam Pickard
© Pam Pickard 17/1/09
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