3 Jan 2011

Garden Notes: January

Here is the next set of my Garden notes..for the other sets click 'Label below and scroll down.

January Notes

Clean pots & trays in very hot water to reduce diseases

Make cabbage rootfly mats from old carpet, individual cloches from plastic bottles & push old boots & teapots into hedges as nesting places for birds

Use straw to safeguard crops from severe frosts
Keep off the garden when very wet especially on heavy soil - use old planks to pick sprouts & other winter crops

Check cane fruit supports & tree ties & replace dodgy fence posts

Cut down to ground level all autumn raspberry canes

Prune trees & shrubs except during severe frosts, cut out any damaged or diseased branches

Clean out the bottom of hedges & mulch with rotted manure or compost
If soil pests have been a problem fork over the soil

Check stored fruit & vegetables - remove any with signs of decay - pears need ripening in a warm room for 2 to 3 days to develop full flavour, aroma & juiciness

Pot up mint roots to force indoors

Hang bird food near roses so that blue tits devour greenfly as soon as they appear
Make sowing & planting plans for the year - rotating crops outwits pests, reduces disease, maximises soil nutrients, concentrates organic matter where it is needed most & groups crops with similar water needs

This is the time of year for seed catalogues

To an enthusiast choosing which seeds to buy can be harder than double-digging a couch-infested allotment. All those evocative names, enticing descriptions, irresistible photos and oh so much promise. There is no way you can squeeze all those plants into your garden (especially one as small as mine), let alone find time to sow and nurture them. It is impossible. Previous years of passion and over-optimism in seed purchasing are more than evident in the box of old seed packets.

But am I entirely to blame? It’s those over-filled seed packets. Who grows 500 wallflowers, 800 sprouts or 2000 turnips? Thankfully most seeds, if stored dry, dark and at a constant low temperature will last 3 to 5 years, particularly the larger seeds. Some like parsnips only last from one season to the next.

The oldest seeds to germinate were those of the Lotus, carbon-dated as 460 years old and found in peat at the bottom of a Manchurian lake. It unfortunately isn’t true that archaeologists were able to grow beans found in Pharaoh Tombs. If possible choose disease and pest resistant varieties, save your own seed and join a local Seed Savers group.

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