February 2012 Newsletter

Gro BedPlant bare-rooted fruit bushes and trees now while they are still dormant. You don’t need acres of space as most modern varieties are grown on dwarfing rootstock and do not take up too much space. You can even grow dwarf fruit trees such as Peach Garden Lady, Nectarine Nectarella and Cherry Celeste in a container on the patio.

Strawberries are an easy fruit to grow and if you have a bit of space our Strawberry Continuity Collection which contains 12 plants each of Marshmarvel (early cropping), Marshmello (main crop) and Malwina (late cropping) which will give you fruit all summer from May through to August. If space is a bit tight our Space Saver Collection consisting of just 6 plants each of the three varieties may suit you better.

Blackberry Reuben is a unique new blackberry - it is the worlds first Primocane Blackberry! This simply means it will fruit on the first year’s growth. It is an upright plant with compact fruit bearing laterals which makes picking easier and making it a really garden friendly variety. Reuben crops from late August and will continue fruiting right up to the first frosts.

fruitIf you like to get ahead with early seed sowing you can begin now if you have a Heated Propagator. Tomatoes, Globe Artichokes, Celery, Early Cabbage and Cauliflower, Lettuce and Onions can all be started early with some heat and reasonable light levels. As can some summer Bedding Plants - varieties that need a longer growing period include Busy Lizzies, Geraniums, Petunias and Nicotianas.  They will need to be kept at a temperature of 21ºC (70ºF). 

Gro-Beds are a superb way to increase productivity if you have greenhouse, the design is perfect in terms of size at 80cm (32in) long and 54cm (21in) wide, 6 will fit neatly into an 8ft x6ft greenhouse. Spring sowing can be started earlier allowing you to grow salads etc. much earlier. Using Gro-Beds and repeat sowing means you can have crops in your greenhouse just about all year round. They make a really productive area for growing vegetables and salads on a patio too.

VegIf you don’t really have the facility to grow vegetables from seed but would still like to try growing your own, then let us do the work for you. We will sow, prick out and grow on in the best conditions, to ensure well developed plants with a good root system. Our Vegetable Starter Plants will be despatched to you only when they are sturdy enough to be planted out straight into your garden where they will quickly become established.

There is a very varied range, from Chillies, Peppers and Aubergines to Broad Beans, Runner Beans, Courgettes, Peppers, Celery, Cabbage, Broccoli, and many more. In fact there are enough varieties to keep you going for most of the summer!

potatoGrafted Tomato Plants were so popular last year that we have increased our range to include Peppers, Chillies and Aubergines.  A lot of us have smallish gardens with restricted growing space for vegetables which means we can’t rotate crops as we would like. If you grow Tomatoes in your greenhouse soil each year or in the same sunny spot in your garden it can lead to soil sickness which in turn decreases vigour and yield from your plants. Growing Grafted Tomatoes in these situations can have an immediate and significant effect.

The rootstocks used for Grafting Vegetables are selected for their ability to resist infection by certain soil borne pathogens as well as their ability to increase vigour and yield. The vigour of the rootstock means you can produce fruit two to three weeks earlier and plants can crop for longer.  They are more resistant to disease both indoors or outside on a sunny sheltered patio. If you’ve never grow Grafted Vegetables before they will amaze you with the health and vigour of the plants and the bumper crops they produce whether grown inside or out!

tomatoesWhen your seed potatoes arrive set them out to ‘chit’ by placing them in a tray with the ‘rose’ end - the end with most ‘eyes’- uppermost ( included with your potato order this year will be a free chitting tray which will help keep them upright and stable). Chitting simply means encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout, this means once planted they will begin to grow away quicker. It is only advised to chit First Earlies and Second Earlies – there is no real benefit of chitting for Maincrop potatoes.

Keep your Potatoes in a cool, fairly light position but avoid direct sunlight (don’t put them in the dark - this will only produce pale spindly sprouts and weak growth). Short stubby shoots will begin to form in a few weeks and the tubers will be ready to grow away as soon as they are planted. Don’t plant before March in sheltered Southern areas or April for chillier parts of the country - unless you have warmed the soil and can give some protection against frost. There are some very good new disease resistant varieties for 2012 such as Robinta a very productive red skinned variety and Setanta and Hunter have good resistance to both foliage blight and tuber blight.

Tips for the garden...

seakale If you would like to grow your own Asparagus begin by preparing the site now, weed thoroughly removing all perennial weeds and roots and incorporate plenty of organic matter ready for planting in a few weeks time. Asparagus beds are a long term investment and not part of crop rotation, so you will need a sunny area than can be set aside as a permanent site. A well managed bed can continue to crop for well over 20 years, so good initial preparation will pay dividends for the future of your crop. In future seasons keep weeds at bay and top dress every spring.

Having made a thorough job of preparing your bed, make sure you buy only first quality one year old Asparagus Crowns. Plant them 12-18in apart (a double staggered row 18in apart will maximise your space). The New variety Placcosep Green is a delicious new early variety cropping 2-3 weeks earlier than most other varieties – it cropped unprotected outdoors last season at the same time as protected poly-tunnel crops!

Do not harvest your Asparagus in the first year, but allow the crowns to grow and develop a good root system, cut sparingly in the second year and by the third year you will have the best asparagus you have ever tasted!

Fruit Pinch out the growing tips of autumn sown sweet pea plants grown over winter in a cold frame or greenhouse once they are about four inches tall, this will encourage side-shoots to form and produce stronger stockier, plants with more flowers. Keep the frame opened as much as possible to allow good air circulation and harden off the plants. Keep an eye open for slug damage to the young plants. Prepare your Sweet Pea bed by forking over and incorporating leaf mould, compost or fertiliser and allowing the ground to settle before planting.

left If you planted fruit trees last year you will need to begin formative pruning now, this simply involves the early removal of any weak or crossing branches in order to develop a sturdy framework. Choose the best three or four shoots to form the main framework of branches. Remove the top shoot, if it is growing too vertically, in order to eventually obtain the best goblet shape. Shorten the selected branches by about one-third to an outward-facing bud and remove any low branches. Established trees should be pruned to an open bowl shape allowing light and air to reach all branches, remove any weak or crossing branches.

Existing soft fruit bushes should be pruned in much the same way to maintain an open goblet shape. Remove last seasons’ fruited raspberry canes and tie in new stems which will produce this years’ fruit.

Raised Bed If you managed to sow and over-winter a Green Manure crop it is the right time to begin digging it in, while it is fresh and green. It will break down easier and quicker than if you leave it to get too tough. Chop it up well with your spade or go over it with a strimmer before digging in as this will help break it down, the finer the chop the quicker it breaks down and the better it will be for your soil.

Green Manures suppress weeds and help prevent nutrients being washed out of the soil by rain and snow. They add humus and release nutrients slowly back into the soil over time, making them readily available to following crops. Avoid planting for 2 – 3 weeks to allow it to begin the process of breaking down from soft green plant material to wonderful life-giving humus.

After digging cover some areas of the veg plot with Fleece or with Cloches for a couple of weeks to raise the temperature and enable earlier sowings for extra early vegetable crops. Plan your crop rotation so that similar crops are not grown in the same space year after year. This will give a more productive plot and help to prevent soil borne diseases.