After a snowy, cold and wintery January you might now be lucky enough to see snowdrops and crocuses emerging from the snow or the bleak, bare soil of your garden and allotment.
Despite the bleak weather, winter does the vegetable grower a great service. The cold weather kills the eggs and overwintering adults of vegetable-eating pests. This means that generations of pests like eelworms, weevils and moths are broken and interrupted.
Frost and ice also help to break up large clumps of soil which encourages oxygen and water to penetrate. This creates a really healthy root environment for productive crops, from young cabbage plants to trees yielding lots of tasty fruit.
In bad weather take advantage of giving your soon-to-be busy greenhouse and shed a good ‘pre-spring’ clean so when you start off your young crops- whether seeds or young plants- they have a clean, healthy and hygienic environment to thrive in.
Jobs to do…
Test your soil for texture and acid/alkalinity levels
Soil pH testing kit contains everything you need to identify whether the soil in your garden is acid or alkaline to help you to decide which crops are best suited to your vegetable plot. It's very simple, accurate and easy to use and comes with full, easy to follow instructions.
Harvests leeks and parsnips after a cold night
Lift up certain vegetables after a hard frost if you can. The frosts affect the flavour of certain vegetables like leeks and parsnips, heightening starch to sugar levels and improving the taste-intensity. Wrap up warm, reach for a fork and start harvesting crops at their most flavoursome.
Prepare seed potatoes in egg cartons
It time you’ll be receiving seed potatoes in their mesh bags. Give your seed potatoes the best start by encouraging short and stocky stems to form. Place seed potatoes in egg cartons and leave in a cool and bright spot and they become perfectly-primed for planting outside in March.
Look after plants that you can’t plant straight away
When you receive mail-order trees you can delay planting them up in their permanent positions for up to around 5 days – after all most of us have a busy schedule. Place bare-rooted fruit trees in a sheltered position away from wind tunnels, with a damp cloth within a polythene bag covering the roots.
Give a final trim to your summer fruiting raspberries
Trim back summer-fruiting raspberry stems (called canes) to 6 inches (15cm) above their top support wire using sharp and clean secateurs. This keeps the canes tidy and upright and easy to harvest from when lovely juicy berries form later in the season.
Warm up the soil of your vegetable plots for earlier sowings
You can sow seeds of your favourite crops from as early as February outdoors simply by warming soil with horticultural fleece. Choose the right size of your fleece to fit over your plot and weigh your fleece down with pegs. After a couple of weeks your soil will be warm enough to sow seeds.
Shallots are lovely bulb vegetables which produce a distinct flavour and really add sophistication to your favourite savoury dishes. Plant your shallots in your vegetable plot soon after arrival in late winter/ early spring and enjoy harvests as early as July. Here’s our pick of top shallot varieties.
Red Gourmet - This is a very aromatic shallot with a lovely sweet taste. Superb for cooking where it adds great flavour to many dishes. It has attractive coppery-brown skin and sweet pink flesh.
Jermor - Here's a true French ‘longue' shallot, bred in the southern Rhone area yet grows well in our climate. The best we have tasted for use in all cooking. We offer certified trouble-free virus- and eelworm-free stock for maximum yield.
Golden Gourmet - This is one of the best of the brown-skinned shallots. Producing good fleshy bulbs with a delicious flavour. They are a very good storage variety, keeping well for several months.
Learn how to put your home grown crops to good use by making simple and tasty caramelised shallots. Easy and quick to make, these caramelised shallots make a perfect side dish for any special meal.
You will need;
3 tbsp vegetable oil
600g shallots, peeled but left whole
1 oz (25g) butter
2 bay leaves
17 fl. oz (500ml) beef, veal or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper (top taste)
What to do next…
Heat oil in a frying pan and cook shallots over a high heat until golden and shiny (around 5 minutes). Drain off and discard the oil. Add butter, bay and thyme and add salt and pepper. Cook gently for a further 5-8 mins, stirring continually making sure that the butter doesn’t burn or catch.
Pour over your chosen stock and cook further until shallots are tender and the sauce has reduced and has become sticky.
The grubs and caterpillars of various species of months and weevils overwinter in the soil before emerging in spring and summer as egg-laying adults to produce the next generation of pests.
The grubs, like cutworms and the young of vine weevils are well-protected from the adverse winter weather above the soil surface and spend the winter below ground feeding on the nutritious roots of many a vegetable and fruit plant like strawberries.
Avoid the problem by digging over the soil of vacant plots on a crisp cold February day. This exposes many grubs to the surface so hungry birds can pick these protein-rich pests off, removing pests from your soil and keeping lovely garden birds like robins alive.
FREE Garlic Chives seeds with every one of your potato orders
Now’s the time to order and get in seed potatoes of your favourite varieties, whether you have a taste for delicious salad potatoes or heart-warming mash to go with your Sunday dinner. Garlic chives make the perfect flavour accompaniment when you harvest your potatoes later in the year. A flavour-duo possible without a single visit to the supermarket.
Sow-ready Windowsill Propagator only £3.99 when you spend £25 or more on seeds
Spend just £25 on seeds and take advantage of getting our Windowsill Propagator at just £3.99. This essential piece of equipment means you have everything you need to sow your seeds. Whatever the weather outdoors, you can sow seeds in the Windowsill Propagator under cover and leave on a windowsill in your house or greenhouse.
Tomato Montello master
Tomato Seeds - Montello F1 (Bush) and Premio has come up trumps for Bryan Hallett from Bridgwater, Somerset. It’s always lovely to hear from our customers and Bryan described 2016 as a difficult growing season due to the varied weather. However by using the Tomato seed Montello F1 and Premio, two first places were secured at Bryan's local show. Great work Bryan!
French bean Satelit- chance to grow for prizes
Grow new French bean Satelit with us and be in with a chance to exhibit exclusively in 1 of 5 shows of the National Vegetable Society this year for a cash prize.
Following our successful tomato Montello competition, we’re giving you the chance to grow for exhibition again. Marshalls have teamed up with the prestigious National Vegetable Society and we’ve widened the competition for you to show 9 home-grown specimens of French bean Satelit at 1 of 5 NVS shows up and down the country.
If yours are the pick of the crop you’ll win £75 as first prize, £20 as second prize or £5 as third prize. Dates of exhibiting are from July to September. Dates to be specified soon. Follow us on Facebook.
If you would like to take part we’ll send you all the details with your order of French bean Satelit. Good look and enjoy your delicious crop of stringless, filet-white seeded beans, cropping right up to first frosts.