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Blog posts of '2012' 'February'

Round the Garden in March

There's plenty of jobs to be getting on with now spring has sprung!

  1. Prune your repeat-flowering roses and remove dead or frost damaged wood. Prune apple and pear trees before the blossom comes out.
  2. Prune hardy fuchsias, hydrangea, machonia, spiraea japonica, roses, sambucus and santolina. Prune ornamental grasses. If you need to lift and divide, March is the best month.
  3. If the weather is mild, plant out hardy seedlings and new plants. This is a good time to start moving and dividing existing garden plants.
  4. There’s still time to sow sweet peas. I use toilet rolls to grow the seeds.
  5. Remove the remains of any winter veg plants and tidy up beds and check anything that needs repairing such as fruit cages.
  6. Rhubarb stems can be pulled in March for the first fruit of the season.
  7. Dead-head any bulbs as they fade and feed with a good slow acting feed to build up the bulbs for next year.
  8. If you want to sow French beans, wait until the end of March. Beetroot, radishes, peas, carrots and lettuces can all be sowed direct into prepared raised beds or in patio containers this month.
  9. Give the garden a complete weeding and general digging-over where needed. Apply a mulch to help conserve ground moisture.
  10. Prepare a seed bed for herbs and sow as soon as possible.

-- Rob Amey

Get the propagators out!

People this month have been asking me what I'll be growing this year and when I'll be starting. Well the short answer to that is that I'll be growing pretty much a little of everything as per other years and that I'm starting now! True it might be wet and cold outside - but that's where propagators come into their own.

Essentially trays with plastic lids featuring handy vents, I have about a dozen propagators I use to get seeds started off indoors. Placed on windowsills and in light spaces in the house they're ideal to raise seedlings until the weather gets a little better and the soil outside has warmed up.

They key thing to remember is that all seedlings raised this way will need gradually hardening off. Which means once they've had a few weeks (depending on the seed growing time of the particular crop) or so in the propagator with the lid on, then take the lid off. After that I have another stage for my seedlings - putting them in the outdoor coldframes - sealed up first and then opening the doors. Only after all of those transitions does the seedling make it into the soil outdoors! It's important to check the seed packets and reference books especially when it comes to frost hardiness or otherwise.

And it's fun! Sowing indoors means you get a little feeling of the veg growing delights to come as Spring arrives!

Cold Weather Watch

As I have mentioned before on this blog, I keep five chickens, mainly so that we can have fresh eggs throughout the year, but also because I love to watch them on a daily basis - they make me laugh!

I have been a bit worried about them during this cold snap - they were very reluctant to come out of the barn at all and were slightly perplexed as to what snow was - but now they seem to come and see me on the patio most days, mainly in the hope of a treat. I have been cooking them pasta and rice to keep them stocked up against the cold, along with their normal pellets and corn with grit and they seem to love the extra carbs - I hope it keeps them warm as it’s been mighty cold at night recently!

Chickens are such good entertainment and mine can be quite naughty! They have a habit of eating the windfall apples from under the tree. Now, I let them do this as I thought it was a treat for them to have all those apples, but that was until I realised that they were in fact drunk. This became apparent one Sunday afternoon when they tottered across the patio and started walking into the window. It took me a while to realise the problem but then we had to catch them (not easy) and get them back in the barn. And there they stayed, confined to barracks, for a few days until they were back to normal!

Wild birds should not be forgotten during the cold either and I have been putting out bird seed every day so that they can get a bit extra to eat. Remember to put out fresh water as well and change it when it freezes over - this is often forgotten during the winter but birds don’t eat snow very well so they need fresh water on hand at all times.

The garden lies dormant under the snow at this time of year so it’s a good opportunity to continue with your plans for the growing season and wait for the frosts to clear. But there is always something going on - we have bulbs coming up aplenty - I can’t wait for Spring and the promise of beautiful flowers, bluebells and the onset of warmer weather.

Happy bird watching. Until next time.

-- Jane Dubinski

In the age of austerity, dig for victory and grow your own food

Gardening doesn't have to be a chore, it can also be a rewarding past time, fitting right in with the "Make Do and Mend" resurgence of late....

  1. Choose a fine day to get yourself sorted for the year ahead and consider what you’d like to do in 2012. You could take a trip to the library to browse through some books.
  2. Have a blitz in your garden, sorting out pots, tools and odd jobs in readiness for the Spring.
  3. Jot down a planting plan and check your seed stash.
  4. Draw up scale plan to create your own kitchen garden.
  5. Plan and enjoy colour in your garden. Colourful containers can be both for decorative and eating purposes. Colourful lettuce leaves look great and will keep you stocked up with fresh salad. Peas, beetroot, chard, courgettes, onions and carrots can all be grown on your patio. A packet of spring onion seeds costing 99p can provide up to £30 worth of produce.
  6. Start a mini orchard. No longer do you have to have a huge amount of land to grow fruit with the development of cordon trees. They don’t grow more than 2m and can be grown in pots.
  7. Make raised beds and save your back. You can buy these in kit form or make your own and they look great.
  8. Make your own herb garden. They taste good, smell good and are good for you. Choose a sunny spot for your herbs and ensure you use containers with good drainage.
  9. Peanuts and sunflowers are great to attract garden birds. You can also leave them your left-over cooked potatoes, rice, pasta and cake crumbs. Remember feeding birds bread is a no-no. It fills them up without giving them energy.
  10. Consider the front of your house. A colourful spring flower basket or containers can make all the difference.

-- Rob Amey


I can't bear to have wet knees. For that matter I hate to be wet and cold at this time of year, but that is a story of trial and error which led me to the conclusion, German and Swedish army waterproofs are the best in the world for the price. However, we are talking of knees and more importantly knee pads. It may seem an odd idea, but upon arrival at any garden between October and April, I put on a pair of knee pads and will wear them throughout the day. This saves me an uncomfortable day and protects the joints to boot. So, I could not wait to trial the Town & Country knee pads and excellent they are!

At this time of year I find I will be constantly on my knees in the garden, tidying borders, digging out old plants (to be moved elsewhere) or just simply doing that kind of maintenance in the garden that I could not do at any other time and there are of course those moments where you see something that needs to be done and requires instant attention.

As my grandfather used to say in his broad Devon drawl, “In the garden there are twelve months of hard work. Four of those you can do constructive work. T'other eight months you are playing catch up me boy.”

As is usual for me at this time of year, I am busy in all my gardens reconstructing borders, rockeries and even woodland gardens for my clients. I am lucky that I work in some of the countries most spectacular privately owned forgotten historical gardens which, over the years have been left abandoned or neglected. A job I can honestly say, fills me with such joyous pleasure, words alone cannot explain. Overall the gardens seem to the owners a huge mess, leaving them with the problem of where to start first. My four tips for any of you undertaking such a task?

  1. Stand back and allow the garden to tell you what it needs. My training at art college allowed me to learn how a painting should read and the same goes with a garden - shapes, content and movement are first. Colour and texture always is the secondary consideration.
  2. Take things in small chunks, allowing yourself to rediscover the original architects dream in your own time.
  3. Start from the house and work outwards in the same manner as a ripple on a pond. If however, you wish a different focal point, then start from there.
  4. Always consider what is outside the garden. Is there a view which was incorporated or is it to be omitted now?

In my business, a garden is a sculpture with an exceptional advantage- it can be changed at the will of its owner.

-- Guy Deakins