A quick update as to what I’m up to in my garden at home and at work at Ulting Wick. To those of you who are being discouraged by the utterly vile weather we’ve been having I say hold on! In the words of Brandon Lee “It cant rain all the time”. Just a lot of it apparently!
I wrote the words above in the expectation that the weekend would bring more storms but as it turned out, for me at least it was bright and sunny for the most part. I gardened on the bits that werent squelchy, put some primulas I bought into pots, killed a few vine weevil grubs and generally pottered to my hearts content.
What it made me remember was how much I enjoy gardening, that sounds silly, right. Of course I love gardening! Its my job!
And I do but gardening for fun is different to gardening for a living, ive said this before but it bears repeating. The self discipline to get up every morning and face another day of cold, wet, horrid weather that you need as a professional gardener cannot be underestimated. I count myself as one of the lucky ones too. I have glasshouses to go and hide in, a potting shed and barns if it gets too bad. There’s hard standing to work from, the kitchen garden beds are narrow enough not to have to walk on etc.
But pottering, oh my god pottering! With the sun on your back, wandering round, picking a job up till your bored of it, wandering off, admiring something, forgetting where you’ve left your trowel. wandering back, finding the trowel, forgetting what job youre half way through so you start another … now THAT is glorious!
It also explains why my home garden will never look as beautiful as work!
Anyway, heres a few prompts for yourselves for things you can do to try and get a head start on the gardening year!
Get your seed potatoes chitted – Chitting means leaving them in a cool bright place so the eyes start to produce growing points. Why? It gives them a chance to start to photosynthesise before you *throw them into a cold dark trench and cover them with inches of soil.
*carefully place with 12 to 18″ in between
Grab some onion sets whilst you’re at it, now is the time to get onions in the ground. Sets will give you a head start and are often heat treated to prevent bolting. Red onions are more likely to get vernalised (react to a prolonged period of cold by trying to flower – bolting) but a covering of fleece will normally be enough to help. Plant them shallowly, I start mine off in seed trays, that way they can develop root systems so birds cant pull them out of the ground and if it looks like a heavy frost or snow is likely I can bring them into the potting shed.
Onion seed is great as you can get more varieties, I love ‘Bedfordshire Champion’ but if you’re tight on space in January/ February sets are the way to go.
There’s still time to mulch! Get it on thick, never be stingy with good home made compost. If I can I will put on 2 to 3 inches. I never dig it in, The worms will do that for me. Leave it a few weeks for any seeds that may be in there to germinate then run a flame weeder over the top.
Put out cloches on your allotment/veg garden, get that soil warmed up! Even black plastic held down by bricks, unsightly but will help the soil warm up!
Start sowing your Brassicas, spring cabbages like Greyhound, rocket, Early Kale etc. Broad beans, if you haven’t already, early peas such as ‘Feltham First’, Leeks and spinach can be sown now too if you have a cool windowsill spare.
In the Ornamental Garden
A few of the winter flowering shrubs are coming to an end now so start thinking about pruning things like Viburnam x bodnantense and Lonicera fragrantissima IF they need it! Always double check that you are pruning correctly BEFORE you start. Don’t think just because I do this for a job I never check books because I do, nobody can hold all the information in their head and whilst 99.9% of the time my first instinct is correct theres always that time I get a shock.
Keep an eye on the ephemeral weeds! as the soil starts to warm up Speedwell, Chickweed and Hairy Bittercress start to gallop away unbridled and even a week is enough for these guys to get away from you and start spreading seed! 1 years weed, 7 years seed has never been truer than when referring to these guys.
Your lawn also will start needing a bit of attention now. If youre into the meadow craze that took off last year, firstly well done. Secondly, NOW is your opportunity to improve on it! Get a motorised scarifier and tear the life out of your lawn. If you can get hold of yellow rattle seed excellent if not try and source it for the autumn. Sow that and your chosen mix of annual or perennial flowers. Ive seen people get very totalitarian about whether it should be native wildflowers or not, my advice try and include natives in your mix but don’t worry if you cant the bees/insects will just appreciate a good diversity of sources.
If however you just want a nice green swarth that’s fine too, there are birds and insects which appreciate this also, with the caveat you don’t tip a ton of chemicals on to achieve it. Give it a gentle scarify with a spring tined rake, mow it high and you’re good to go. A nice edge always improves the appearance too.
Try to finish off any rose pruning before the end of the month too as the sap is already rising!
Anyway, its nice and sunny outside and I can hear the garden calling me…. Hope your day is as nice as mine!