Page 48 - Simply Vegetables Winter 2020/21
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                                 Sprouts doing well
my allotment I give as much space to flowers as I do to vegetables. Annual flowers are divided into hardy ones and half hardy. Most are not sown till March but a few half hardy ones benefit from an early start, examples being salvias, lobelia, petunias, cleome
and antirrhinums. Antirrhinums are, strictly speaking, perennials but they are usually grown as annuals. They are all sown thinly on trays of seed or multipurpose compost and just covered. Put them in a propagator
if you have one. If you haven’t, they would germinate on the kitchen windowsill. They are pricked out when large enough into other trays or modules or boxes, spaced 2 inches
I hope you have got all your beds prepared because this is the month when sowing really gets going, both in the beds and in the greenhouse.
I mentioned sowing broad beans outdoors last month. Besides these, other seeds
that can be sown outdoors now are peas, brassicas (cabbages, cauliflowers, and Brussel sprouts), radish, salsify, scorzonera, carrots, parsnips, beetroot and lettuce. Peas are spaced about 2 to 3 inches (7.5 cm.) apart and 2 inches (5 cm.) deep. Suitable varieties for sowing so early are Douce Provence (most suppliers), and Meteor (D.T.Brown and Mr Fothergills). The rest are sown thinly in shallow drills and thinned out when the seedlings are large enough. Having said that, apart from radish, salsify and scorzonera which I sow in drills, and carrots and parsnips which I sow either in buckets, drums, tubes or bore holes in the ground, I prefer to sow the others in the greenhouse, in pots or cell trays. They don’t need extra heat, just leave them on the staging or on a shelf.
I sow brassicas in 3 inch (7.5 cm.) pots, three or four in each and thinned to one
(5 cm.) apart. They are hardened off in a cold frame in April and planted out in late May or June when the danger of frost has passed.
Still on flowers, when Chrysanths have finished flowering in the autumn I cut them down and plant the plants (now known
as stools) in boxes and keep them in the frost free greenhouse. In my propagating greenhouse I have some warming benches and in February I put the boxes on one
of these to start them into growth to take cuttings. If you haven’t got a warming bench or a propagator they will still grow when the weather warms up but the cuttings will be later and of course, they will flower later.
If you have kept your dahlia tubers frost free over the winter it is time to start these into growth as well. Plant them in deepish boxes or trays, not covered but with the top of the tubers visible. These boxes also go on a warming bench to start them growing but if you haven’t one , keep them as warm as you can and they should start growing later.
I mentioned earlier that rhubarb could be planted but if you have congested clumps they can be split up and replanted. See that each division has at least one growing eye (bud) and prepare the ground well by digging in manure or compost. Existing clumps will benefit from a mulch of manure or compost and so will other perennial crops like asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes.
Spring cabbages will benefit from a feed at this time of year with a fertiliser high
in nitrogen. I also mentioned earlier that shallots could still be planted. The traditional time to do so is in December. If you did plant them then in pots as I do they will now need potting on into larger pots, 5 inch (12.5 cm.) if the roots have filled their present pots.
If you didn’t buy your potatoes last month there is still time. Stand them in boxes to chit as I described last month.
A few jobs in the fruit garden now. Autumn fruiting raspberries can be pruned. Just cut all the stems down to ground level. Tie the new growths to their supports when they grow in spring.
Fruit bushes will benefit from a mulch of manure or compost and now is a good time to tidy up the strawberry bed by removing all dead or dying leaves
Keep checking your stored fruit and vegetables as I said last month. You may have some crops to harvest this month such as broccoli, sprouts, swedes, leeks, celeriac, kale or parsnips.
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