FEBRUARYS TIPS AND TRICKS
  • Snowdrops look great in clumps around the base of shrubs and in borders and are a welcome sign that spring is on its way.  Now is the time to lift and divide clumps and replant your new plants throughout the garden.
  • Apply slug pellets around emerging spring bulbs.  If you can use the organic bird friendly pellets as many birds will be on the lookout for an easy meal.
  • Continue to tidy beds and borders, then mulch with compost, well-rotted manure or bark.
  • Prune gooseberry bushes to open up the centre and apply a winter wash of Armillatox.
  • Chit seed potatoes in trays in a bright, frost-free position.
  • Clear away old plant debris from around the margins of ponds and scoop out leaves that have fallen into the water.
  • Prevent seedlings being affected by damping-off disease by watering compost with a solution of chestnut compound.
  • Growing from seed is a simple and economical way of raising new plants for your garden.  If you are starting out, get your hands on a simple windowsill propagator as they are designed to sit neatly on your window ledge.
  • If you like you can sow the following crops in pots or trays in your greenhouse ready to transplant outside later: Brussel sprouts, spring cabbage, cauliflower, onions, leeks, lettuce and salad leaves.

Getting started on a vegetable plot what way should it be laid out?  Raised bed, lazy bed or ridges (see last week’s article for advantages of raised beds).  This week I will cover lazy beds and ridges, how to make them and the advantages of one over the other.  Constructing a lazy bed is quite simple, the first step is to dig over the whole area breaking up the soil to a workable consistency, you do not need a fine seed bed at this stage.  Lazy beds are usually 4 feet wide, so you start at one side and dig a path about 18 inches wide putting all the soil on one side.  When you reach the end of the bed go across 4 feet and make a path through the soil in the opposite direction.  This should leave you with a bed between the two paths approximately 4 feet wide and 6-9 inches higher than the path.  Breaking the soil down in the bed to a fine workable consistency will not be possible this early in the season but the raised beds tend to dry quickly and in a couple of weeks you will find it much easier to form a finished seed bed.  Over working the soil in wet conditions can do more harm than good.  Lazy beds are suitable for nearly all vegetable production.  For potatoes and all the cabbage family ridges will probably give you a better result as well as been more practical.  Potatoes and the larger vegetable plants like cabbage need a lot of space and light so they need to be planted up to 18 inches apart and 18 inches between rows.  To construct what we call a ridge you dig a path down along one side approximately 1 foot wide, when you reach the end move over 18 inches and dig a path in the opposite direction piling the soil in the middle, this should give you a ridge 18 inches wide at the bottom and tapering in at the top, your soil will have to be quite dry and workable to attain this.  On a new vegetable plot it will be well into spring before this is possible in most gardens.  You can however, do the initial first dig just turning over the soil to the depth of your spade and leaving it for a number of weeks.  Nature will help you break down the lumpy soil, again I stress don’t overwork wet soil, you will destroy the structure and it will take longer, in the long run to dry out.  Just do the initial dig, take a break until next week and I will explain why carrots split and fork, why onions won’t store and why cauliflower just turns into leaves, it’s all to do with fertilizer, what type and when and how much to us

February