- Check greenhouse heaters daily to ensure they are working efficiently and that fuel levels don't need topping up.
- Force rhubarb by digging up a crown and replanting it in total darkness or placing a large bin over the existing crop.
- Prune gooseberry bushes to improve air circulation around the fruit.
- Squash mistletoe berries into apple tree branches to germinate your own supply for next year!
- Cut down old stems of sedums.
- Plant bare-root roses in well prepared ground.
- Trim away unwanted suckers from tree bases.
- Clear borders and rake up leaves.
- Spread a thick layer of mulch around fruit trees and bushes.
- Prune blackcurrants.
Garlic is a key ingredient in much of our cooking and nothing beats the flavour of a home-grown crop. It needs a long growing season in the midlands so the key to success is early planting, between November and the New Year. Break garlic bulbs into individual cloves ready for planting. Take care not to damage the cloves as this can lead to rotting. In mild conditions, you can plant the cloves in well-prepared soil spacing them 10cm apart. Simply push the cloves into the soil so that the tip of each one is just below the surface and then cover them with cloches in frosty weather.
To speed up the growth rate of the crop, you can plant the cloves in divided seed trays of multi-purpose compost. Water well and place trays in a cool greenhouse or cold frame to grow on. Garlic plants grown in trays will be ready to plant out in March or April. Use a trowel to make a hole and set the plants at the same level as they were growing in the trays.
How to start growing your own... dessert.
The stalks of rhubarb are a delicious treat when there's little other fruit available. Left to its own devices, rhubarb can usually be pulled in late April and May but, by covering the crowns early in the year, it's possible to force it into growth up to eight weeks early.
Forcing rhubarb by covering the crowns will encourage the plants to make early growth. These forced stalks can be harvested for use in cooking when they are 20cm - 30cm long and make a useful substitute for fruit when there is little else in store from the garden. It’s very simple to do, firstly clear around the base of a rhubarb crown, removing old leaves and weeds. Use a large pot, dustbin or decorative rhubarb forcer to cover the crown. Plug any holes to exclude light. In cold regions or to speed forcing, insulate the outside of the pot with a thick layer of straw.
Most years, forced rhubarb will be ready to harvest eight weeks after covering. Avoid forcing a single crown of rhubarb for two years in a row. Leave it to crop naturally instead, and always have more than one crown so you can force in alternate years