Now, that was definitely a wet couple of months! The high winds and torrential rain has caused havoc in my garden, with fence posts snapped and long established fruit trees loosened in the ground. One of my plastic cloches took off and is probably now only visible to Tim Peake in the International Space Station!
One thing remains constant though – gardening is about planning ahead. Sometimes you reap the rewards quickly (annuals flower within weeks of planting) or in years (Asparagus beds take a few years to give good crops). The thing to remember is that it’s not an exact science; you’re at the mercy of so many variables – mainly due to the weather. This dictates everything from the rate of germination, to plant growth, flowering and ripening.
This monthly article is mainly designed for those new to gardening who are looking to enjoy the fruits of their labours on their dinner plate. For experienced gardeners, it will act more as an aide memoire as to what needs to be done. I would however ask those experienced gardeners out there to get in touch with their tips, to help those new to growing fruit, vegetables and flowers.
There is no absolute set date for any job in the garden, so you’ll need to take your soil condition into account before sowing etc. In general, cold wet soil isn’t a welcoming place for most seeds. If your soil is wet and sticks to the soles of your boots, I’d wait a day or two for the soil to dry a bit more before doing anything.
Finally, grow what you like! There’s absolutely no value in growing something as prolific as courgettes for example, if you can’t abide them! Your neighbours will soon get fed up with your ‘surplus food parcels’ and will hide behind the settee rather than open the door to you!
So,if you’re thinking about starting a vegetable patch, here’s some advice……
Get into the garden as soon as you can, and cover the area you intend using as a kitchen garden with thick polythene / tarpaulin weighed down with stones. Doing this now will help kill off the vegetation and make the next steps that much easier!
Once the ground has thawed and is reasonably dry, peel back the covering you’ve put on, mark the shape of your veg patch with sand trickled from an old plastic bottle. Remove the top layer of growing vegetation and dig the ground over, incorporating as much organic matter as possible. If you are making a bed in the lawn, remove the turf and stack it upside down somewhere out of the way – after a year or two it will rot down into fantastic compost. Alternatively chop it up and bury upside down in the planting hole a good spade’s depth down. Don’t just dig it in to the top surface, or it will just re-grow.
Start off with a small veg patch this year; if you find you enjoy growing your own and have some success, you can always make it bigger next year – assuming you have the space.
Don’t worry if you don’t have space for a veg patch, a large number of vegetables (including potatoes and carrots) can be successfully grown in tubs.
JOBS FOR THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY
(under glass where appropriate)
Lettuce, rocket and radishes
Summer cabbages, turnips and spinach
Aubergine and peppers
Perpetual spinach and chard
Cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli and kale
Chicory and endive
Celeriac, celery and Jerusalem artichokes
Finish pruning currants (black, red and white), and gooseberries
Force rhubarb by covering with a large purpose made pot (or an old dustbin)
Prepare vegetable seed beds, and sow some vegetables under cover (see above)
Chit potato tubers
Net fruit and vegetable crops to keep the birds off
Prune winter-flowering shrubs that have finished flowering
Divide bulbs such as snowdrops, and plant those that need planting ‘in the green’
Prune hardy evergreen hedges and renovate overgrown deciduous hedges
Prune conservatory climbers
Cut back deciduous grasses left uncut over the winter
Use cloches to warm and dry out the soil before sowing seeds
Here’s a recipe for Parmesan Parsnips.
A great accompaniment to the Sunday roast. They take approximately an hour to cook. You’ll need parsnips, oil, butter and Parmesan cheese.
Peel the parsnips and cut into batons.
Par boil for 5 mins. and drain.
Add olive oil and a knob of butter to a baking tray and place in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees, until oil/butter is hot.
Tip the parsnips onto the tray and turn to ensure covered in the oil mix.
Grate Parmesan cheese over the parsnips and place in oven for 10 mins.
Remove, turn and grate more cheese on top, replace in the oven.
Check periodically and turn – until golden.