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Gardening at this time of the year is limited, as the winter’s worst weather usually comes in July and August. Cold, wet days are an opportunity to look through garden catalogues and order new seeds or plants.
This is also a good time to plan where next season’s vegetables will be sown or planted, using the practice of rotation outlined in the first week of this month.
Although five-year garden diaries are valuable, an alternative is a sturdy indexed book. Record planting and other information under each alphabetically listed vegetable, noting the date when seeds were sown or plants put in. Note varieties and after harvesting, indicate how well each did. This gives a year-by-year record that is easy to cross-check.
Green manures — oats, lupins and the like — not yet dug in should be cut and turned into the ground. Soil cleared of crops benefits if it is turned over, too. Rough digging is the best treatment at this time of the year, with weeds placed under the surface and any spare compost thrown over the surface. Complete with a dressing of garden lime. The rate will vary depending on soil acidity but plan on 50g to 100g a square metre, the bigger amount for heavier soils.
Hedges can be trimmed in warmer areas but should be left until later in the year in districts that experience hard frosts or heavy snow.
Soil can be prepared, conditions permitting, before cloches and cold frames are put in place for growing plants under shelter. If soil clings to tools or boots, the ground is too wet and any work should be postponed. When the soil has been dug, composted and worked to a fairly fine crumb-like consistency, position the cloches and leave them for three weeks before sowing seeds. This warms the soil under the cloches and the more that are used, the better the lift in soil temperature under the individual shelter. Cloche gardening is suitable for small gardens and strawberries give earlier crops grown in this way.
Pruning roses this month can be risky. Coastal areas can usually get away with winter pruning but in general, August is preferred.
Until the development of floribunda, sometimes referred to as cluster-flowered roses, hybrid tea (HT) roses dominated garden catalogues of the mid-to-late 20th century. Originating from crosses between HTs and hybrid polyanthas (polyantha roses crossed with HTs), floribundas are somewhat hardier than HTs but tend to lack the good perfume of HTs, David Austin English Roses or the heritage species.
Cinerarias grown in a glasshouse will be pushing up their flower stems and will benefit from a liquid manure once a week, the day after watering.
Cyclamens can be started in the greenhouse and brought indoors once the first buds appear.
Tuberous begonias can be grown in pots in the glasshouse until almost ready to flower in summer, when they can be taken indoors or put on a sunny doorstep or deck.
If any new fruit trees are still to be ordered, do not delay or you may miss out.
Plant trees and soft-fruit bushes in well-composted soil to get them off to a good start.
With young fruit trees, avoid letting them crop the first season. Instead let the trees’ sturdy trunks and branches develop, for better fruiting as they mature.