Better to be prepared than to lose the living plant. A timely cover of straw, laid loosely on top of the crowns of Hedychium spicatum and Brugmansia aurea will keep the cold and damp from destroying the growing parts of these semi tender plants. The air trapped within the dry straw acts as an insulating layer. This gives the root zone protection from penetrating frost and lingering damp. The plants being native respectively to the Chinese Himalayas bordering Burma and the Ecuadorian Andes. In the wild they will not experience the lingering damp cold that our climate is renowned for.
Many typical winter tasks can be done in February, such as: preparing the ground for spring seed sowing, planting new fruit trees and bushes and pruning apples, pears and soft fruit.
Annual pruning of trees and bushes aims to encourage well-spaced branches that produce ripe fruit. In addition, pruning helps to maintain the health of the tree or bush by removing dead, diseased, damaged and congested branches. There are lots of good pruning tips on the RHS website.
It is unlikely that many seeds would prosper if sown outside now. There is always a temptation to rush out and sow seeds early. However seeds sown later into warmer soil tend to catch up with earlier sown seed and have less chance of rotting.
If you have a warm greenhouse or polytunnel it may be possible to sow a range of crops such as radish, beetroot, chard, early carrots, parsnips, cabbages, kale, kohl rabi, hardy salad leaf mixes, rocket, peas and broad beans.
Chillies and tomatoes benefit from an early start. They need a high temperature to germinate so should be sown in a heated propagator or warm windowsill. Other things to sow in heat now include celery, celeriac, onions and leeks.
Many garden centres will now be stocking seed potatoes. Potatoes are tender and should not be planted out until late-March or early-April. Seed potatoes can be encouraged to sprout before planting by placing them in a cool, light place; this is known as ‘chitting’. The ‘chits’ (shoots) develop from ‘eyes’ on the potato, the ‘eyes’ are usually concentrated at one end of the potato. An old egg box is a useful way of arranging the tubers so their ‘eyes’ are upright.
Happy New Year!
Jobs in the garden at any time of the year are weather dependant. If you are planning activities then it is a good idea to keep an eye on the weather forecast and react accordingly. If the weather is mild there are tasks that can be done during the winter. However if bad weather is forecast it may be necessary to cover plants with fleece or brush snow off polytunnels and greenhouses.
Some crops can be sown now in a heated propagator or window sill but only if you have a greenhouse, cold frame or polytunnel to grow them in once they have germinated. Onions and shallots require a long season to grow from seed are best sown now. Leeks also benefit from an early start.
Hardy peas and broad beans can be sown into pots in an unheated greenhouse, polytunnel or cold frame. They should be ready to plant into the garden in March. They are vulnerable to being eaten by mice so make sure they are well protected.
It is not too late to plant garlic, if you have not planted it yet it is worth giving it a go. We have had good results here at the Botanics but garlic planted in November has always grown bigger. January is also a good time to plant rhubarb and new fruit trees and bushes.
If the ground is not frozen it is possible to prepare soil for spring planting. Well-rotted compost or manure can be dug into the soil or applied as a mulch on the surface.
Apple and pear trees can be pruned now to maintain their structure and ensure a good supply of fruit in years to come. Make sure you remove any dead or diseased branches.
The appearance of Hygrophorus hypothejus– commonly known as The Herald of Winter- traditionally signals the beginning of winter and the end of the mushroom season.
Hygrophorus mushrooms- commonly known as the Woodwaxes- are closely related to the grassland loving Hygrocybes or Waxcaps. Hygrophorus and Hygrocybe mushrooms are characterised by their often brightly coloured caps and widely spaced, thick and waxy gills.
H.hypothejus has an olive green to brown cap, with yellow gills and stem. The mushrooms are small, with a cap of around 3-5cm in diameter. They are frequently found growing in association with pine trees. These particular mushrooms were found on the west border of the garden, on grass under conifers.
Here is a list of jobs to do in your fruit and vegetable garden in December:
- Harvest kale, leeks, Brussels sprouts and winter salads while they are in their prime
- Plant garlic
- Plant broad peas and hardy peas if the weather is mild
- Turn your compost heap, chop up any large pieces of plant material you find to speed up the decay
- Prepare the soil for next year by adding well-rotted compost or manure. This can be dug in or left on the surface as a mulch
- Keep an eye out for pests and diseases. Slugs shelter during the day under planks and stones and amongst plants. Try and catch them before they come out at night to gobble up your plants
- Protect brassica from pigeons with nets
- Prune apple and pear trees (do not prune stone fruit such as plums and cherries now as it makes them susceptible to silver leaf fungus)
- Prune soft fruit
- Plant new fruit trees and bushes
Forming a dense barrier of glossy evergreen leaves; Trachelospermum jasminoides ‘Variegatum’ is worth growing in a sheltered situation. The foliage of this cultivar has white banding and shows tinges of pink. Strengthening strands of fibre providing structural integrity are evident when the leaf is pulled apart.
Appreciates a well-drained root run and will reach 5metres by twining around supports. Often used as a glasshouse specimen, indeed when first introduced the species was commonly grown under glass. The heady scent from the summer flowers filling the growing area. Gradually, as growers experimented with propagated material it was planted in sheltered microclimates outdoors. Here plants have survived temperatures down to –13°c.
Hakonechloa macra; is a perennial, clump forming, grass. It is named after Mt. Hakone, on the island of Honshu, Japan and is a monotypic genus. The foliage browns and slowly shreds and desiccates with the ravages of winter.
The winter weather also adds to the beauty; the ice crystals of a hoar frost settling on the foliage and on warmer days, shafts of low sun highlighting the leaf colour. Seed stalks still evident, of open form; draping gracefully downwards into the mass of foliage. Choose an open site and plant a group, the rhizomatous roots soon spread in fertile soil.