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JOHN STOA: Early signs of spring have sprung in the garden

Spreading lime for brassicas
Spreading lime for brassicas

My gardening year has always started by selecting plants and seed in mid winter and drawing up my seed sowing schedule.

Last year the spring arrived early after a very mild winter and warm weather allowed sowing and planting well ahead (a fortnight) of that planned on my schedule, so this year I adjusted the schedule to allow for another early start.

Weather however is very unpredictable as climate change is erratic and although global warming would appear to benefit gardening in Scotland, you just cannot rely on it.

The winter has now just about finished, and again been very mild.

I have not seen one snowflake land on my garden, but torrential storms and gales have kept us off the land for a wee bit.

Tomatoes pricked out

However my sowing schedule has started indoors with onion Hybound, sweet peas and pepper Early Jalapeno sown in mid-February based on last year’s early start, and if we get another early spring I will be happy.

This is also a great time to sow Lobelia as it needs a long growing season.

My unheated cold greenhouse is too cold for seed germination so south facing windowsills are used for both seeds and geraniums rooted from autumn cuttings now growing strongly.

By the end of February my geraniums will have been potted up into their final pots and in need of more space so they will get moved into the greenhouse, assuming there will be a wee bit of global warming to get them started.

Geraniums are pretty tough so no need to molly coddle them, in fact the two I left outdoors all winter are surviving, though one looks a wee bit sad.

Sowing seeds

Onion seedlings, peppers and sweet peas will soon be needing more space so they will go into the cold greenhouse but I will keep an eye on the weather forecasts and if any frost is threatened I have an electric heater I can use.

The end of February is the time to sow many other crops including broad bean Aquadulce, Lettuce Lollo Rossa, Cauliflower Clapton (clubroot resistant) spring onions and tomatoes.

After last year’s tomato trial I will be growing my favourite maincrop Alicante, Supersweet 100 my best red cherry and Sungold my best yellow cherry.

These will all come from seed saved from last year. Making a seed packet last two years comes from time tested tradition for Scottish gardeners, a practise taught as apprentices and it has never gone away.

However problems arise when seed producers decide to severely limit the amount of seed in each packet.

Final pots for geraniums

Tomatoes all came with 10 seeds declared in each packet, and not one had 11.

So last year only five got sown from each packet, which was just fine, and this year it should also be just fine as long as I get good germination from the remaining five. Time will tell.

Just like last year the mild winter has allowed chrysanthemum stools to put on a lot of growth so a batch of cuttings were taken.

There is no room at home so they went into a propagator in the greenhouse.

It is still quite early so the stools will continue to grow and give me more cuttings later on.

Chrysanthemum cuttings in propagator

Begonia tubers need a long growing season before they flower so dry corms got boxed up and watered in.

They need warmth so I will keep them in the house for a few weeks placed on plastic trays.

They do not need light until the shoots begin to grow, but hopefully by that time the weather will be warmer and they can go into the unheated greenhouse.
If the spring comes in early this year I will be on schedule to plant a row of first early Casa Blanca potatoes as the chitted seed looks ready to go into the ground.

Wee jobs to do this week

When growing a wide variety of flowers, fruit and vegetables we try to keep to a good plan of rotation. This allows us to group together plants requiring the same soil conditions of fertility and soil alkalinity as well as trying to avoid any build up of pests and diseases. The cabbage family including sprouts, kale, cauliflower, swedes, turnips and radish do not like an acid soil, so land for these gets a dressing of hydrated lime in late winter. As they also like a fertile soil it was composted and dug over in December so now is a good time to spread some lime over this area.

Casa Blanca potatoes ready to plant

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