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Let the growing season begin!

Hardening off the spring flowers
Hardening off the spring flowers

Our gardening activities are always dictated by the weather, so although my sowing schedule indicated it was time to sow tomatoes, sweet peas, broad beans and a few salads, the winter has kept its grip and so delaying plans.

Seeds sown indoors and germinated on a sunny windowsill in a warm room are fine until they all need pricking out.

Windowsill space is limited so the hardiest types will go into my cold greenhouse, but I will put in a fan heater for any cold nights.

This has been a very challenging time as winter shows little appetite for going away and letting spring take over, though the occasional sunny day in mid March has allowed coffee breaks to be taken outdoors on the patio.

Tomato seedlings just pricked out

Early March has been a hectic time for windowsill gardening as there were so many seeds to sow, but once the seeds germinated and needed more room after pricking out into larger cellular trays the problem of space was a real headache.

The hardiest of young plants such as geraniums, broad beans, sweet peas and some young fuchsias had to go into my cold greenhouse.

By mid March it was the turn of young salads needing more space so spring onions, lettuce Lollo Rossa, cauliflower Clapton and leek Musselburgh all had to go to the greenhouse.

Tomatoes all germinated well, even though some seed packets were not quite bulging with seeds, (20 seeds per packet) but after pricking out into cellular trays they will all need the warmth of the house on a sunny windowsill for at least another fortnight.

Taking geranium cuttings

Tomatoes are just too tender for a cold greenhouse in March.

Seed sowing continued indoors with Sweet corn Incredible, cabbage Kilaton and Brussels sprouts Crispus.

Once they germinate in about a couple of weeks they will need to go into the glasshouse, but hopefully by that time we shall see some warmer weather.

The glasshouse is beginning to get a wee bit crowded as I still have overwintered chrysanthemum stools for cuttings and my two hanging baskets of winter flowering pansies and a batch of polyanthus needed some protection.

Drifts of crocus after the snow melted

I got one warm day in mid March so they all went outdoors to be hardened off. Chrysanthemum cuttings are taken as growth allows.

Outdoors on a sheltered spot early salad crops of lettuce, radish, spring onion, turnip and beetroot can be sown to mature after the earlier sowings most of which will get planted under the protection of a low polythene tunnel in early April.

Carrot fly has always been a major problem on the allotment plot, so this year I will sow a row in between four rows of onions to test the theory that the onion smell will mask the presence of my carrots and the fly may not notice them. Time will tell.

This year I am trying out onion sets rather than growing from seed as last year I picked a sweet Spanish variety only to find it did not like our wet Scottish summer.

Broad beans germinating

They all died of a severe dose of white rot.

Tree planting continued with a plum Victoria to replace last year’s plum bought locally but was full of disease so never survived to autumn.

Now is the time to cut back the cornus and willow bushes grown for their coloured stems in the winter garden.

I do this annually, cutting back nearly to ground level.

Cornus Westonbirt

This allows visual access to my drifts of crocus (which survived the snow blanket), and tulips planted under these bushes.

They share the space happily as they both have different seasons for growing and flowering.

Wee jobs to do this week

 Now is a good time to take some geranium cuttings from those plants propagated last autumn and now beginning to put on good growth.

They were happy all winter on my sunny windowsill, where they rooted readily, then got potted up into small pots.

They were getting too big for the windowsill, so after the “Beast from the East” snow had melted, the plants were transferred to my cold greenhouse.

To keep the plants stocky I remove the growing points, but use these as cuttings to increase stock numbers.

Although winter held its grip for another couple of weeks, the geraniums seem to be just fine under glass.