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Time to Sow

by Kieran Gallacher, Cardwell Garden Centre

daffodil-shootsAs I walked my dog this morning, I noticed that the daffodils outside are beginning to poke their stems through the soil. However, they are also tinged with frost around the stems and that sums up this time of year in the garden.

A mild spell will encourage the growth of daffodils, snowdrops and other early flowering bulbs, as well as promote a little growth in shrubs as well. It is highly likely that we will have a lot more frost, and perhaps snow, before spring really arrives.

Some of the gardening at this time of year can be done without leaving the house. Time spent planning what you want to achieve in the early part of the year can save time and mistakes later in the year. For instance, if you grow vegetables think about what you have grown where and the effect on that piece of ground. Is it barren of the nutrients required for this year’s crop?

Crop rotation is advised in the garden, as is the replacement of nutrients in the soil. We have covered this before, so I will not go into it again, but if you need advice talk to your local garden centre or come and see us at Cardwell.

Talking of crops, early season seed potaotes are in Cardwell now and can be chitted at this stage prior to planting out. Chitting is simply placing the seed potatoes in a cool, but frost free environment, with good light, but not direct sunlight, and allowing them to start to grow before you plant them.

If you look at your seed potato, one end will have more ‘eyes’ than the other. Sit the potato with this ‘eyed’ end up. An old egg box is perfect as a holder. The potatoes can stay like this until you are ready to plant. When planting, you can remove some of the eyes that have grown stems. Around 4-5 strong stems are all that is needed.

Sticking with crops, a lot of seeds can be sown just now in preparation for later in the year. Most of these will need to be started in a heated environment, eg a glasshouse or propagator. A heated propagator will allow you to prick out seedlings 2-3 times faster than an unheated one. If you sow a lot of seeds this will save a huge amount of time and is a great investment. And they are not as expensive as you probably think.

When planning vegetable crops, think about harvesting them and how much you want to have ready at one time. For instance, if you are growing fruit you may want them to crop all at once, allowing sufficient numbers for making jam etc.

If you are growing salad crops it is unlikely that you will want all your crops to be harvested at the same time. Most of you probably wouldn’t want 30 heads of lettuce for your dinner!

To avoid this, stagger your seed sowing by 1-4 weeks. This means that instead of having one bumper harvest, you can enjoy the crop over a few weeks or months.

Your lawn may start to grow in March and if you must cut it you should only remove a very small layer. Ideally, April is the month to start looking at the grass, but only once the ground has warmed up and frost is done with. You should not use lawn treatments until April, although you can tackle moss before then.

By the time I write the column for the next edition of Clyde Life the clocks will have gone forward and the nights will be lighter. Temperatures will have warmed up and the garden will be ready for another season full of potential.