Thank you everyone who gave us feedback on the future of our blog. It was so useful and encouraged us to have a go at a ‘How To’ column – some ideas on things to be done in the garden at the appropriate season. And here it is! Here are some jobs that Elaine will be tackling in the next week or so:
If you’re going to grow potatoes, now is the time to choose your varieties online or at a garden store. Never be tempted to ‘grow on’ supermarket potatoes – only seed-potatoes are guaranteed virus-free. Unless you have got acres to fill, I would suggest not choosing the varieties that are usually so cheap in the shops; go for something a bit different and much less available. One I would always have now is the peculiarly-named Pink Fir Apple – smallish long pink tubers with an exquisite firm nutty flavor, delicious in a summer salad. It was our Dad’s favourite too!
Once you’ve got your seed-potatoes, make the family some huge omelettes, because you need the egg-boxes. Put your potatoes in the boxes, with the largest number of ‘eyes’ (tiny little sprouts in the potato-skin) at the top. Put the boxes in a bright, frost-free place and in the next six weeks or so, the tubers will develop good, strong, stumpy shoots which will give them a super head start when you plant them outside at Easter.
BEING BRUTAL WITH CLEMATIS
Don’t you just adore those small- and medium-flowered summer clematis – they will enchant for weeks and weeks from mid-summer onwards, if you have a good hack at them now. All that mass of tangled brown top-growth can be cut off entirely now, right down to about 1ft off the ground. I know it’s scary but if you leave it on, you will end up with a sad-looking thing with a few flowers poking out at the top, and very untidy legs (though obviously not as untidy as us oldies flailing around to Mick Jagger at a birthday party last Saturday night…)
So chop it off – if you can cut above a leaf-bud, so much the better, but I don’t bother about that much – put your usual slug and snail deterrent around the remaining stalks, and watch it shoot away like leafy fireworks as the spring wears on.
- I have some old clumps of hemerocallis (daylilies) that need lifting and dividing to rejuvenate them. February is a good time to do this – I’ll just chop down into them with a spade and replant the outside bits, as long as the ground isn’t frozen.
- It’s too early to sow most seeds now, but I do like to get sweetpeas and broad beans off to an early start, and snapdragons, cerinthe and cobaeas really need a long growing season to do well.
- Cut down the old stems of deciduous ornamental grasses like miscanthus – don’t leave it till later because they are a pig to cut once the new green shoots are coming up through them.