Growers’ Corner: Approaching Spring
February is a great time to reflect and prep for spring. Julie Smith offers advice for how to best prepare for your upcoming gardening season during this time of year.
Planning time: use this quieter time to reflect on last year. Make a plan of what was grown where, what worked well and what didn’t, and plan your 2020 garden accordingly. Think about crop rotation for your annual varieties, and planting successions to maximise your space and productivity.
Think about saving: if you fancy embarking on a seed saving adventure, now is the time. Think about what seeds you would like to save (tomatoes, lettuce, peas and French beans are easy), and find out how to go about saving your chosen variety. It’s really fun, give it a go!
Keep it spicy: you can germinate all mustard greens (I love Mizuna, Mibuna, and 'Giant Red' mustard leaves) under cover and then transplant them out where they will provide a zingy supply of leaves. Keep them fleeced for better productivity. Eat them young in salad, or later on in stir fry and pestos.
Be a good friend: keep feeding, and most importantly providing fresh water, for your garden’s wildlife. Birds (and very early bumblebees) might start coming out and will benefit from a steady stream of unfrozen clean water and food. To find out about the best food for garden birds, check www.rspb.org.uk
Spill the bean(s): If you haven’t overwintered your broad beans, you can sow them now in a greenhouse or polytunnel. I like the classic ‘Aquadulce’ varieties for their long pods, and ‘Wizards’ do fantastically in the harshest of weather. They produce a large quantity of smaller pods with pale juice beans.
Chit your potatoes: put your chosen spuds on an egg tray. Or similar, in a bright spot in your shed away from mice and direct light. You are aiming for stubby green/ brown growth from the potato eyes, not long white flimsy roots.
Be the best at toms: If you want lots of tomatoes, now is the time to sow tomato seeds. Do this indoor in a warm and bright spot. For bigger and sweeter harvest, pick smaller varieties. I like the cherry varieties 'Yellow Pear’ and ‘Chocolate Cherry’ as well as the slightly bigger ‘Green Zebra’ for its stunning appearance and great taste.
Time for DIY: it’s time to fix all the things you don’t have time to fix in the summer including but not limited to painting work, fixing doors and shelves, organising tools, checking and mending your water harvesting system, relaying or changing paths, etc.
Pick your seeds: plan properly and don’t forget some plants take up a lot of space and time to grow (you do NOT need 5 varieties of courgettes as you will end up trying to give them away from June onwards). Choose what you like, pick local seeds, swap seeds with fellow gardeners, and whenever possible avoid F1 varieties (I like Tamar Organic and The Real Seed Company).