My first complaint

Following on from last week’s article, I recieved, via The Hinckley Times letters page, my very first letter of complaint.

The fact I’d put my runner beans in a tad early and the frost got them annoyed Mr Taylor sufficiently to write in about it. Apparently I’m a bit ‘gung ho’ with an ‘Oh dear, never mind’ attitude.

Gardening column was a little gung ho

Gardening column was a little gung ho

I’ll not hang my head in shame. Mr Taylor is completely right… I get excited about putting stuff in, and sometimes – yes – I am impatient, and things don’t quite work to plan. But isn’t that part of the fun of gardening? Mistakes are made, and you learn from them. Then you suck it up, and try another way of doing things.

Mr Taylor also calls for more good, sound knowledge. I thought there were a couple of good, sound messages in there…

  1. Don’t be fooled by a few warm days in thinking that summer’s here – there can still be a danger of a late frost
  2. Don’t do as I did and put stuff out too early – look at it – it died
  3. If you have put things out too early, and a frost is forecast, get out there and cover the plants up at night

The article may have actually saved people their hard earned money – one look at my beans and it would have put them off planting for a good couple of weeks…

I was also quite chuffed to have sparked a reaction – it meant that someone out there actually reads my ramblings and had a strong enough opinion to put pen to paper. I’m calling this one a landmark 😉

Still a risk of frost

Well, well, well… who would have thought? A couple of weekends ago, we were treated to a lovely sunny spell and the promise of spring. This weekend it looked as though spring had well and truly scarpered, and we had snow!

It just goes to show how changeable the weather can be at this time of year: one warm weekend doesn’t mean a heat wave is on its way – we are in England, after all. Which is why if you do get any tender plants from the garden centre early in the year, remember they still need to be protected from frost if the temperature drops.

I am the most impatient person I know, and many a time I’ve dashed off to the nursery at the first sign of sun, returning laden with hanging basket plants and the like, only for the temperature to plummet and then lose the lot.

I was hoping to get some of my spuds planted out last weekend, but that plan was scuppered: the soil would have been too hard and cold for planting.

However, there are still a few jobs I can be getting on with this month:

Firstly I plan to have a good old tidy up and clear any leaves, early weeds and debris from the borders to make space for any spring bulbs and new growth that may be appearing. I’m also going to start my war on slugs early this year, and set beer traps near any emerging shoots that might take their fancy.

Some seeds can be sown direct in the ground during March – I may well cover the planting areas with a cloche or some polythene a week or so before planting, to warm the soil up before they go in.

Vegetables I can sow this month are beetroot, broad beans, early peas, Brussels sprouts, leeks, lettuce, radish, parsnips and early turnips.

My early peas were sown in an old grow bag and have been in the greenhouse over winter. I’m delighted to say that they have survived very well, the mice and slugs haven’t found them, and they will be transplanted to the garden in a couple of weeks’ time.

Douce Provence peas waiting to go into the garden

Douce Provence peas waiting to go into the garden

Tomatoes, pepper

s, courgettes, aubergines and cucumbers can be started off in the greenhouse or a warm windowsill.

I sowed some cauliflowers, leeks and onions a while back in the greenhouse and these are steadily popping up through the soil. I’ll space out the seedlings when they get big enough to handle, then when they are more manageable small plants they will go out into the veg patch. Anything that’s going from the greenhouse to outside will need to be hardened off. This just means I’ll acclimatise them to the outdoor temperature gradually by putting the pots outside during the day, and inside at night for a week or so before they go out.

Broccoli and cauliflower

Broccoli and cauliflower seedlings

Leek seedlings

Leek seedlings

I’m making the most of this ‘pottering’ time. Before long, spring will definitely have sprung and the real gardening work will begin.

The Hinckley Times – 13 March 2013

The Hinckley Times 14 March 2013

The Hinckley Times 14 March 2013

To heat… that is the answer

After umming and ahhing and weighing up the pros and cons of heating the greenhouse, I’m happy to report that I’m now the proud owner of a Superwarm 4.

Last night’s frost had wriggled its way into the greenhouse, so I was greeted this morning by a fine layer of ice on the inside. Not, I would imagine, the best morning call for my seeds that I’d planted in there last weekend.

Decision made, I shot off into town this morning to snaffle up a paraffin heater that I’d spotted in Wilko’s before Christmas. £25 smackeroonies, which  seemed a fair price to pay if it meant that the plants survived the winter – or maybe even got a head start.

Well, imagine my delight to find the very last one in the shop – and at half price. £12! For the price of a few bottles of wine, I’ve  now got a sub-tropical paradise in my garden. I imagine I’ll soon be growing bananas and all sorts down there, and fully anticipate tomatoes the size of melons.

I kid you not... that half price sticker is the real deal