Les’ Patch column

A pea pod.
A pea pod.

Carrying on with the sowing scheme, after sowing broad beans and lettuce let’s get some garden peas on the go.

Feltham First is the earliest crop of the autumn sown peas. Usually these would normally have been down by now, but we will catch up as the year goes on.

Peas can be sown in the cardboard insets of toilet rolls. Fill a seed tray with the cardboard rolls and secure with parcel tape to keep them in place.

Fill each roll with multipurpose compost. To avoid a mess when carrying out this task cut the bottom off a two litre plastic pop bottle using a sharp knife which makes a funnel with the neck end of the bottle fitting nicely into the cardboard pots.

But be very careful because once cut plastic is very sharp so before using sandpaper the cut edge to take the sharpness off.

This funnel will be needed more as the year goes on.

It is worth developing the art of successional sowing so you can harvest little and often without waste.

The trick here is to sow short rows and sow again when the previous sowing has just germinated.

While making plans for an all-the-year supply of vegetables don’t forget mint can be lifted in the autumn and grown over winter in pots perfect for use with those new potatoes.

It is difficult to provide a range of vegetable in winter. Traditionally there is a gap in production between February and May, known as the ‘hungry gap’.

To cover this make sure you include over-wintering vegetables such as parsnips and Brussels sprouts.

Winter salads, spinach and chard that survive over winter are of much better quality when grown in a cool greenhouse, cold frame or with cloches or horticultural fleece for protection.

As we approach February this is a very important time on an allotment. Start thinking about warming up the soil. Black polythene is often used but clear polythene is better.

Firstly, as the soil warms up weed seeds start to germinate and can be hoed off before the crops are sown.

Secondly, with the soil warming slugs will become active and their eggs will hatch so before using the polythene scatter some slug pellets around. This will get rid of half the slug problem on the patch.

If you don’t warm the soil it is possible to tell when it is warm enough for sowing as the weed seedlings appear.

Get seed potatoes ordered now because they need boxing up to start the process of chitting (encouraged into sending young shoots up).

A patio should be a colourful area in any garden but quite often it can be in a shady position when plants in containers just give up the ghost. When choosing a new home the garden can be the last consideration.

Brightening a patio which has poor light does not involve pots but instead concentrate on planting around the edge of the area using plants that give a woodland feeling.

Put up some trellis and remove a couple of paving slabs to make a small bed in which to plant a well-trained camellia – donation is a very reliable variety with large, pink double flowers through spring. Tie the branches flat out against the trellis and take off any that want to grow away from the trellis.

On the opposite site of the patio prepare a bed.

Next week I will write about a selection of plants I have chosen which will give year round interest.