Les’s Patch: Plant up your bulbs for spring colour

Les Foden
Les Foden
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With winter almost upon us it is important to finish planting tulips, hyacinths and other spring bulbs before soil conditions deteriorate and this become impossible.

There is still time to plan lilies.

As long as the ground is not waterlogged continue to plant trees, shrubs and roses.

This is also a good time to plant trees and shrubs in tubs to brighten a patio or hide a manhole cover.

Cover the drainage holes in the bottom of a container with a six inch layer of gravel and place the plant firmly into a mixture of good soil, peat and sharp sand adding two ounces of blood, fish and bone per bucket full of compost used.

Remove supporting stakes from herbaceous plants and cut dead or dying stems of plants like Michaelmas daisies or phloxes to within four inches of soil level.

Scatter Growmore at three ounces per square yard between plants and carefully fork this into the soil removing any weeds at the same time.

In most areas outdoor flowering chrysanthemums can be cut back and treated like other herbaceous plants, but if you have a frame it is better to life the stools, place them on the floor of the frame close together and scatter soil between the roots leaving the crowns well exposed.

No heat is needed and winter losses will be minimal.

In spring the plants will produce a plentiful supply of cuttings.

If soil conditions permit there is still time to plant border carnations and pinks.

In rock gardens alpines will stand any amount of cold but dampness will kill them.

Therefore, remove all fallen leaves that land on the rock garden and cover choice plants, especially those with woolly leaves, with a sheet of glass supported at the corners with pegs.

Prune bush apples and pears once leaves have fallen.

The first pruning is given immediately after planting.

Until a tree is four years old pruning is fairly drastic to encourage the development of sturdy, well placed branches.

Aim at a goblet shaped tree.

The first year cut back each branch by two thirds, the next year or two by half, and always to an outward facing bud.

After an apple or pear tree is four years old prune very lightly.

Remove any dead wood and any crossing or crowded shoots, otherwise only prune to produce more growth which may be necessary to replace old branches which are drooping on the ground.

To produce the best results of sweet peas there is nothing like an autumn sowing, against, it may be argued, the work entailed in looking after the plants during winter with possible hard frosts and so on.

However, two points here.

Firstly, spring sown plants (even from January sowing) never make the same strong plants of the autumn sown and it is rarely possibly to compete successfully with such plants in the summer shows of June and July; and, with luck, autumn sown plants can be carried on in show form, unless a blazing summer of course, even for the August shows, given the necessary attention and resting period.

Secondly, one of the many joys of sweet pea growing is the growing-on during winter of a nice batch of autumn sown plants.

There is a place for spring sowing but autumn is the time if you want really high class blooms.

You can get a head start (because you should have sown by now) if you put sweet pea seeds in plastic drinking cups with a little water, obviously one variety to a cup.

Leave the seeds overnight to soak and then tip on to kitchen roll.

Some will have swollen to twice their size.

The ones that don’t need the seed coat chipping with a sharp knife or they won’t germinate.

When buying sweet pea seeds sometimes the packets will say no need to soak.

My advice is to soak them anyway to be sure of germination.

After soaking place the seeds on damp kitchen roll with another damp piece to cover, put in a cold room and wait until they germinate.

As soon as this happens sow the seeds in try a or pots filled with multipurpose compost. Before sowing water the compost well.

In five inch pots make six holes evenly around the pot in the compost about one inch from the side and one inch deep.