Les’ Patch: Try out the seed test before buying new

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LES FODEN writes...The new seed catalogues are being delivered and this always serves as a reminder to check any seeds left over from last season.

Those in unopened sealed packets should be perfectly alright but if a part of a packet has been sown and there are seeds left, is it worth growing them again?

Don’t waste time, money and effort sowing seeds until they have been checked for viability.

Use a plastic container with a lid such as an empty margarine tub and a piece of moist kitchen roll. Count out about 10 seeds, place on the damp paper, replace the lid and put the container at the recommended germination temperature, which can be found on the packet.

Check them daily and if more than half germinate they are worth sowing again, but if only one or two show signs of growth and the others go mouldy, discard them and buy another packet.

Make sure to get seed orders in early so as to not miss out on the sought after varieties.

It’s not too late to sow salad leaves. If you check the seed packets and choose the ones that stand the low light levels and temperatures, you can make a selection of herbs and salad leaves for winter.

Growing salad leaves outdoors in winter is a no go area unless they are given the shelter of cloches made from fleece, plastic or glass. Without protection is a waste of time they would not only be open to the rains and frosts, but would be feed for birds, white fly slugs and snails.

There may be an empty greenhouse or polytunnel in which you could row quite a few seed trays of leaves.

One winter hardy lettuce to grow is Parella Green, grown as a hearted plant or part of a mix of winter leaves. Little Gem is also a good one. It is very easy now with seed companies combining different varieties in one packet.

A good example of this is the Winter Blend from Thompson and Morgan.

A cold-tolerant herb is coriander.

Kale – usually grown as mature plants through the winter – can be sown later in the season and harvested when the leaves are about four inches (10cm) long.

Now is the time to take a look around the garden to see if there are any changes needed. There may be a shrub in the wrong place causing overcrowding or simply one that is too big for its present position.

I have a conifer that needs to be moved (Goldcrest) which has reached about seven foot tall, which is as tall as it will be allowed to grow by simply cutting the growing back.

The procedure for moving any tree or shrub is to water them well for three days before the lift and prepare the hole where it is going.

Dig a hole bigger than the root ball, loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole and place some manure and compost in the hole. At the back of the hole put some stones about a couple of inches in diameter.

The stones are for the water pipe to rest on.

Use a piece of plastic pipe about two inches in diameter and place it on the stones at the back of the hole.

It needs to be long enough to stick a couple of inches out of the soil when the hole is filled. The reason for the pipe is that after replanting, or even with new shrubs or trees, the roots must not go short of water.

The water table underground has gone down because of the drier weather, so it is a while before roots grow enough to provide the water needed.

By watering down the pipe regularly the trees get the water at their roots. Place a piece of rag in the top of the pipe when it is not in use to prevent it from becoming blocked.

The watering pipe is a good idea when digging trenches for sweet pease, runner beans and garden peas.

Both sweet peas and garden peas often suffer from powdery mildew, which is caused by dryness of the roots, so this pipe solves that problem.

Whilst on the subject of watering, unlike deciduous trees and shrubs which lose little water during the winter because they have no leaves, evergreens continually lose moisture right through winter.

Drying winds can increase the rate at which water is lost from the leaves. So during dry spells in winter keep evergreens well watered.