Les’s Patch

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Although winter is now upon us this does not mean that our gardening duties have finished and you can sit back and relax in front of the television.

Sow winter lettuces in clean soil in a cold frame or cold/slightly heated greenhouse.

The varieties you will need are Winter Density from DT Brown or Lianne and Lobjoits Green from Suttons.

Sow Aquadulce Claudia broad beans for an early crop next year.

Place seeds eight inches (20cm) apart and two inches (5cm) deep. Most seed companies stock this one.

Cut down canes of Jerusalem artichokes to about 12 inches (30cm) above ground level.

Leave the tubers where they are and dig them out as required over the coming months.

In between clearing and composting fallen leaves, clean and put away any patio pots that you are not planning to use for winter plantings.

During mild weather lay a mulch of garden compost or well rotted manure over beds that have been cut back and tidied.

Wrap all outside pipes and taps with protective lagging to help prevent them from freezing.

Drain off and store your hose pipes and bring automatic watering timers indoors.

Place netting or fleece over sprouts and cabbages to protect them from birds. Pigeons will devour these in super quick time if they are not protected.

Take down temporary structures that supported runner beans, sweet peas, etc.

Clean and dry the canes and, before storing them for the winter, soak the bottom 12 inches (30cm) in a bucket with creosote in.

This will ensure that the canes don’t rot off at the base ensuring they last year after year.

The creosote will have dried before you need the canes again so won’t harm the plants when you do use them.

Prune blackcurrant bushes by taking out the oldest branches (those that are three years old or more) at the base.

You can select a few healthy 10 inch (25cm) long shoots from this year’s growth for hardwood cuttings.

Now is a good time to take leaf cuttings of African violets.

Using a sharp knife cut off a healthy, full-sized leaf as close to the stalk as is possible.

Trim the leaf stalk to about two inches (5cm) long and insert one inch (2.5cm) of it into ordinary potting compost mixed half and half with vermiculite to improve drainage.

Be very careful when over-wintering plants.

With the reduced light and temperatures of the season, many plants’ water requirements are much reduced.

To prevent mossy growth developing on the compost surface of potted plants, dress with a layer of coarse grit.

Also, to prevent the build-up of disease, remove any dead leaves as they come along.

Cyclamens really come into their own at this time of year.

They need to be placed in a bright, cool position in order to reduce the likelihood of yellowing leaves and elongated flower stems.

Always apply water to the base of the plant, never into the top of the pot.

Keep tender fuchsias in a frost free greenhouse or conservatory and regularly remove dead leaves to prevent the development of disease.

Flowering may continue in warm conditions. If not, you should keep the compost of dormant plants almost dry.

For the best choice of roses now is the time to order bare rooted ones from the catalogues of specialist nurseries, for planting out this winter.

Les’ Tips

*Attach a rope to a child’s skateboard which makes an ideal trolley for shifting heavy objects around the garden.

*Shake a Cox’s apple before you eat it. The apple is ripe and ready if you can hear the pips rattling inside.

*Over ripe tomatoes will become less firm if they are placed in a basin of salted water for around 20 minutes.

*Adding manure to the compost heap will help the compost to cook more quickly,

*For longer lasting cut flowers, water your plants the night before cutting and then cut the blooms in the early morning or late evening.

*Now is the time to get those tulips planted, whether they are new ones or those you have lifted and kept from the previous year.