Les’s Patch column

Les Foden.
Les Foden.

Most plants can be pruned into shape now but not spring flowering shrubs and trees as you would be cutting off the flower buds.

Also avoid trimming members of the prunus family, such as cherries and plums, at this time of year.

If you do the wounds may be infected by silver leaf disease which cannot be cured and will damage plants.

The cyclamen is a beautiful plant to have around at this time of year but keep an eye on it.

The plants need a cool spot and only want watering from the bottom by standing in a saucer of tepid water for no longer than half an hour.

As the flowers die off remove the whole stem as well as the yellowing leaves.

Never allow water to get into the top of the pot or this will rot the corm.

The essential winter veg, Brussels sprouts, are made all the more perfect when touched by frost to sweeten them and of course seasoned with pepper and thick gravy.

They need to be planted firmly in the vegetable bed.

When planting keep the lowest leaf just above the soil and give it a gentle tug to check that it has been planted firmly.

For that reason don’t plant on freshly manured ground or the sprouts will blow.

Brussels sprouts need plenty of room to grow. Planting wider than the recommended 2ft (60cm) spacing produces larger plants, while closer planting means smaller buttons.

When picking always pick from the bottom up.

The good news for vegetable growers is that there has been a cabbage bred that is claimed to be resistant to club root.

Trials in both the UK and Europe have shown healthy growth even when grown on areas infested with club root.

The variety is kilaxy, a late summer to autumn cabbage of the Dutch white type.

As far as club root is concerned the best way to combat it is to grow all brassicas on into five inch pots.

This way the plants will have a good, strong root system and will grow on without any root disturbance.

The club root disease strikes when planting out young plants with immature root systems.

For newcomers to vegetable growing this may seem a lot of work, but it isn’t because you only sow a few seeds in batches so as not to have them all ready at once.

It you don’t pot on you may finish with hardly any brassicas.

While on the subject of vegetables I intend to write a sowing special which will help to ensure continual crops throughout the year.

To do this can be quite a challenge and to be successful you have to be well organised.

There are so many crops to be harvested and sown at different times it is best to work out a plan on paper before starting.

Planning takes quite a while but while agonising over what to plant and when remember it is worth the effort, particularly at harvest time when you have your own supply of fresh, cheap veg.

If you cost all the vegetables out over the year, own grown against shop bought, the savings will be unbelievable, plus the fact you are eating fresh vegetables even when you have to put the surplus in the freezer.

Remember the weather plays a big part and can affect the timing of sowing, plant growth and harvesting.

Make your plans fairly flexible and don’t worry if things don’t go quite as planned.

I intend to discuss the sowing special as the weeks go by to give plenty of time to purchase the varieties recommended.

Tips

Make sure to throw a net over winter brassicas to keep the birds off.

Pigeons would devour a crop overnight. To improve a gooseberry crop, mix one part of sulphate of potash with two parts of super phosphate and apply evenly around the bushes. Allow eight ounces to every square yard of soil.