Les’s Patch column

Les Foden.
Les Foden.

Just because winter is upon us it doesn’t mean that the gardener can sit by the television, feet up.

Why not sow winter lettuces? Using clean soil in a cold or slightly heated greenhouse the varieties to use are Winter Density or Lobjoits Green Cos.

Also sow Aquadulce Claudia broad beans now for an early crop next year. Place seeds eight inches (20cm) apart and two inches (5cm) deep.

Cut down canes of Jerusalem artichokes to about 12 inches (30cm) above ground level. Leave the tubers where they are digging them out as required over the coming months.

In between clearing and composting fallen leaves, clean and put away patio pots that will not be used for winter plantings.

During any 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 hose pipes and move automatic watering timers indoors.

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

Take down any temporary structures that supported runner beans, sweet peas, etc. Clean and dry the canes and before storing for the winter soak the bottom 12 inches (30cm) in creosote.

This will ensure that the canes won’t rot at the base. If canes are treated this way they will last for years. The creosote will have dried before the canes are used again so won’t harm any plants.

Prune blackcurrant bushes by taking out the oldest branches (those that are three years old or more) at the base. Select a few healthy 10 inch (25cm) shoots of this year’s growth for hardwood cuttings. Now is a good time to take leaf cuttings of African violets. Use a sharp knife to cut off a healthy, full sized leaf as close to the stalk as 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.

It’s a good time to establish new hedges. Ground must be well prepared in advance, incorporating plenty of organic matter, rotten manure or compost. It’s best to add some blood, fish and bone to the fill-in soil which will aid rooting.

Many types of hedging will be available bare rooted at this time of year so take advantage of the cheaper prices.

When planting hedges and shrubs better results will be obtained if the new plants are given some protection from the cold winter winds by using green garden Netlon supported by canes.

Give the plants a good watering and use a mulch of compost or manure.