As I write this column the wind is blowing and the rain is lashing down which is delaying the planting and sowing of vegetables because as I have said many times, going on the soil when it is very wet does more harm than good.
The ones we have planted at the college are doing very well, although after planting they were given protection against the wind, which will stay up for quite a while.
Vegetable plants certainly do better at this time of year if protected from the wind.
At the moment we have planted broad beans, peas, lettuce and potatoes. We have sown another batch also to ensure we have a continuity of fresh vegetables, and once these get cracking we will sow some more, and so on.
It will soon be the time to prune certain shrubs.
The first one is forsythia – its bright yellow flowers on bare stems are a delightful sight in spring. Having taken a year to reach full bloom they need pruning immediately after flowing because if pruned in winter the buds that are due to flower in the spring will be removed.
Remove the oldest stems to ground level to encourage new stems but as a general rule don’t remove more than one third of the older growth.
Cut back newer flowering stems to a node and this will keep the plant compact. Any dead wood should be removed.
Ribes (ornamental currant) need the shoots that have flowered cutting back after flowering. Cut out any old or unproductive wood.
Remove old and weak branches from potentilla.
One of the nicest shrubs is photinia with its red shoots appearing throughout the year. Cut back the new growth once it has lost its red colour and new red growth will soon appear.
Remove unwanted growth from mahonia.
Both hedges and specimen shrubs of ilex (holly) should be trimmed in spring.
Another striking shrub is hypericum (St John’s wart). Cut back the variety calycinum to ground level now but the taller varieties require less drastic action and should had the top growth cut back by one third.
Keep an eye on primulas, Yellowing leaves should be removed immediately or the whole plant will be affected. Also remove dead flowers including the whole stem to avoid rot setting in.
There is a new non-chemical, organic weapon against the carrot root fly which comes in the form of a rove beetle (Atheta Coriaria).