My snowdrops struggle up through the snow near the end of March on a good year and the bulbs that have been planted for a few years multiply into a small clump and grow a bit taller. Last week’s visit to the North of England showed me real Snowdrops. They were everywhere in nice sized patches and then we happened upon this wooded area where the ground was literally carpeted with thousands of them. This being a small English road it took us a while to find a place to pull over so that I could jump out and get this picture. There were also a multitude of Crocus blooming everywhere; a real treat for this gardener’s winter weary soul. These plants stay in bloom much longer than they do here but that’s the upside of the cool damp weather that we “enjoyed” while we were there. Didn’t stop a hardy group of surfers braving the cold waters of the North Sea. We continued to observe them from the lounge of the Grand Hotel while sipping a warming libation. Oh! Yes, the granddaughter was delightful and provided all of the sunshine that we needed.
There is always the dilemma of when to start the early weather crops. Will it be an early spring like last year or will I not be able to plant anything outdoors until early May. Knowing that it is probably impossible to guess the weather correctly I will just follow my average schedule. I`m quite behind on this plan anyway as a result of the England trip, so I just have to get down to the basement and sow a lot of seeds. All of the cole crops such cabbage and Broccoli etc. need to be in the soil now so that they will have six weeks to germinate and develop into decent sized transplants by late April, which is my target planting date. You can adjust yours according to the climate zone that you garden in.
After a few years of disappointing onions in my garden, I’ve decided to try and rectify the problem. Of course the first step would be to identify the problem and that is not always easy. Beginning at the beginning seems like a good idea and that’s what I have done. I have always seeded my onions in one common flat where they grow quite closely together. Transplanting to the garden was a process of carefully separating the seedlings and planting them. They always seem to recover quickly and start to grow but maybe I am creating too much shock at transplant time. This year I have taken the time to plant the seeds individually in a plug tray where they will be able to grow with little competition and then be transplanted with all of their roots and much less shock. We’ll see if that makes enough difference to compensate for the much greater space that the Onion seedlings are going to occupy in the cold frame.
I just received my package of trial seeds from Renee’s Seeds, an excellent source of home garden seed packets. There are a few Sweet Peas that I haven’t tried, Renee carries a wonderful range of these fragrant climbing delights, and I need to get them in their little pots so we can get them up and pinched back into bushy little plants by the early planting time. Don’t forget to nick or sand their seed coats so that they will absorb water more quickly. I have had some success growing them on the same fence as my Sugar Snap peas to create a delicious and delightful planting.
Mid March is not too early to find the Tuberous Begonias and get them started under the lights. My one fancy Blackmore and Langdon Begonia was amazing last year but much slower to develop than the others so it will be first into the soil this week. I seemed to have successfully rooted a cutting from last year’s plant and have kept it growing under the lights all winter. A great struggle with powdery mildew but constant applications of powdered sulphur seems to have helped and the new foliage that is now starting to develop seems to be free of the disease. As these tubers sell on this side of the Atlantic for something in excess of $60, I am delighted with my apparent propagation prowess.
Keeping up to date on gardening activities can be followed on a more frequent basis by checking the front page of my web site, gardening-enjoyed.com. It changes every 2 or 3 days to show you what I am up to. That change only takes a few minutes, while producing Dallying is a much larger effort.
My newsletter subscribers get to ask me questions. Just ‘reply’ to the email newsletter. It is always interesting to read the questions; mostly to see if I actually can answer them or if I have to wade into the textbooks to research the answers. If that happens then we all learn something.
Sarah Asks? I attended your seminar today at the Stratford Garden Festival. It was great, I really enjoyed hearing your stories and seeing your fantastic and unusual gardens. I have some quick questions for you about the heating cables that you put under your cold frame and in your basement for starting seedlings. What wattage is your cable? How far apart do you have the cable from itself? (I assume it doubles back and forth in the medium) Do you keep it on all the time outside, or just at night?
Ken Answers! My heating cables are about 3 - 6 cm deep in the medium and tend to be about 10 - 15 cm apart as they run back and forth. the spacing gets a bit dictated by the length of the cable and the size of your bed. Mine are thermostated to maintain a constant temp about 75F in the medium. If you are setting them up you can space some sections closer than others to create somewhat different temp zones for various kinds of seeds. Not that important but can make you feel better for trying. I have cables that are made for the job and have built in thermostats and I have plain cables that the hardware store will sell for deicing you roof gutters and I put them through an independent soil thermostat. Make sure that the medium that they are buried in does not dry out as this will cause the cables to overheat and burn out. I have no idea what wattage they are, I tend to buy them for their length to fit the bed I'm building. I'm sure I knew when I purchased them but it really isn't that important. There are also solid heat mats available through most of the seed catalogues but they tend to be quite small and therefore useless to an addicted gardener like myself.
Eleanor Asks? What is your current favourite seed potato? I m thinking of ordering from Eagle and want to get a good one. You said they didnt have your Purple Viking favourite one year. I want to try them in containers.
Ken Answers! I have several favourites. You need one for containers, French Fingerling: one for early season crops, All Red: one for storage, PurpleViking. I try something new each year and am rarely disappointed.
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