A Gardener's Tips for the Month

February

As we have had (so far) a mild winter, all pruning of fruit trees and bushes, with the exception of plums & cherries should be completed as soon as possible, before the sap rises. 
Plums & cherries, if they were not pruned soon after fruiting, should be left until the spring so that the cut surfaces will heal quickly. The timely tips for January still apply to this month.
 
Check the ties on your summer fruiting raspberries if the canes have grown above the training wires. They can be bent over and tied to the top wire forming a loop in doing so you will stop them thrashing about and getting damaged, it also restricts the sap which encourages more formation of fruit.
Covering your vacant soil with plastic sheeting or cardboard, will help to warm up the soil and prevent the ground from becoming soggy, thereby enabling you to get away quickly with your seed sowing
 
and planting.
Shallots & garlic can be planted, as long as the soil is not frozen or too wet, some gardeners prefer to start them off in pots, in a cold greenhouse.
How about trying some early peas sown under fleece or plastic tunnels. Or you could sow some in guttering, in the greenhouse, to plant out later, just slide them into a shallow trench.

 

Enjoy your gardening. 

March


Plant shallots, garlic and onion sets outside, and potatoes, strawberry plants, artichokes rhubarb crowns also asparagus. Vegetables to sow outside, beetroot, carrots, lettuce, turnips, summer radish, salad leaves, rocket, oriental leaves, and if possible cover them with fleece at night.
Most of the brassicas can be sown this month outside, inside if its still cold, I like to sow some of each both under cover, greenhouse, or frames and in the seedbed outside. Parsnip seed chitted on damp kitchen towel (paper) can be sown at the correct growing distance in the ground once the tiny root appears, sowing using this method does away with the need to thin the seedlings and you can see that the seeds are going to grow.
Herbs can be sown this month, but again cover at night, established herbs such as chives and mint can be dug up, divided and replanted. As can lemon balm.
Sow indoors celeriac, aubergines, chillies, and sweet peppers, kohl rabi, tomatoes, celery.
By the end of this month you should have completed your winter pruning of gooseberries, blackcurrants, red, and white currants, also March is your last chance to prune your autumn raspberries, cut the canes right down to the ground, the new canes which will fruit this year should start to emerge soon, if they have not already done so.
If you have cherry, peach, apricot or nectarines try to protect the blossom from the frost.
As we have had a mild winter watch out for aphids and caterpillars and deal with them before they have a chance to build up to plague proportions.

Keep your brassicas netted and watch out for slugs.

April



Vegetable seeds to sow indoors – tomatoes, sweetcorn, runner beans, French beans, celeriac, celery, chillies and sweet peppers, courgettes, squashes, cucumber, gherkins, marrows, pumpkin, aubergines.
Most root crops can be sown outdoors, but be prepared to cover them with fleece if there is a chance of frost. Sow all types of brassicas this month and again protect the young seedlings from frost.
I like to sow a few of each type of brassicas inside as well as those sown outside.
All types of herb can be sown or planted outside. Leeks and onions can also be sown outdoors.
Continue to sow peas & broad beans outside, these can also be started off indoors but be sure to harden them off before planting them out.
Plant your second early and main crop potatoes this month.
April is probably your last chance to plant onion sets, and Jerusalem artichokes, to give them the long growing season they need to give you a good harvest.
By the end of the month it will be too late to plant asparagus crowns so if you intend to make a new asparagus bed this year you should make haste to prepare the ground.
It is too late to plant bare-rooted fruit trees and bushes but you can still buy and plant container grown specimens.
Cranberries and strawberries can be planted outside.
The term “harden off” means to place your young plants outside during warm days & taking them back in at night, to gradually accustom them to lower temperatures before planting them out. The easiest way to do this is to place the pots/trays that they are growing in, into a cold frame which you can open during the day and close at night.
Earth up your first early potatoes.
Put up your pea sticks and erect supports for other climbing vegetables.
If you covered your rhubarb to blanch the stems you should remove the covers this month.
Dig up and divide clumps of chives, lovage, mint and marjoram, replant them in a different part of the garden, remembering most herbs are sunshine loving plants.
Pick flowers off of strawberries planted last autumn or this Spring, give them the first year to make strong plants before producing their heavy crop of fruit.
If you have had problems with cabbage root fly, fit collars around the stems of your newly planted brassicas, to protect them against the eggs laid at the base of the stems.
Watch out for slugs, snails, flea beetle, pigeons, mice & aphids, & bull finches will take your fruit buds.
Flowers, most hardy annuals can be sown outside this month.
Half-hardy annuals should be raised indoors & planted out when hardened off. Always read the seed packet, for basic instructions.

May

Sow indoors, runner beans, sprouting broccoli, pumpkins, squashes, marrows, courgettes, and gherkins. Also French beans, chillies, and peppers. All the brassicas can be started off inside and planted out when big enough, and of course cucumbers.
It is a good policy to sow little batches of seeds every couple of weeks to avoid a glut, and if the weather is unkind you will have replacements for any plants lost.
All too often whole packets of seeds are sown in April and May which do not germinate because of cold wet soil, late frost or fluctuations in temperatures.
Start sweet corn by sowing one seed per pot under cover, plant them out next month in blocks, as they are pollinated by the wind, and make sure you do not have a different type of sweet corn nearby, as pollen from one type to another will result in a lack of cobs.
Sow melons this month indoors, and basil, most other herbs can be sown outside if protected from frost.
Swiss chard, oriental leaves and all other types of salads can also be sown outside but again be prepared to give them some protection.
Continue to sow outside main crop peas and mange tout, carrots, beetroot, Swedes, turnip, kohl -rabi, spring onions parsnips and leeks.
When sowing parsnips, mark the rows by sowing radishes in the same row as they will germinate within days whereas the parsnips will not appear for about 3 weeks after being sown.
Another space saving tip, when you plant out sweet corn sow some lettuce between the plants you can also do the same between runner bean rows, the lettuces will mature long before the other plants shade them too much.
Do not be in too much of a rush to get things planted out, but having said that, make sure you have all your potatoes in by the end of the month, and earth them up when they show.
Do not be tempted to plant your outdoor tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkin squashes, courgettes and marrows, gherkins before next month.
Always harden off your plants raised inside before planting them in the Great Outdoors.

June 

If you don’t already have plants raised in pots, you can sow seeds directly outside, of courgettes, squashes (summer and winter), marrows, pumpkins and outdoor cucumbers. Sow 2 seeds per station and discard the weaker one.
Most other vegetable seeds can be sown outside where they are to mature. Sow this month runner beans, French beans, mange tout and main crop peas will provide you with a crop right up to the first frost. Switch to the early fast-maturing variety of peas when sowing later in the month.
All types of salad will grow quickly if sown now, including radish, spring onion, oriental leaves, such as mizuna, mibuna mustard greens, pak choi. Continue to sow Swiss chard, spinach-beet, beetroot, carrots, kale, Swede, turnip, broccoli calabrese, kohl rabi. Sow some herbs before it becomes too warm for them to germinate reliably such as – coriander, basil, chervil, fennel, dill and my favourite, parsley.
Vegetables to plant out, but not before you have given them a period to harden off, which means move them outside during the day and protecting them at night for at least 2 weeks – Brussel sprouts, aubergines, all types of brassicas, celeriac, chilli peppers, sweet peppers, French beans, runner beans, leeks, sweet corn, marrows, squashes ,pumpkins, courgettes. I cannot stress the importance of hardening off your plants too much, this year I have seen perfectly healthy plants put outside straight from a greenhouse and within days they had been scorched by the cold wind and cold nights, whereas on the plot next door the same type of plants are growing strongly.
So be kind to your treasures and toughen them up, before evicting them from their cosy nursery.

July 

Make a last sowing of beetroot, French beans, and peas this month.
Plant out any cabbages cauliflowers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and kale for the autumn and winter that you still have in your seedbed.
Finish transplanting (dibbing in) leeks which you have raised in pots, modules or seed beds.
Sow more leafy vegetables such as mizuna, rocket, land cress, mibuna, red mustard, etc. They are all hardy enough to last well into autumn. Not forgetting radishes and spring onions.
Carrots and turnips can be sown this month for a late crop.
Propagate perennial and shrubby herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme by taking semi-ripe, softwood or stem cuttings.
Pinch out tomato shoots, nip off the side shoots that appear in the ‘v’ between the leaf joint and stems of vine tomatoes. Pinch out the growing tip at the top of the plant once four or five trusses have formed.
Once the first fruits have formed, start regular watering with a liquid feed (every two or three weeks). Peppers – both sweet and chillies – will repay the same feeding treatment by producing more flowers and fruit.
The more thoroughly you dry your onions, garlic and shallots¸ the longer they will keep. Lift the bulbs when the tops have died down and lay them on the ground or on a wire rack to sun-bathe until completely dry.
Pinch the tops of your runner beans out when they reach the top of their supports you may need a tall friend for this job!) You will find that instead of getting top-heavy with beans out of reach, you will get side shoots on the main stem where leaves grow out (leaf node).These side shoots will flower and increase your supply of beans.
Break a leaf or two over the curd of your cauliflowers to keep them white, unless of course you are growing the coloured types.
THE MOTTO FOR EFFECTIVE WATERING IS SOAK – NOT SPRINKLE!
When watering, mornings and evenings are the best time of day. Otherwise you will lose a lot of water through evaporation. Soak the soil so that the water reaches the roots of your plants. Just sprinkling will encourage your plants to make surface root, and they will soon become stressed and fail to prosper.

August

Sow your last batch of carrots and turnips for this year, and Japanese onion seeds, and spring cabbage for next year.
You can also sow kohl rabi, winter radish and Swiss chard, plus lettuce, summer radish, spring onions, salad leaves, rocket and certain varieties of spinach.
Now is the time to transplant any spring sown cauliflowers. If they over winter successfully, they should give you a harvest in the New Year, from January onwards.
Propagate strawberries by planting out your rooted runners, plant them in a sunny position, in ground that has had plenty of organic material dug into it. Keep them well watered.
Summer fruiting raspberries, cut down to the ground all the canes that bore fruit this year and tie them in. The new green canes which will fruit next year, give them a thick mulch of well
rotted compost when the soil is moist, the mulch will act like a blanket and stop the soil drying out.
Pick your runner beans, French beans, courgettes regularly, and give them plenty of water, the more you harvest the more you will get.
Any garlic, onions or shallots you intend to store should be “ripened” in the sun for a few days, by laying them on wire racks where the air can dry them.
Any vacant soil you have after harvesting your broad beans or potatoes would benefit from a crop of green manure, there are several types on sale in the HAHA store, I favour phacelia, sown now and left to over winter and being dug in in the Spring, if left to flower it will attract bees & butterflies.

September

Although September is mainly the month for harvesting all those lovely vegetables and fruits that you have grown, there are things to sow and plant ready for next year.
Sow spinach, oriental leaves, lettuce, rocket, spring onions and winter purslane. Other salad crops and sweet peas can also be sown.
Plant out spring cabbage and onion sets. Also this month you can plant your new strawberry plants, cranberries, peaches and nectarines.
It is a good idea to stake tall brassicas such as sprouts and broccoli on exposed gardens.
Enjoy your gardening in one of the nicest months of the year.

October 

Sow broad beans, early peas and cauliflowers, all of which can be protected with fleece (all on sale in the Stores.
Plant your garlic cloves on well-drained soil.
It is also time to plant flowering bulbs ready for a Spring display.
Plant autumn onion sets if you have not already done so.
Rhubarb can be divided and re-planted, and it is a good time to plant bare-root bushes of gooseberry and currants – red, white and black.
Your spring cabbage plants need to be planted out and covered with netting to protect them from pigeons.
Leave your pumpkins and squashes to “cure” in the sunshine. This hardens their skin so they will keep longer, but take them inside before the first frosts.
It is nice to start autumn digging this month, whilst it is warm.
Dig up the rest of your potatoes and store them somewhere frost free (before the slugs get them).
Clear away dead foliage of sweet corn and all other crops that have finished growing and pile it all onto the compost heap

November 

I sow most of my broad beans this month, mainly outside, but I do like to raise some in a cold from to plant out later in the spring, thereby extending the cropping season.
Garlic can be planted this month in rich, well drained soil, in full sun.
Bare root plants of fruit trees and bushes are able to get established, if they are planted this month, before the winter weather sets in. They are apple, pear, plums, cherries, red, white and blackcurrants, blueberries, cranberries, gooseberries, raspberries, apricots, peaches, blackberries to name a few.
Flowering bulbs too can be planted, ready for the spring (a selection of which are on sale in the store).
Also in November I shall be sowing in the unheated greenhouse sweet pea seeds and other hardy annuals to plant out in spring.
Compost making, digging and tidying up your gardens should be progressed this month.
To me November is the month the gardener should be preparing for the next exciting season.
One more tip, taking the netting off of your fruit trees and bushes, including fruit cages, will enable the birds to access the ground and clean up all those bugs and creepy-crawlies that otherwise could build up to plague you next season.

December 

Winter pruning of fruit trees and bushes should be completed before it gets too cold, and they will benefit from having the weeds around them removed, followed by a good mulch of compost or manure. Remembering that cherries and plums should not be pruned until the Spring, as pruning cuts may allow silver leaf fungus to enter. 
Remove all yellowing leaves from brassicas and compost them, check your nets are all in good order, and that they are high enough above your brassicas to prevent the pigeons from playing trampolines and getting at those succulent greens. 
It is not too late to sow more broad beans and plant your garlic and winter onions in well drained fertile soil. 
Continue winter digging if your soil is not too wet, use a plank to spread your weight, dig in your compost or manure on the parts of the garden where you intend to have your potatoes, peas and beans, not forgetting your runner bean trench. 
If you did not do so last month there is still time to plant bare-root raspberries and blackberries also currants. 
Look out for signs of rot in your stored produce. 
Clean out the shed, wash the greenhouse glass to let in maximum light, and wash your pots and trays ready for the new season. 
Lift and store in a frost free place your dahlia tubers (before the advent of central heating) we used to store these under the bed! 
Who says there is not much to do in the garden in December? 
I wish you all a merry Christmas. 
See you in January.

January

If the soil is not frozen or waterlogged sowing of broad beans, planting of garlic can take place. As can planting of bare-root fruit trees and bushes. Dividing rhubarb and re-planting can be done this month.
Apple and pear pruning should be completed whilst the trees are dormant.
If the soil is frozen then you can spread your compost or manure with the minimum of damage to your plots.
Broad beans, cauliflower, onions, leeks, peas, salad leaves and radish can all be sown, if you have a frame or greenhouse, or even just a sunny window sill.
A propagator will enable you to give tomatoes an early start.
Have you ordered your seed potatoes, they will need unpacking and spreading out in a cool, light, frost free area to chit (sprout).
 People say “not much you can do in the garden this month”, oh yes there is!
Grass paths can be edged, all your netting can be checked for damage, pots, trays, and other containers to wash, sheds and greenhouses to repair and frames where needed.
Hard landscaping to be done and the lights of your frames and greenhouses to wash, to let in more of that winter sunshine.
How about cleaning out that shed? After that there is always more winter digging to progress.
Do not forget to net your fruit bushes as bull finches are very partial to the juicy young buds.

Wishing you all the best for 2017
.