GARDENING: Little hint of spring in the air

February 11th, 2023 7:05 AM

By Southern Star Team

Time to check pumpkins for first signs of rot. (Photos: Ben Russell)

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SOME people will say that spring is already with us and others will say that spring doesn’t arrive for another month. Whatever we say doesn’t influence the weather too much! You only have to take a look around outside to spot that some buds are bursting and some plants are starting new shoots. The gardener has to move when the garden moves and the sap rising in both can put any grower in the best of spring moods.


Broccoli care

Sprouting broccoli plants are forming shoots and it won’t be long before the real harvest begins. This is one of my favourite crops and plants can keep producing over many weeks. Plants are extremely hardy and can often do best outdoors – I also grow a few in my polytunnel so I get an earlier harvest from those. The indoor ones need to be looked over and if any of the leaves or shoots show signs of grey mould then cut them out. Do this carefully, so you remove all the mould but don’t harm healthy shoots, and provide as much ventilation as possible. Even if you strip plant leaves back quite dramatically, plants can still produce a remarkably good crop. 

Outdoor plants crop a week or two later than ones under cover. Be patient and then be patient for longer again. Wait until a good large head of shoots has formed. If you pick too early then you will only get a few small treats from each plant rather than a basketful. 

Sprouting broccoli plant with new shoots.


Stored fruit and veg

Remember to keep checking any stored fruit and vegetables. The cold weather may have affected some that are stored in an uninsulated shed and a warm room won’t have been the best for others. Apples start to wrinkle and potatoes begin to sprout. Jars of jam may get a film of mould if the seal on the lid isn’t good enough. Pumpkins need a good look over to find any soft spots. 

You can still use the squash if the soft spot is small – simply cut this out and cut the pumpkin in half to make sure the centre is sound.

Onions and garlic should have a good few more months storage life, but use your nose and if any smell bad then they probably are. Don’t put any bad ones on the compost heap. If there are disease spores involved then you could spread the problem to future crops. 

Any fruit and veg in the freezer should keep well for several months, but do remember to use your stores before new crops come ready to pick. The main reason for freezing and storing is to have plenty of garden produce to eat when variety of fresh crops is at its lowest.


Start sowing again

It may seem early but the growing season is already kicking off. If you have a greenhouse, polytunnel or porch, then it’s a good idea to sow a few lettuce and perpetual spinach plants. Cover pots and trays with a layer of bubble wrap for extra warmth. Seed may be a little slow to germinate and grow, but you will have some fine sturdy plants to put into beds in a few weeks’ time.

I set up my large propagation heat mat and cloche cover in the polytunnel around now. I won’t plug it in and add heat for another few weeks but in the meantime it provides a good protected space for starting some vegetable seeds. 

Sow lettuce now for some healthy spring plants.


Some jobs for this month

  • Buy seed potatoes and put them in a cool, light and frost-free place to ‘chit’. This means standing them in egg boxes or trays with the ends that will sprout facing upwards. You are aiming for short green sprouts by planting time.
  • Buy in any seeds that you need for the coming year – favourite varieties may sell out if you leave this too late.
  • Keep pruning apple trees and aim to get the job finished by the end of the month. It’s important to take out any diseased wood and after that you can think about the shape and size of the tree as well as how to get the most fruiting buds.
  • Prune soft fruit bushes if you didn’t get this done at the end of last year. Some of my blackcurrants are already breaking open buds and ideally winter pruning should be done before the buds burst.
  • Start collecting things that you will need for the garden in the coming months. Gather poles and bamboo canes, bag up compost that is broken down enough to use, wash pots and stack them so it is easy to find what you need when you need it, and remember that you can make good labels for seed trays from cut up plastic milk bottles.
  • Find a good note book to use as a garden journal. 


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