Sunday, 31 January 2010

January Topical Tips

  • Any plants that are wrapped in voile d’hivernage should be unwrapped daily (when the frost has disappeared) to allow the air to circulate. Whilst the voile is ‘breathable’, with all the rain we have had it traps the damp which encourages the growth of bad fungi and can cause rotting.
  • Any leaves lying around the base of plants, have the same effect. Rake them up and put them into your leafmould bin. They will rot down faster when they’re wet and if they’re peed on !
  • If you’re feeding the birds and other wildlife, make sure that you don’t forget to keep the peanuts etc topped up and unfrozen water available for drinking and bathing – they are relying on you and even one day can make a huge difference. Birds will now benefit from being given fat balls or seed cakes made with home-made suet – they need to eat 40 percent of their own weight every day to survive. (You can make suet by asking your butcher for la graisse qui est autour des rognons de boeuf ou de veau and rendering it.)
  • There’s still time to be planting bare-rooted fruit trees and vines – Pépinière du Flayosquet have a reasonable selection.
  • It’s time (not when there are heavy frosts) to be pruning apple, pear, quince and of course olives ! Pruning guides for the more usual fruits are available through the RHS, or videos – such as this one on YouTube.

Stone fruits such as cherries, nectarines, peaches and plums should be pruned in late spring when they are in bud, as pruning now can allow disease to enter the plant through the wounds.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Our First Post

On return from our trip to the UK I found a seed catalogue in the post, from which I’ve ordered seeds for more than ten years. I’ve always been most impressed with the selection of seeds they have on offer and thought I’ll pass their website on to you so you can browse through it. Beside their selection of seeds, they have a few pages on how to grow from seed. Under the subject : information, select : cultivation leaflet.

Just when you look at basil, they have 23 varieties, six varieties of parsley, a coriander that is a ‘slow bolt’, bolting is always the problem with coriander. Last year I tried out of packet of tomato seeds that I bought in the shop, Aldi. They were supposed to be trailing tomatoes, I have a stand with nine windowboxes and I planted the young shoots in there. They grew so profusely and cropped so well. The only problem was they were not really trailing tomatoes and I had to contrive all sorts of structures to make them stand up in the end. This year I’ll select one of the trailing tomato plant suggestion in this seed catalogue, they have a choice of at least three. Interesting Chilli varieties, one that could look very nice in a pot with upturned chillies. Lots of other herbs if that’s where your interest lies.

Plants that I’ve tried out myself here that they have seeds for are : Caesalpinia, Cistus, Lagerstroemia, Monardas, selection of Penstemons, lots of Salvias, Salvia patens being a favourite of mine. This year I’m going to try the seeds for Albizzia julibrissin (Persian Silk Tree).

Years ago when I still lived in Belgium, I tried out the seeds for an umbrella pine, Pinus pinea, it went very well, grew to more than 1.5m but then, unfortunately, a very wet winter killed it off in the end. Still it was a nice try and if it fails it has not cost you too much.

The company is called Chiltern Seeds based in the UK. They are very reliable and post to Europe. They charge £2.50 for the postage. They accept visa and other credit cards.

Their website is: (the underlined text is a live link – all you need to do is to click on it and it will automatically take you to the website, opening another window in your browser. b-fg)

January being more or less a dead month in the garden, hope this will keep your gardening spirits going.



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