Pippa Greenwood: Haxnicks Gardening tips for February
So here are my gardening tips for February,
Over the years it has become a ritual at this time of year. The expedition to buy the seed potatoes. Home grown spuds are something I can’t imagine doing without, so off I trot to choose the potential harvest for the year ahead.
Some earlies, some salad and of course a few maincrop too. I like to buy them loose if possible, as that way, knowing how many tubers are needed per row in my plot, I can buy exactly the right number of each type. I like to include a few of my favourite varieties each year, two being Charlotte (yellowy, waxy wonderfulness…don’t get me started!) and Maris Piper. Perfect for making rosti and a host of other indulgences.
Buying them now means two things. First you can get the majority chitting. Just place the tubers, plumpest end uppermost in spare seed trays in a cool (but definitely frost-free) place with lots of natural light. Then over the coming few weeks each will form dark greeny-purple, short shoots. And second? Well, I make sure I plant a few in potato planters. Keep the bags in the greenhouse and then add more compost as the shoots emerge. Keep the compost just moist….and prepare to have a truly delicious and very early harvest.
It’s been wet, wet, wet for most of us last month and things don’t look too much better for February. There’s nothing seeds like less than a cold, wet soil. In fact, they often rot off and never even emerge! So, as the seed sowing season is soon to begin out of doors, rather than wasting seed (and causing disappointment later on), I suggest trying to keep the worst of the coming rain off your garden. Just cover beds with sheets of polythene or polythene-covered Easy Tunnels.
You’ll be amazed how, even after just a week or so, and despite the fact that temperatures are low, the soil under protection is soon so much more seed-friendly. Doing this before sowing and then covering the rows with either seedling tunnels or full-sized tunnels or cloches means that you can also ensure the seeds and the seedlings they then produce, are also given a bit of protection from excess wet AND can enjoy the benefits of some extra warmth.
Treating yourself to a heated propagator is like treating the whole garden to a gift. I was given my first one more years ago than I care to remember and I was awestruck by the opportunities it opened up. Their ability to provide that oh-so-desirable ‘bottom heat’ will mean you can raise a far wider range of plants from seed quickly and easily. And regardless of what the weather is doing.
If you’re new to using one, I have a very simple tip for before you get started – buy some capillary matting too. For some mad reason this brilliant stuff isn’t included when you buy a propagator. It is rather like a very thick layer of felt and you simply cut a rectangle to fit the propagator base and then wet it thoroughly. Then whilst the trays and pots are in the propagator, you simply ensure that the matting is kept wet (but not under water) at all times. The matting then ensures that everything has a good, even (but not excessive) supply of moisture.
I hope you enjoy my gardening tips for February and would love to know your favourite potato varieties and why. There may be some i haven't tried yet...
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