February jobs

Hoping the weather will dry up a bit so I can get some of these jobs done!  So far the competition parsnips have been sown and the mixes for my long and stump carrots have been prepared.  I’m hoping to sow the carrots in the next couple of weeks………

February is a time of preparation in the garden with an expectation of things to come. Early spring bulbs are coming through but, as we saw last year, the weather can bite hard and put back any of our best laid plans……….

So the list of February jobs is dependant on weather conditions and if your soil is workable. If you have use of a heated greenhouse or space on indoor windowsills then sowing can be started. But even if you just do some tidying up in the garden it’s time well spent before Spring starts.

Under Cover

• Sow Autumn leeks thinly in a tray of compost and cover lightly and keep moist.

•If you didn’t start sweet peas in Autumn sow in toilet roll inners now.  You can use the same method for broad beans if weather is too harsh to sow direct on the plot.

• For early potatoes start off varieties such as ‘Swift’ in large tubs of compost in a heated greenhouse.

• Start sowing early brassicas such as cauliflower and summer cabbage.

• Towards the end of the month sow tomatoes, chillies and peppers.  These need a long growing season to fully ripen so need to be started early in a heated space.

• Sow peas.  A good method is to sow in a length of guttering that can be easily transferred to the veg plot later to avoid handling the young plants.

• Plant garlic cloves in pots if not already done.

• Sow hardier herbs such as Parsley.  Rocket and certain varieties of lettuce can be sown towards the end of the month.

• Sow slower growing half-hardy annuals and perrenials such as Pelargonium and Begonia.

• Chit seed potatoes.  Stand in egg trays.

On the Plot

• Continue to tidy and dig the plot if soil is workable.  Well rotted manure and compost can be added if not already done.

• Hand weed around any Autumn sown crops such as Japanese Onion sets and Broad Beans.

• Jerusalem Artichoke tubers can be planted out.  If harvesting and re-planting be careful to dig out every bit of tuber.

• Keep filling runner bean trench with kitchen waste.

• Use cloches to warm the soil ahead of spring sowing.

• Prune fruit trees and canes.  Sprinkle a handful of potash fertiliser around fruit trees.  If you have bought any bare-root  trees get them in now.  Cut stems of Autumn-fruiting raspberries to soil level.

• Force established Rhubarb crowns by covering with a forcing pot or bucket.

• Draw up a plan of your plot so you know where each group of vegetables will go and have a record for future years to ensure good rotation.

• Clean the greenhouse, any frames, pots and trays.  Jeyes fluid is good for the inside of your greenhouse killing off anything nasty that is lurking to attack your spring plants.  Warm soapy water is a good start for pots and trays.

In the Garden

• Plant new Rose bushes.  But don’t prune existing ones until next month as harsh frosts can burn new cuts.

• Prune grapevines, Wisteria, summer-flowering Clematis, and Buddleia.  Deadhead Hydrangea flowers.

• Mulch around emerging spring bulbs.  Bring pots of spring bulbs into the greenhouse as required.

• Divide herbaceous perrenials that have become congested.

• Cut back last year’s dead material from perrenials as close to the base as possible before new growth starts.

• Clear weeds as they emerge.

• Scarify and spike lawn if required.  Clear any remaining leaves.

• Clear leaves from pond and check and clean pump.

Help Wildlife

• Put as much waste material from the garden on the compost heap as possible (rather than burning) to allow sheltering insects to escape as the weather warms.

• Continue to feed garden birds and provide a water source.

• Put up nesting boxes for birds.

Buy

• Check through stocks of compost, fertilisers, pots etc and buy whatever is needed for spring sowing ahead of time.  If you’re looking for a peat-free compost the brand ‘New Horizon’ has been recommended in recent Which magazine trials.

Harvest

Winter vegetables such as Leeks, Brussel Sprouts, Kale and Parsnips can continue to be harvested when the ground is not frozen.  If harsh weather threatens root vegetables can be stored and kept fresh in a box of damp sand.

If you have any suggestions for February jobs please add them to the comments on this post.

Seed & Plant Orders

Now is the best time to order your seeds, plants and sundry items for the coming growing season.  I try to take advantage of whatever discounts are on offer and it’s worth checking what seed company your local gardening club / Horticultural Society is affiliated to as they tend to receive large discounts.

For example my local village club is linked to Dobies and with our online code I received just over 50% off my seed order (also 10% off plants/sundries) which is a great saving.  I’m also a member of the National Vegetable Society which is linked to Marshalls who offer a straight 10% off orders over £30.

I had plenty of seeds left over from last season which are still viable so only needed to stock up on a few such as leeks and squash.  I’ve bought some strawberry plants and a few extra raspberry canes – Marshalls added 5 free strawberry plants as I had just over £20 of soft fruit and with a few sundry items I received the 10% discount for an over £30 spend.  I know these offers are there to tempt you in but if you were going to buy the items anyway it’s worth shopping around.

One final recommendation at this time of year is to visit a local potato day if you can.  They are a great place to buy cheap seed potatoes – all of which can be bought as singles or in packs so you can try out different varieties very cheaply.  Plus they have lots of veg growing related stalls – my local Potato Day is the Hampshire one based at Whitchurch, well worth a visit.

Happy gardening!

 

 

Monthly jobs – January

Despite the often freezing conditions there’s still plenty of jobs to be getting on with on the plot and in the garden this month………….

Under Cover
• Start to chit seed potatoes in trays making sure they are frost free.  The speed of chitting depends on the temperature so keep an eye on them as you’re aiming for a healthy chit of a few mm by the time you plant them out in March.
• Clean greenhouse panes thoroughly – Jeyes Fluid is ideal for this. Disinfect and light a sulphur candle to deal with any pests and diseases.
• Insulate greenhouse with bubble-wrap to retain heat if you are starting plants early.
• Pot on winter lettuces.
• Move strawberry pots into a warm greenhouse to bring them on early.
• Check stored fruit, veg and any tubers to ensure rot has not started.

On the Plot
• Keep removing yellowing leaves from brassicas.
• Firm any loosened shallots and onions. Plant sets if you haven’t already.
• Dig a trench for runner beans and fill with green kitchen waste.
• Plant garlic, sow broad beans if the ground is not frozen.
• Put forcing jar, or similar, on top of emerging rhubarb to force crop of tender stems early. Also a good time to lift and divide crowded rhubarb.
• Cover bare soil with fleece or cloches to warm up for sowing.
• If soil is workable continue to dig over and add manure if not already done so.
• Test soil to gauge its requirements for the coming season.

In the Garden
• Tidy up borders, cut back grasses before new growth emerges, and mulch.
• Good time to move shrubs if they are in the wrong position.
• Take hardwood cuttings.
• Plant new Roses. Prune existing plants.
• Avoid walking on lawns in frosty weather and remove fallen leaves regularly. If conditions are suitable it’s a good time to tidy-up lawn edges.
• Service lawn mower and check over garden tools.

Help Wildlife
• Continue to top up bird tables and feeders, and unfreeze bird bath.
• Great time to build a nest box to encourage more birds into your garden, they’ll return the summer eating pests in summer.

Buy
• Summer flowering bulbs for spring planting.
• Order veg and summer bedding seeds if you haven’t already.

Harvest – if you’re fortunate enough to still have any veg left on the plot……..
Leek, Parsnip, Swede, Kale, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Carrot, Celeriac, Brussel Sprouts, Purple Sprouting, Jerusalem Artichokes.

If you have any other January jobs please share them by adding a comment to this post. Whatever you decide to do this month enjoy your garden!

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!  It’s been a while since I’ve posted after finishing the re-vamped veg beds in the back garden in October.  It’s been a busy couple of months since then but not much happening on the Two Chances Plot to report.

Today saw the traditional “Christmas leek lift” to go along with the leftover turkey in this lovely pie that we make every year.

DSCN5001

The leeks were planted quite late so weren’t huge but they’ll taste great all the same.  They’re the only veg left on the plot with just potatoes, beetroot and a couple of pumpkins in store now – and some bags of French and Broad Beans in the freezer along with a few hundred chillies!

It’s been another fantastic year on the plot with loads of superb veg for the family.  My most successful show year as well taking my first top-level NVS red cards at the Southern Branch Championship staged at the New Forest Show back in July.  I finished off with Best in Show at my local NVS DA show in September.

Away from the plot I’ve also enjoyed some hill walking, long cycle rides and charity fund raising for Southampton General Hospital’s Friends of PICU.

What will 2016 bring?  More of the same on the veg plot – I’m looking forward to using the new raised beds and finishing off the back garden.  I’m sure I’ll be at a couple of shows again.  We’ll continue our Ridgeway walk and I’ll be fundraising again possibly with a run & bike challenge in July.  And lastly I’ll be looking for a new job sometime in 2016 after 17 years with my current employer so another challenge to add to my list!

Whatever you decide to do next year I hope it’s a fruitful one for you!

 

 

Re-vamped raised beds

It’s been 8 years since I put up the original raised beds in the back garden and started growing veg and it was long overdue for an overhaul. I used gravel boards which have done well considering they were a cheap material and quite thin but I now wanted something that looked better and would last for a long time.

beds1

Originally there were two beds – one of 18ftx6ft and one of 12ftx6ft.

beds2

These were replaced by six new beds of various sizes with shingle paths all round.

beds4

DSCN4781

The timber is much thicker and should last for 15 years. I’m looking forward to planting these up next spring.

Last show of the season

My last show of the season this Sunday was the NVS Hampshire District Association Show which over the last couple of years has developed into a very good intermediate level show open to all NVS members. Having put most of my veg into the New Forest Show earlier in the year I only had a couple of entries to enter – parsnips and coloured potatoes – and I was really pleased with the results.

3 (600x800)

I managed to get a cracking set of parsnips (variety Panorama) which ended up winning first prize, overall best in show and best exhibit by a DA member. The potatoes came second in class as well.

DSCN4705 (600x800)

The trophy haul, more than I was expecting with two entries!

untitled - Copy (160x213)

A great end to the season!

Ride London-Surrey 100 mile charity bike ride

With the New Forest Show over I’ve now turned my attention to tomorrow’s 100 mile charity bike ride – the Prudential Ride London-Surrey. I was in London today to register and early tomorrow I’ll be there again to start from the Olympic Park, through London, around the Surrey hills and back again to finish on the mall.

I’m raising money for a fantastic charity that’s close to my heart based at Southampton General Hospital. The Friends of PICU care for critically ill children across the south of England and are made up entirely by volunteers to raise funds for additional equipment the intensive care unit needs. There are 9 of us completing the ride tomorrow, 9 of 25,000 cyclists who will raise over £10 million for charity with their combined efforts tomorrow.

You can sponsor me by clicking on this link thanks very much.

A few photos from the registration today and the charity cycle top I shall be wearing……….

20150801_103204 (2) (450x800)

20150801_104345 (2) (450x800)

20150801_104511 (2) (450x800)

cycletop1 (800x600)

cycletop2

cycletop3

And here’s my medal for finishing…..

medal1

medal2