Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Come closer!

Now February is here, spring is a step closer, what a welcome thought that is, after last month’s snow which put a stop to doing anything in the garden!


Plants like peppers, chillies and aubergines needing up to five months to mature, should be sown this month, to make sure that they have enough time to ripen. The third week in February is perfect, mid March is acceptable and the first week in April is pretty well the limit. Seeds germinate in light and warmth and dislike fluctuating temperatures; if it is impossible to provide these conditions, buy young plants from the garden centre or internet in spring. Water a 10cm pot of Multipurpose compost with a fine rose, using tepid water and leave it to drain for at least half an hour. Sow the seeds, six per pot then sprinkle a shallow layer of fine grade vermiculite over the surface. Put the pot in a propagator at 18-20C or on a sunny windowsill and three weeks later they should have germinated. Transplant when they are large enough to handle, lifting the seedlings gently by a leaf, into a 9cm pot and grow on in the greenhouse at 10-15C. Make sure that there is adequate space between the pots, to keep growth compact; pack them close together and the stems become elongated. Once the pots are full of roots but not ‘pot bound’ they can be moved into their final growing position in a heated greenhouse in 25cm pots of growing bag compost or growing bags. If the greenhouse is unheated, sow later and don’t plant them out until May

Make the most of any sunshine and warm the soil on your vegetable plot, to speed up germination for early crops like carrots and beetroot. Using clear plastic sheeting or cloches not only warms the soil but encourages weed growth, which can be hoed off before sowing, reducing competition with the germinating seeds.

I grow redcurrants as vertical cordons, with a single main stem with fruiting side shoots, they are simple to manage, productive and allow you to grow plenty in a small space. You can also train the lower laterals to form highly ornamental double and triple cordons that can also be used as a productive ornamental hedge.  Maintenance is simple; pruned them twice a year; once from late June to early July, cutting the current season’s new growth back to 4-5 leaves and again from November to March cutting the leader at the top of the main stem leaving 6” of the new growth and summer pruned side shoots back to one bud. Red currants are perfect plants for a north facing or shady wall, providing the soil is moist and free from the drip of overhanging trees and mulching round the base keeps them weed free and ensures that their shallow roots aren’t damaged by hoeing. Try the cultivars ‘Jonkheer van Tets’ and ‘Red Lake’ – now is a good time to plant them. Protect from the birds using nets – they always seem to know when fruit is ripe, before we do, then make sure you have a recipe for summer pudding.

Happy Gardening! Matt