Hartley Magazine

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

Getting ready for spring

Keep your glasshouse insulated until there is no chance of snow.

Peppers, chillies and aubergines should be sown this month. Gardeners who find, that theirs haven’t ripened by late summer, usually sowed too late. The third week in February is ideal; mid-March is fine and the first week in April is the limit. They need light, warmth and constant temperatures for germination; if you can’t provide this, buy young plants later in the year.  Water a 10cm pot of seed or multipurpose compost with a fine rose, using tepid water and allow it to drain for at least half an hour. Sow six seeds on the surface, then cover with a fine layer of fine grade vermiculite. Put the pot in a propagator at 18-21C (64 -70F) and they will germinate in about three weeks. 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 enough space between the pots so the seedlings don’t become elongated as they look for light. Once the plants are well rooted but not ‘pot bound’, move them into their final growing position in a heated greenhouse in 25cm pots of multipurpose compost or growing bags. If the greenhouse is unheated, sow later and don’t plant them out until May.

Sowing celeriac in trays or three seeds per module under glass at 16-18°C. Transplant into trays 5cm apart, or thin modules to one seedling as soon as they are large enough to handle and ‘harden off’ before planting once the danger of frost has passed.

Move dormant plants like heliotrope and fuchsias onto a warm spot on the greenhouse bench where the temperature remains a constant 10C (50F) mist with tepid water on sunny days and increase watering as they start into growth.

Start begonia tubers into growth by putting them in a tray of multipurpose compost, moisten thoroughly with tepid water and place the trays in a heated propagator at a minimum of 20C (70F). When putting the corm in the tray remember that the top of the corm which is slightly saucer shaped in the centre, should be just below the surface of the compost. Avoid filling it with water.

For very early potatoes, turn large compost bags inside out, roll down the sides by half and punch a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Fill the bag to about 30cm with a mix of 2/3 John Innes no 2 and 1/3 multipurpose or sieved homemade compost and plant two tubers of ‘Swift’, ‘International Kidney’ (commonly known as ‘Jersey Royal’s) ‘Rocket’ or ‘Belle de Fontenay’ then top up by another 15cm. Put them in warm, bright and frost free then water once in situ. When the shoots are around 15cm long, roll up the edges of the bag a few turns and top up with the same compost mix. Do this every fortnight until the compost almost reaches the top of the bag. Once the flowers appear, usually in May, you be harvesting very early potatoes.

Happy Gardening. Matt