The cool spring, heavy rain and little sunshine over the past weeks has ensured that this years sowings in my vegetable plot were well behind schedule. There‘s no point in following the sowing dates on the seed packet if seeds only rot before germinating, sow when conditions are favourable and they soon catch up. Parsnips are recommended for early sowing, but germination is poor if the ground is too cold, much better to leave them until April when the soil has warmed and ‘French Beans‘ that like warm soil are better started in pots in the greenhouse and there‘s still time to sow some now. When thinning vegetables in the plot, keep the stronger seedlings while maintaining the correct spacing between the plants, put your fingers around the base of those you want to keep and gently ease out the weaker seedlings to minimise root and soil disturbance. It‘s easier to thin when the soil is moist, so water the rows first if the weather is dry. Watering is particularly important when thinning carrots as ‘Carrot fly‘ are attracted to the crop by the smell of the juice and can detect one molecule from over 1km away! To avoid problems, thin carrots when it‘s overcast day and water again after thinning. You don‘t have to pull them out by the roots, just pinch off the tops just above soil level and throw them on the compost heap. If you ‘station sow‘ by putting two or three seeds at the correct spacing and removing the weakest ones, it reduces thinning and saves on seed.
Look out for ‘suckers‘ that appear on plants like flowering cherries, roses and lilacs that are grafted onto rootstocks and ‘Sumach‘s which naturally spread that way. Leave them to grow and they‘ll eventually swamp the parent plant or march off to appear in the lawn and the most awkward places possible. As soon as suckers appear remove the soil from around the base of each one and tear them off at the point where it is connected to the root. Don‘t cut them off at the base or at ground level, it only stimulates the dormant buds into growth and you‘ll end up with several instead of just one. Roots producing ‘Suckers‘ that appear in the lawn should be severed at the junction with the main stem of the tree then painted with herbicide containing glyphosate; if they remain attached, the parent plant will die as well. Because they are growing on their own roots, lilacs and roses that are grown from hardwood cuttings don‘t have this problem and some nurseries now propagate them that way. While we‘re talking ‘Lilacs‘ don‘t forget to remove the ‘dead heads‘ after immediately after flowering taking care not to damage the new shoots near the base that often develop while the plant is in flower and provide next years blooms. One of their less appealing features is that the flowers turn brown as they die, so I remove them at the first signs of their decline. It‘s a good reason for not growing white flowered cultivars as the contrasting colours are less noticeable in dark flowered varieties.