Hartley Magazine

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

Spring starts here

I have to confess that it’s great to see the back of January, with its long dark days, now it’s February there is that wonderful feeling that spring is on its way.

Peppers, chillies and aubergines need a long growing season – it takes up to five months from sowing until the fruits mature. Most people who complain that their peppers don’t ripen, have sowed their seeds too late. Sow this month if you can. The third week in February is perfect, by mid March is okay and the first week in April is the limit. Seeds need light, warm conditions to germinate and dislike fluctuating temperatures. (If you can’t provide this, wait and buy young plants from the garden centre or off the internet later in the year, as you would your bedding plants).

Check tree stakes and ties

Fill a 10cm pot with multipurpose compost and water the surface with tepid water using a fine rose, then leave it to drain for at least half an hour. Sow the seeds on the surface, evenly spaced, six per pot and sprinkle a shallow layer of fine grade vermiculite over the surface. Put the pot in a propagator at 18-20C in the greenhouse and in around three weeks, the seeds will have germinated. Transplant the seedlings when they are large enough to handle, into a 9cm pot, lifting them gently by a leaf and grow them on in the greenhouse at 10-15C. Make sure that there is enough space between the pots to keep growth compact, if you put the pots too close together, the stems reach for the light and become elongated. Once they have formed a good root system but are but not ‘pot bound’, transplant the young plants into 25cm pots of growing bag compost or growing bags and move them into their final position in a heated greenhouse. If the greenhouse is unheated, sow later and don’t plant out until May

February is also time to prune your Wisteria. Cut back the side shoots that were shortened to 30cm, last year, this time to 2.5-5cm or six buds, any long whippy shoots that developed after summer pruning can be cut back to six buds too.

Check tree stakes and ties, making sure the ties are firm but not over tight. At least one stake in my garden has snapped in the strong winds, (see picture) the broken end can be difficult to dig out without damaging the roots, the best tool for the job, a child’s spade, is very effective.

It is worth having a serious tidy up, towards the end of the month, weeding, titivating and removing dead or diseased plant material, then everything will be ready for spring, when everything bursts back into life again and there is still time to plant ‘bare root’ woody plants like trees, shrubs, roses and hedges. The choice is somewhat restricted late in the season but they are always good value for money and cheaper than those in containers.

Happy gardening! Matt.