Hartley Magazine

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

Taking Care of Plants in Winter

The only way to get through January, is to think of spring! Those long dark days and evening are the ideal ‘Preparation Time’ for warmer days ahead, it’s a chance to browse through seed catalogues or websites and order anything from an ever increasing choice of new vegetable varieties so you are ready for seed sowing to buying garden furniture in the sales! It is get ready for seed sowing – spring is not far away! Do you have enough flower pots and seed trays? Are the ones you have in store, clean and ready for use? All essential equipment should be ‘standing by’ and ready for action.

Use the time to walk round the garden, listing plants that need moving, pruning out branches affected by ‘coral spot’ and noting design changes to be implemented in the future. Installing lighting in the green house has been very useful and I thoroughly recommend it. I’ve spent several hours making a list of things to do for spring, there are plenty of plants that need ‘potting on’, loose slabs to relay in the central path and the compost in a greenhouse bed that has produced several great crops of tomatoes over the last couple of years, needs digging out and replacing. It is worth starting a garden diary if you have never done so before. Making a note of varieties, flowering times, productivity, this will be invaluable in the future in helping you to decide which plants flourish in your garden and those that don’t!

Peaches, almonds, apricots or nectarines grown outdoors are particularly vulnerable to ‘peach leaf curl’ at this time of year. It’s a fungus that forms red pustules on the leaves which distort and eventually fall and though they are replaced, the tree is weakened over time. Plants should be protected with a plastic or glass cover that does not touch the leaves, from January to mid May. Wall grown plants should have the top and front covered and there should be a gap at the base and sides for ventilation and so insects can enter, adding to the efficiency of hand pollination. Trees can be covered with a wigwam of canes covered in plastic and held together with clothes pegs. Plants that do become infected should be sprayed with liquid seaweed, fed with general fertiliser when growth starts and kept well watered to help them recover. Spraying with copper fungicide from late January or early February as the buds start to swell and again fourteen days later, before they open and again at leaf fall is helpful too.

My collection of heritage gooseberry and red currant varieties has been lifted and ‘heeled in’ – planted at a low angle with the roots covered with soil, as you see in the picture, until the current frosty period has passed, the ground is less waterlogged and conditions are right for re-planting – bring on the spring! Here’s to good health and good gardening in 2009!