TOPICAL TIPS – 2018

February

Tip 1: My top tip for the whole of February, and indeed any rare dry sunny weather in January as well involves using my most valuable garden tool. – A fine artist’s paintbrush. Anyone who came to either our last garden open weekend on Saturday/Sunday or indeed the committee meeting knows why.  As Mark summarised it, it’s for my sex with Cyclamen encounters. I’ve spent years looking at the early flowering spring bulbs in our garden, and what insects might visit them to pollinate them. And for us, before about the third week in February – and this year it’ll probably be later in the year, there are no bumblebees about. And if you don’t have a honeybee hive in your garden you’re unlikely to have any of them around either. Now lots of bulbs are quite capable of setting seed if they flower early, so long as they get pollinated but if there are no insects around this just won’t happen. So an hour or 2 spent now stooped over with a paintbrush tickling the flowers can result in oodles of viable seeds later in the year. In addition you’re eventually likely to end up with a population of plants – (be they Crocus, Cyclamen coum or even snowdrops – you can use it on all 3 plants) – which will flower earlier and are likely to thrive in your garden’s conditions – compared with bought in plants. If you just rely on later insect population it will probably end up in a population with a much narrower period of flowering. As soon as I spot our first bumblebees, I put the brush away, so you’re not depriving them of any valuable pollen!

Tip 2: It’s still a good time of the year to lift and divide any clumps of snowdrops. This is really the best, and only reliable way to gradually end up with a better display each year. But I would pause if we’re heading into a prolonged dry spell with freezing Easterlies. So maybe for now hold fire and wait until wet weather returns….. I’m sure you won’t have to wait too long, living around here. Plant them singly if you’ve got a big area to cover, and are patient or in 2’s or 3’s about 4 inches apart and 2 inches deep if you’re in more of a hurry to get a small area nicely covered.

 

Tip 3: Donna recommends looking up Charles Dowding’s  no dig methods of growing vegetables – click here


March

Pruning Clematis

It’s probably still OK to cut back any viticellas, orientalis and texensis , and other late flowering clematis that bloom on this year’s growth if you didn’t manage to do it in February, since there’s been so little growth so far this year.

Unpruned Clematis

Green Willow Plant Supports etc

It’s not too late to take willow wands for making green sculptures or plant supports.

Willow Plant Support

Green Willow Path Edging

Hand Pollinate Early Greenhouse/polytunnel Fruit Trees

If you have any nectarines or apricots flowering under cover don’t forget there are very few pollinators around, or certainly any that will make it into a greenhouse or tunnel, unless you have a very nearby honeybee hive. So it’s worth hand pollinating the flowers – use a feather attached to the end of a cane, to reach those high up flowers.

Nectarine Blossom March 2018