So, the bleakness rolled on with an occasional punctuation of teasing sunshine that suggested momentarily that Spring was coming. The races passed almost unscarred with rain at the last, but there was spite in the wind and today it has moved once more to the east. The clocks have changed though and we have more light space. There is much to do and we must proceed with optimism. The seed potatoes can all go in now, no worth in staggering the planting, they will set their own pace (chatted or not). All of the hardy vegetables can be set out (though still not Runner Beans or Marrows, nor any other cucurbit). Salad stuff will also stand out and successions of salad roots can be sown. Sprinkle Radish, beetroot and spring onion between rows of heavier veg, they are not demanding and will all harvest ahead of their bigger neighbours. Tomatoes can be played with. They will be best undercover, but if you are feeling brave try something tough and old fashioned against a fence or wall. We used to put out a variety called ‘First in the Field’ which grew like a weed everywhere and which we always started early. Red Alert is also worth a try (it is always a gamble, but not high risk). Whilst you don’t want to be putting Runner Beans out, you can get the seed started and you can prepare the site for planting. Taking a trench out and back filling with well rotted manure or garden compost is worth the trouble, especially if as last year the season is dry. Organic matter retains moisture and will reduce the early dropping of flowers. On the preparation front, consider the protection of leeks and carrots either by getting organised with a mesh cover or by planting like the salad bits between taller veg. Both of these plants have suffered maggot attack in recent years so diverting or discouraging the fly will help.
It’s also coming up to flower time too. I have just finished planting some new roses and have set out a few hardy bedding plants in the border. Things like Antirrhinums are very hardy and will benefit from an extended growing season.
And finally. The first bedding heralds the changing season and prompts me to pull out my hanging basket for replanting. This is a job that can be tackled early even without constant protection. You just need to watch night temperatures and keep the frost off. If there is a sudden dip bring the thing into the kitchen overnight.
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