Gardening in winter
The wind is howling, roof tiles rattling and the rain is beating against the window. We’re not halfway through January and spring seems a long way off.
Here on the west coast, although there’s been no snow to speak of, we’ve had several storms, fog, heavy frost and huge hailstorms; but out there in the garden, some brave little roses are still hanging desperately onto their stems. It’s an inspiring sight.
At the beginning of this week, John and I managed to plant around 40 tulip bulbs that should have gone into the ground, at the latest, last December. But with family about to descend on us from the north, and overseas, for Christmas, it was just one job too many – so they lay in their box until last Monday.
It was a crisp, sunny day and I was consumed with guilt about denying them their chance to flourish in the border. Wellies were dug out of the cupboard, jackets, hats & gloves – and out we went. Oh my…it was cold, but the job was quickly done. Tulips are best planted late in the year, as that is when they start putting down roots. The cold weather helps to destroy any disease that could be in the soil, and might infect the bulbs. But this was too late, though I’m still hopeful that we’ll see shoots starting to appear in a few months.
I don’t mind venturing into the garden on cold days – as long as the sun in shining brightly – but please don’t ask me to out there on bleak, dark winter days. It’s one of those days right now, and I’m gardening – from the cozy comfort of the armchair. My computer chair to be exact.
I’ve flicked through brochures that have popped through the letterbox, browsed online and dreamed of beds of colourful flowers, swaying in a warm gentle breeze – but in reality there’s a lot of work to be done to achieve that. Seeds, bulbs and plants will have to be ordered. In the middle of winter it’s a pleasure to be able to linger over pages filled with enticing plants. What shall I order…
Last year’s winner
Top of the shopping list will have to be tomatoes. Last year was our first-ever attempt at growing tomatoes, and we will definitely plant them again in 2015. When we started harvesting the cherry varieties, I placed a bowl on the breakfast bar, and we just picked at them during the day. Better than a box of chocolates. Seriously. If you haven’t tasted home-grown tomatoes, buy a big tub and grow at least one plant to try them out.
To be truthful, the fact that we had such a good and tasty crop happened by luck rather than design. Talking to our friend Bill (who knows all about growing tomatoes – and more) in Church one day, he mentioned that you have to remove shoots that grow in leaf joints, and when your plant has produced four sets of flowering trusses, pinch out the growing tip. Well, that didn’t happen until it was probably too late. But somehow the plants survived just about every mistake you should make with tomatoes. I think that this year we might not be so lucky, and I need to brush up on tomato-growing techniques.
The tulips that we have just planted might not be as forgiving as the tomatoes, we’ll find that out in the spring. We’ve planted Brandy Snap Tulip Mix – described as “beautiful vintage silk, smoky, sophisticated colours which reign supreme “ and Tapestry Tulip Collection “soft vintage silk, faded colours”. Descriptions that could cause the most macho gardener to swoon. 🙂 Will they be as lovely as their description? As with all things in the garden – time will tell.
Meantime, I must get back to ordering some seeds. But before I go I need to tell you of a really cool tip that I read recently about how to organise your seed planting. Packets of seeds tend to find their way into various corners of my desk, some forgotten until way past their planting date (a bit like the tulips), and then there is a mad rush to get them in the soil.
Get a simple small box, card index size, in fact an old-fashioned card index box with dividers is ideal. Mark your planting weeks on the index cards and slot your seeds into the box. For seeds that you need to plant successively, this is ideal. Once you have made your first planting, just move your seed packet back two or three weeks, ready for the next sowing. Brilliant.
Planning from the armchair
What a fun way to garden…dreaming, plotting, planning…from the armchair. What will you grow in 2015?