When I first started gardening at home my greatest interest was specie crocus, and back in those days they were expensive and difficult to buy.  Today we have a wider range and if you planted plenty in autumn then crocus in creams, yellows, purple, blue and oranges, with snowdrops in pure white will be popping through now in patio containers and sunny flower borders.  To increase your collection you can buy potted bulbs from garden centres that are ready to bloom.  If on the other hand you have crowded clumps of snowdrops that are not producing many flowers then they can be dug up and replanted while they are ‘in the green’.  That is, after you have enjoyed the flowers, dig new holes for planting and improve the drainage of the soil with sharp sand or grit.  Leave enough room between each bulb so that the bulbs have room to swell and feed with a liquid plant food every week while the plants retain their foliage.

Buying almost fully grown plants in early summer ready to plant out in patio pots, hanging baskets and garden borders is not the cheapest way of buying bedding plants.  The trend nowadays is to buy seedlings or plug plants early in the new year and to grow these plants on until they are ready to plant out.  In this way you get a wider choice of colours and various varieties to choose from.  Your garden centre will have plenty of these tiny seedlings and plantlets to choose from in February and March or you can order them from a catalogue or the internet to get an even wider selection and maybe something a bit different.

When buying plug plants, remember they are individual seedlings or rooted cuttings that have been grown for a short time in tiny cells of top quality compost and just need more room and vital nutrients for roots and stems to grow into large plants, ready to flower in pots and hanging baskets.  Kinder Garden Plants are sold in trays of 20 cells all ideal for garden beds, containers and hanging baskets.  You will find single veined pink, red and mauve Petunia called Reflections and frilly double flowers of white and mixed colours in the Petunia Pirouette strain.  Favourite for me are the Hot ‘n’ Spicy Geraniums that come in pink, salmon and red shades.  Last year they flowered till nearly Christmas on my balcony.

This can be a cold month so watch the weather carefully.  You can always tune into my Saturday Gardening Phone-in on BBC Essex as at 9.45am we have the Gardening Weather for 5 days ahead, and if its turning nasty, wrap up delicate patio pots such as fig trees (Brown Turkey) in an extra layer of fleece to protect the fruits that set last year.  Keeping off the worst of the frosts will ensure these swell during the summer to provide tasty fruits.  Remember, before fruit trees and bushes burst into flower, dress the soil around the roots with a Controlled Release Plant Food or Osmocote granules.  Just a few handfuls to cover the area of the spreading branches is sufficient to feed these plants for the rest of the season.  After application, dig the plant food into the top few centimetres of soil and then mulch the area which will retain moisture in the soil and if a sufficient depth is achieved will also help to suppress weed growth.

If you like to try new varieties then Suttons Seeds have a new and exclusive tomato for 2012 called F1 Lizzano ‘The Tomato Bush’.  Not only is it ideal for small gardens and patios, it is great for beginners too as no pinching is required.  In fact this tasty tomato can be left to grow as a bush!  It produces masses of cherry type tomatoes and grows well in containers or borders.  Not only that, it has resistance to Tomato Blight too!!  Definitely sounds like one to try in 2012.  For you keen cooks and Italian food fans, Suttons have launched a seed collection under their Italian Kitchen brand.  It includes Tomato ‘Pomodoro Ciliega’, Melon Rugosa di Cosenza Giallo’ and Pepper ‘Corno di Toro Rosso’.  There are also traditional varieties of several herbs included.  Among them basil, rocket, fennel, mixed salad leaves, and several lettuces.  All very exotic and great to interest kids who delight in growing their own foods.

Ken Crowther

Posted in Gardening, Gardening with Ken By Stuart Elsom On 23rd January 2012

I will have to try some Lizzano, I have tried (and failed) before so if it’s good for beginners and produces a high yield then it suits me!

Barbara Wilde posted on 24th January 2012

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