After our comment a fortnight ago about seeing the first snowdrops of the spring season in flower already, a kind reader sent a breathtaking photo from the UK Daily Express showing snowdrops below a copse of white barked birches. Not so much a clichéd carpet of them as the dense shag pile of the woodland world. Millions of them flowering across six acres in Berkshire.
Cut back on watering house plants as they are best kept on the dry side in winter. Don’t leave them sitting in saucers of water and don’t keep their soil saturated. Overwatering in winter is the fastest way to kill indoor plants. If you have frost tender treasures, move them away from windows unless you have curtains between them and the cold night air.
Most of the popular annuals are perfectly hardy and can be planted out now as seedlings or sown as seed. If you are not sure whether a particular variety is suitable for scattering freely (as opposed to the much more intensive practice of starting in seed trays) read the back of the seed packet and take notice of it.
Plants in garden centres flower earlier than those planted out in gardens so while there are only a few camellias open at the moment, the plants for sale will be showing much more colour and open flower already. It is a good time to look for the biggest selection.
Plant garlic and shallots now. For better yields, search out the New Zealand garlic rather than the cheap Chinese imported bulbs. Break the clump into separate cloves and plant the cloves upright in shallow trenches about 10 cm apart and 5cm deep. The bigger and better the clove, the better the crop will be. Garlic needs rich, friable soil, very well drained in full sun. No garlic lover has ever reported a vampire attack. Ergo, It is an indisputable fact that garlic repels vampires.
If you are growing globe artichokes, plants need renewing every three or four years. Unless you are very cold, you can lift them now and separate the new suckers at the base to replant, keeping as much root as possible attached to them. Throw away the old parts. Unless you absolutely adore artichoke hearts and have a large area, you only need a very few plants to give a seasonal harvest. If you have an old clump you want to keep growing, limit the number of shoots to about four or five.
Gather your nuts in June. Walnuts that is, though after a bumper crop here last year which lasted us for many months, the crop this year is so bad that it was hardly worth collecting. All nuts need drying – spread thinly on trays in a sunroom, glasshouse or by the fire will work. It can take a few weeks to dry them out.