In the Garden: January 21, 2011

Dry bulbs can still be planted

Dry bulbs can still be planted

• Saturaid or Crystal Rain can look like a good idea at this time of the year. These products generally resemble rock salt crystals when dry but absorb large quantities of water, expanding and changing to chopped jelly in appearance. Use them for hanging baskets, potted annuals or short term potted vegetables. Don’t make the mistake of using them in the garden. While they look appealing at this dry time of the year, with our high rainfall, for ten months of the year they will hold water and ensure that our free draining soils become water logged. Once you have them in the soil, they will stay for years. Longer term container plants don’t want to be kept waterlogged in winter either. So restrict their use.

• However, I am told that these water retention crystals can be very good on lawns which dry out badly over summer and turn brown. I have yet to try this myself but I will in a couple of small problem areas. Carol at my local garden centre says that scattered lightly on the lawn, they have proven very effective and there is good logic to that but be sparing in the quantity used.

• Summer prune cherry trees.

• We have pretty much stopped planting any ornamentals here now until we get significant amounts of rain. If you insist on continuing to plant, you must water well before, during and after the planting process and continuing to water over the next weeks. With water restrictions being imposed in much of our area, it is better to delay all but vegetable planting.

• You can plant dry bulbs and leave them for nature to take its course though garden centres will not generally get any of the new season’s bulbs in stock until the start of February.

• If you grow your own vegetables from seed, you should be getting onto sowing winter vegetables – brassicas, parsnip, carrots, winter spinach and lettuce, leeks and celery. If you are going to buy plants, you have plenty of time. However, starting from seed will save money and give you extra to share.

• This does not apply to Brussel sprouts which must be planted immediately, using young plants, if you are to get a crop through. They have a longer growing season and need to be big, strong plants by winter. This is assuming you eat these gourmet baby cabbages, as we do.

• The food pages of our local paper had a piece tea this week. You may be interested to know that you can grow the tea camellia easily here, as long as you do not get very heavy frosts. What is more, it is sometimes available to buy. Look for Camellia sinensis. Mark brewed the best tea from ours when he bruised the leaves and left them to ferment slightly for 24 hours – apparently closer to Oolong tea. Our home grown product has not replaced our favoured Earl Grey but it is not a bad substitute for those in search of self sufficiency or those who love the freshest of green tea.