Colin Evans Garden Tips
Colin challenges Berkshire residents to grow their own salad leaves and vegetables to get off to a good start in 2009. Also, the best blackberry plants to turn a neglected area of your garden into a fruit plot.
If your garden is anything like mine then it will be difficult to get on with anything other than in the greenhouse or the potting shed as the ground is still very cold and in some places, icy.
The Conference pear tree in my garden has now been pruned and is looking rather good as I have done the usual and removed a good third of the new growth and opened up the centre.
Pear tree orchard
January and February are the best time to prune pear trees, and if you have a compost heap then shredding the debris will make good compost to use on borders in late autumn.
Trees planted now will benefit from being in the ground once the weather turns warmer, although, if the ground conditions are too wet or frosted then best left until conditions improve. The are still some good bargains to be had at the garden centre so get the trees purchased anyway to make the most of winter offers.
Some time ago I talked about the value of turning a piece of the garden into a fruit plot. At the time, I suggested blackberries and recommended a particular variety I thought worth a try. Since then a number of you have asked to be reminded of what I said at the time so I make no topologies for making this particular soft fruit my plant of the week again.
BLACKBERRY "Loch Maree" is an impressive new variety from the Loch range of berried canes.
This fantastic new variety is not only an early cropper with an excellent flavour, but is also the first to have unique double pink flowers on its thorn less stems. Grown in the open ground this new blackberry will do well provided the soil is freely draining.
For those of you with smaller gardens or balconies "Loch Marre" will grow well in terracotta pots if well fed with rose or tomato feed and will provide sweet and juicy fruit over an extended period.
Most of us are keen on growing our own vegetables this year and the types and varieties are endless as the nursery growers have come up with some great new varieties, as well as improving the tried and tested ones. My favourites are the easiest and toughest species that grow well in most conditions and reward us with a fair old crop during the early summer.
If you are sitting in the warmth and planning this seasons crops then runner beans grown in the open ground or in plastic and stone pots have to be the most widely grown vegetable.
There are many varieties but I tend to grow the White flowering types as the birds seem to leave them alone.
"White Lady" will stand growing in hot weather and produces long string less beans. If you find the white flowers a bit stark then plant Sweet peas next to them to add colour as well as attracting the pollinating insects which will pollinate the runners as well.
I just love salad of all kinds and am just as content eating them even in the winter, although most of us like to grow them in the spring and summer. Salads to my mind are not complete without the inclusion of beetroot and crimson globe, which has proved to be one of the best both for yield and flavour.
Sow from seed at the end of April if the conditions are mild and germination will be quick although if conditions are cold then beetroot can be sown later.
Firm the seeds well into the soil and make sure they do not dry out during the early stages of growth and you should be enjoying lovely crimson roots during the summer either fresh from the garden or soaked in vinegar. Eaten hot with roast beef and
No salad would be complete without lettuce. This has to be one of the most versatile salad vegetables you will ever grow in your garden and the varieties are endless and I defy anybody not to be able to grow them as they are pretty easy both inside and outside the greenhouse.
The biggest enemies are slugs and fungal diseases so if you are in doubt then sow seeds at the end of May or into June when conditions will be just right.
"Buttercrunch" is one I always grow and have no trouble getting a good crop of solid hearts form. This small compact lettuce has dark green heads with a crisp and crunchy bite.
The sweet buttery hearts are just right with any salad dish, and "buttercrunch" is slow to bolt which gives it a long growing season.
last updated: 30/01/2009 at 14:40
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