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16 October 2014
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Winter 2009
John Cushnie On...

Sowing Outdoors
1st April 2009

Patience is undoubtedly a virtue and gardeners need it in large doses. Outdoors we have little control over the elements and while it is essential to wait for the right sowing conditions it is a bore as well as very frustrating. The one piece of comfort on offer is that you seedswill find that waiting those extra few days until the weather and the soil conditions do improve will not seriously affect the time of flowering or harvest. The result will be better germination and sturdy seedlings. On the other hand sowing into cold, wet, lumpy and sticky soil will drastically reduce the number of seeds that germinate.Those that do grow will sulk making little growth until the soil conditions improve.

Ideally the soil will be well cultivated with any large stones and weed roots removed. The surface should be firm but friable without large lumps.Imagine the germinating seed sending out its small, fine roots in one direction and its vulnerable shoot stretching to reach the surface and daylight. Any small obstacle can stop it in its tracks.

Gardeners living in Northern Ireland and Scotland may have to delay sowing for several weeks compared with those living in warmer southern parts of the country.

Avoid walking on uncultivated wet, heavy soil. A compacted soil takes longer to dry out. When ready for sowing the soil should be crumbly with any lumps shattering easily when raked.

At the final raking apply a general purpose, balanced granular fertilizer such as Growmore at 30 grams per square metre and tickle it into the top 2 cm of soil.

Where time allows, leave the prepared soil for a week to allow seedling weeds to germinate and then lightly hoe them off. Disturbing the soil will bring more weed seed to the surface. Sow immediately with the minimum of soil movement.By the time the next batch of weed seeds germinate the seedlings will be well advanced and better able to tolerate the competition.

When sowing seeds in rows try pouring boiling water along the open drill a few minutes before sowing. This will not only kill weed seeds but will warm up the soil.

Sow the seeds thinly to avoid having to space the young plants by removing those close by.

Where a glass or a clear plastic cloche or frame is available to cover and protect the soil, it will dry out and warm up more quickly allowing the sowing dates to be brought forward.

Spring Clean
It has been a long hard winter with lengthy periods when it wasn’t possible to garden. Snow, frost and rain combined to leave the soil unmanageable.

Now we are into spring with long, bright evenings and good working conditions ahead so it is time to catch up on lost time.
The first jobs are those that will bring the garden up to scratch and involve a tidy up and spring clean.

Buds are turning into new soft growth and great care needs to be taken not to damage shoots when working through the beds and around plants.

Herbaceous borders and shrub beds can be raked over to remove debris and weeds. Watch out for seedlings of plants that worth keeping. Plants that spread by suckers and stolons should be curtailed to prevent them becoming dominant and weed-like.

The lawn is ready for a feed. It has had to put up with months of wet, cold ground and a feed of a proprietary lawn food will act as a pick-me-up and add colour to the pale green or yellow grass.
A selective weed killer to eliminate buttercup, daisy, plantain and other troublesome weeds may be given along with the nutrients as a weed and feed application.
Regular cutting will improve the quality of the grass.
The vegetable garden should be a hive of activity with regular sowing of salad crops along with thinning rows of seedlings and transplanting brassicas. Keep on top of the annual weeds such as chickweed that seems to appear overnight.

Support peas and beans before they need it. If you are using old pea sticks make sure they are free from over-wintering disease spores.
Weed around strawberry plants and apply a feed of Growmore at a handful per yard length of plants.

Tidy up loganberries, blackberries and tay berries making sure there are no loose canes to blow about in the wind.

The greenhouse will be bursting at the seams with plants waiting to be planted outside. As you clear space prepare the area for a summer crop of tomatoes, melons, cucumbers or peppers. Hygiene is crucial so remove all debris and diseased leaves. Wash the glass and walls with a fungicide before planting out the new crop.

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