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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


Plough Field Allotments at Amerton

Gardening Tips
By Mrs FM

Unusual & Old
Fashioned Fruit

Herbs & Other
Edible Plants.

Environmental Issues And Going Green.

Vines And Other Climbing Plants.

Fish Ponds

Books By
Alan J Hartley



Jobs For Winter.

In the last year, or two, environmental issues have become more and more important to more and more people. In particular the idea that we need to plant trees, in great numbers, to replace those that have been, and continue to be, cut down, has been hitting all the headlines and even the politicians are making great promises of tree planting efforts. However, a tree planting campaign is nothing new as I remember that we had one back when I was a teenager living on my mom and dads Garden Centre. Back then, the campaign here in the UK was launched as “Plant A Tree, In 73.” This was of course 1973 and although they tried to keep the initial momentum going by adding, “Plant one more in 74,” the campaign rapidly faded and I don’t know that very much really happened. It certainly didn’t do much to change our attitudes to trees as deforestation everywhere seems to have continued at an ever increasing pace ever since.

Now however, is the ideal time to plant trees as long as the ground is not actually frozen. This time of year you can buy and plant “Bare Root,” trees far more cheaply than potted ones. Not many normal retail outlets have much of a selection of “Bare Root Trees,” though these days, but “On Line,” retailers offer a quite bewildering array that are easily found if you browse the Internet. For some, even the price of a “Bare Root Tree,” might seem too much to pay and there are alternative ways of getting trees. Few trees grow easily from cuttings with the exception Willows that will readily root in a jug full of water, but you can often find self rooted stems on Hazel, Fig and Elderberry trees to name but a few. Friends who have trees already may be able to provide you with this type of young tree. Another cheap method of obtaining trees is to grow them from seed. Most trees will take several years from seed before they even begin to look like trees, but you will get a number of seedlings out of each packet and for a couple of pounds a packet who can complain. However, you don’t even have to buy packets of seeds to grow many native trees and bushes as you can simply collect the seeds from nature. That doesn’t mean raiding Arboretums, gardens, or even parks to collect seeds, but it should be alright to collect a few from hedgerows. All kids like planting Acorns and Horse Chestnuts, and Pine cones are often collected by children, but usually they lose most of their seeds before you can get at them. Unfortunately many of these native trees will grow into big trees that are only really suited for fields and stately homes. The same is true of winged Sycamore seeds and Beech nuts, but some trees like Rowans, that are also quite common, make a lovely small tree for a garden with their berries for the wildlife, scented blossom and small, attractive leaves. Hawthorns are another under rated tree with their lovely white blossom and colourful red berries. They are usually seen only in hedges as there are not many stand alone trees grown, but if allowed to grow, they will also develop into a useful, small tree. You can get cultivated red flowered varieties of them the same as with Horse Chestnut and again cultivated varieties of the lovely, small, Elderberry are sometimes offered for sale with dark purple leaves, but there is no need to go to the expense really as the native trees have their attractions just fine. Laurel will also grow from its blue/black berries quite easily and again you sometimes find that low growing shoots will have rooted down into the ground. Symphoricarpos albus, or The Snowberry bush is not really a tree, but a bush that is often grown in hedges and it has lovely white, soft berries. Recently I picked a few berries from a hedge in a public car park. Hopefully these will germinate in their pots next spring after a winters cold on them outside in my cold frame to stratify them in the same way that most native trees and bushes need a cold spell before they will germinate.

Apart from tree seed sowing, January is too early for most seeds to go in, but it is time to think about some other types of planting. In the coming days I will be potting up some of the edible “Oca,” Tubers, or Oxalis to give it its proper name. It is a large, cultivated variety of clover, or shamrock, but I have also got a lovely, non edible, ornamental, pot plant, type version - the red leafed Oxalis Triangularis Purpurea and another hardy type that can go in the garden with a “Bullseye,” design on its leaves. I also have a little, hardy, alpine Oxalis that I grew from seed which has nice yellow flowers in late summer and occasionally you can see other small varieties with red and yellow funnel shaped flowers offered for sale.
Apart from these I will be potting up some Jerusalem Artichokes to start them off ready to donate, to a local charity where I work, in the spring. The Artichokes will happily stay outside, but the Oca will need to go in my cold greenhouse for a little shelter.
After all the trouble I had getting my Broad Bean seeds they didn’t germinate very well with only half dozen out of each batch of a couple of dozen seeds actually shooting. Sometimes in the past I have started them off in pots and I think this time I should have done that as it has been just too wet for them and they must have rotted in the ground. Consequently I will have to re-sow in early Spring.

Elsewhere on my plot I have been collecting the last of the leaves and mixing them in with other rubbish in my compost heap, but they are best composted separately though as take longer than most types of rubbish to rot. Also added to the pile were all of the undeveloped Figs that were carefully picked from my Fig trees. The experts used to say that you should leave them on the trees to give next years crop, but nowadays they all advise removing them, or else they will get frosted, damaged and prevent new Figs developing from the replacement buds, next season.

With winter really upon us now I bought some Horticultural Fleece to wrap round my almost hardy Callistemon, or Bottle Brush. It is an evergreen with fancy, delicate, red flowers shaped as its name suggests, like a bottle brush. It will stand some cold, but was cut back badly by the frosts when it was first planted the other year and only a tiny twig survived. It is coming back well now though, so I am going to give it some protection before the worst of Winter comes
Also at home my two different, small Eucalyptus trees one of which is Gunnii, and the other an unknown large leafed type that I also grew from seed, should be happy outside, but I took the one called “Lemon Bush,” into my greenhouse with my citrus and tender palms in the hopes that I can keep it alive.
In preparation for the really coldest nights still to come, I have dug out and checked my old electric fan heater and bought an extension cable to run out from the house to give me power. It will probably cost a couple of pounds to run on each cold night, but I think it will be worth it as the plants would cost a lot to replace. Now that December is gone and we have had the shortest day, we should start getting more light into the greenhouse. That in itself will make things a bit warmer in there until the weather breaks and spring arrives.


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