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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



Winter Weather.

We seem to be getting more and more severe storms these days, so from time to time I have to attend to my various fruit trees and vines making sure that they are kept secure. After one particular storm that we had recently I spent several hours tying in Vines and replacing posts that had come loose. My two Kiwi vines, both self fertile, the normal sized Jenny and the miniature fruiting, Issai, hadn’t suffered, but the Akebia Quinata, or Sausage Vine, needed tying back in, so I replaced a couple of the broken Bamboo canes supporting it with some Hazel Rods that my brother had given me. A few weeks ago I planted a second root that my Brother had also given me when he was re-arranging part of his garden. When I planted the original I didn’t realise that you need 2 plants to Cross Pollinate each other in order to get fruit, so hopefully, when the new plant settles in, I might get to taste its unusual, “Sausage,” shaped fruit. The Schisandra and Cinnamon Vines were still secure, but I did save many of the unusual, round, seed like, Bulbils from the Cinnamon vine as I cleared up the dead foliage. One of the posts supporting my
Black Raspberry had started to rot and come loose, so that had to be replaced and I had to tie back in the long, prickly, arching stems that will fruit next season while cutting out the old ones. One stem had got so long though it was touching the ground and had started to root in, so that was cut off and potted as a “Freebee.” The large fruited Black Berry, which I have trained against some trellis, isn’t a vine either, but it needed some attention to its supporting structure as well. I am never sure of the best way to grow Black Berries because in fields and hedges they just grow unsupported as rampant bushes, but they seem to grow happily enough against an open fence, or trellis, with a bit of regular tying in. It is certainly one way to keep them under control with all their sharp thorns, although the “Thornless,” varieties are much easier to handle.

My Cape Gooseberries gave the best crop ever this year with punnet after punnet of their lovely, but tangy, bright orange berries. Normally, the berries will stay on the plants and continue ripening, even after the first frosts have killed the foliage, but this year we had one, or two particularly sharp, early frosts, that spoilt the berries even though they were inside their paper cases. The paper cases will hold off a light frost, but this season, by mid December, the berries had gone mushy, so I just cleared the lot up. If you don’t clear up the Berries that have dropped though, you will normally find that Seedlings will germinate the next year where they dropped. These will develop into normal plants, but will usually be too late to grow to full size before the end of the season. Cape Gooseberries need a long growing Season and should be among the first Seeds to be sown in February, in warm conditions such as on your Kitchen Windowsill.

Most of December was spent doing odd little maintenance jobs around my Plot, but at the end of December I did sow some Onion Seeds in the warm, on my Kitchen Windowsill. I don’t know that they really needed that much warmth to germinate though, but they did come up quickly and have been growing nicely looking like a pot full of grass. I guess it won’t be long before I can prick them out individually into “Cells,” in a Modular Tray to grow on a bit until the weather looks better.
At the end of January I will start thinking about more Seed Sowing with it being the right time for Parsley, Cape Gooseberry’s, Rhubarb and Asparagus. Another job that I will be doing in my Greenhouse is planting self grown Tubers of Jerusalem Artichokes and Oca that have been over wintering outside in the ground on my Plot. I didn’t do them earlier, (although you normally would) because they would have germinated too quickly and been too big by the time our Fundraiser plant Sale comes round in May.
With the warmth of my Greenhouse, the Yacon Crowns, that I planted at the start of Winter, are starting to shoot. If they grow too fast though I will need to move them outside on the warmer days to slow them down, but I will have to remember to bring them back in each night as they are quite tender. This is a simple trick that you can do with many plants if you need to hold them back for any reason. Commercially, growers use cold storage containers when growing certain plants for things like Chelsea Flower Show and they also control light levels on their plants sometimes. They do this to get Poinsettias in colour for Christmas otherwise they will naturally colour up after Xmas, in early Spring.
Most people simply throw away their Poinsettias after Christmas, but if you want to keep them and grow them on for another Christmas you will need to keep them, moist at all times, but not standing in water, and at a steady and warm temperature. From September onwards you will also need to control the light level, like professional growers do, which is not as difficult as you might think, although it is a little bit fiddly. For about 8-10 weeks before you want them to flower, the plants will need short days of less than 12 hours light each day. You can do this by keeping them in a darkened room and keep opening and closing the curtains, or you can do it by regularly covering the plants.

Most people don’t realise just how tough ordinary Chrysanthemums are as long as they are kept on the dry side and don’t get too wet. Even in a cold Greenhouse mine will start shooting very soon and I will be able to take some cuttings from the fresh, new, growth. You can replant the old “Stools,” each year, but this may lead to disease, so most people take cuttings from the old plants, early, each Spring. I am hoping to root and grow a number of young plants like this so that they can be offered for sale in our May Fundraiser. That is about the same time that you can buy young Chrysanthemum Plants by Mail Order, or perhaps these days I should say, over the Internet.
At the end of January I will pick a time when we are forecast to have a few nicer days and I will sow my Parsnip Seed directly in the ground, outside, on my plot. I will pick a spot that hasn’t been freshly Manured, that is free of Stones and that has been dug quite deeply. All of these things will help to prevent them from developing “Forked ,” roots. From experience, I will also use fresh seed as well because the germination of Parsnips can be erratic at the best of times.

When Winter comes many people have plants that need protection from the occasional frosty nights and snowy days that we sometimes get. For some the answer is a shed where they can store their Dahlias quite safely in the dark. For others though, they have plants that need a bit more light like Cannas and tender Palms, along with Orange and Lemon Trees, that may be in large pots. These plants all need light throughout the Winter Months even though they are not really growing properly. Oranges and Lemons in particular will suffer without enough light and that is where a lot of people go wrong when they keep them in their centrally heated houses thinking that it is the best place for them. A cool and light Greenhouse that is kept frost free is a far better winter home for them. However, many are put off by the supposed cost of heating a Greenhouse, but it need not be as much as you might think. Obviously putting up Bubble Polythene insulation is a great idea, but you only need to put a heater on, when a sharp frost is actually forecast. Keeping an eye on the weather forecast will mean that for the majority of nights the heater need not be turned on at all. I was told a long time ago that, “A greenhouse will keep out 5 degrees Fahrenheit of frost,” and insulation will greatly increase that figure. So, the actual nights that a heater even needs to be turned on are few and far between except in all but the coldest of weather. Another little gem that I was told was that, “For every 5 Degrees Fahrenheit that you raise the temperature, you double the heating energy requirements and therefore the cost.” This may not be true these days as Greenhouses are much better built and less draughty, but it does show the need to keep the temperature setting on your heater as low as possible. Most decent heaters have what is called a “Frost Setting,” that is pre-set to make the heater come on just as the temperature starts falling to dangerous levels. There really is no need for most over wintering plants to have the Greenhouse any warmer and certainly no need to have it as warm as your house.

To convince myself of the energy requirements of turning up the heat, one cold day I turned the heating down in my House by just 1½ Degrees Centigrade. I left the temperature down for the 2, or 3 cold days and nights that we had a few weeks ago and reckon that I saved over £1 a day according to the “Smart Meter,” set up in my Lounge. I think that this reinforces just how important it is not try to have the Greenhouse too warm. For most of the more tender plants that many of us grow, it is a combination of cold and wet that really kills them and most people would be surprised at just how low many of their tender plants will survive as long as they are kept on the dry side with the exception of Citrus and Cannas that both need a little winter moisture. You only need to think of some of the exotic plants that grow in the arid conditions of Middle Eastern Countries and the low night time temperatures that they can get at times.
Still, it won’t be long now and the Sun will start getting a bit more warmth in it and Spring will follow.


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