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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

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Alan J Hartley



Seed Sowing In Earnest.

The end of February is, I think, the time to start seed sowing in earnest. Most of the vegetable seed packets may say early March onwards, but with the changing seasons and milder Winters, the Spring seems to be getting a bit earlier all the time.
Some of the more unusual seeds that I have sown this year include seeds of Asian Pears from some fruit my brother bought at a supermarket a few weeks before Christmas. They will get to be big trees as they are obviously not grafted like most commercially grown fruit trees, but they will still look nice in the right place and will fruit eventually. Oak Tree Farm Rural Project has one that I grew from seed 3, or 4 years ago. The top was cut off at about 8 feet, but it is still making a nice tree with the strange way that some branches grow at funny angles. One of the trees I moved from garden up to my allotment was a grafted Asian Pear, if it takes after its rough move. That has fruited in the past with delightful, small, round Pears that weren’t the slightest bit “Gritty.” Quite different from a normal Pear and much more like a crisp, extremely mouth wateringly juicy Apple to eat.

One, or two Internet companies specialise in tree seeds and whilst you don’t usually get many seeds in a packet that can be more expensive than a normal packet of seeds, it still works out a lot cheaper than buying just one tree. For the price of one tree bought at a garden centre, you might get 10 packets containing half a dozen seeds each. Obviously you won’t get instant fruit and will have to wait quite a few years, but what a difference in cost! Some tree seeds will come up very quickly in the warmth of a house and others may take months. However, you can find varieties that you will never be able to buy as ready grown trees.
With Oak Tree Farm in mind I have also sown some stones out of some Yellow Gage Plums, but only one has come up so far. Before Christmas I bought some Sweet Chestnut from a shop and they seem to be coming up nicely now.

Some seeds need “Stratifying,” or chilling for a week, or two to break their dormancy. Putting the packets into an ordinary Fridge usually works. There are other tricks that gardeners employ to get tough seeds to germinate. For instance it is traditional to make a little nick with a sharp knife in the hard coating, on Sweet Pea seeds and Mom always used to pour boiling water over Parsley seeds. Mom also used to soak her Eucalyptus seeds in boiling water, but the packet says differently and that they should be stratified.

Oak Tree wanted me to grow some trees, so along with the others, I put in a packet of Eucalyptus seeds. Obviously they are not really the thing for an allotment, but they are fun for the garden. Most can be cut down quite hard if they start getting too big, but not weeping varieties obviously. Do be aware that some types are not frost hardy and even the best can succumb in very bad winters. Gunnii is probably the most popular and is one of the hardiest varieties. However, there are some tender ones that have a strong scent and are nice for a bright bathroom, or kitchen. Mom did have a lovely Lemon scented one that I did from seed for the house, before I killed it in the cold Greenhouse one Winter.

Surprisingly some of the seasons first seeds to sow to produce plants for kitchen use are more tender ones such as; Tomatoes for indoor growing, (with the outdoor sown later,) Melons and Cape Gooseberries. Of the hardier plants, it is time to be thinking about sowing things like Spring Onions, although I don’t usually bother with them as I have got some bunches of the “Everlasting,” “Welsh,” onions. 

My Parsley plants did well last year, but I kept forgetting to cut them and they went to seed. I cut them down hard late in the year, but they didn’t re-grow, However, I found a couple of self-set plants on my plot that had come up from some compost that had been chucked out, so those are a bonus. I put some seed in last month that is only just starting to come up. Parsley has a reputation for being a tricky.

As usual I am sowing as many seeds as I can into Modular Trays to make less pricking out which is also better for the roots as well with less disturbance. Things like beans and sweet peas need deeper pots though. You can buy peat pots that you just sow directly into before planting out complete into the ground with no root disturbance at all and they are especially good for Sweet Peas. You can also sometimes get compressed peat pots that expand when you wet them. The idea is to plant these into the ground completely as well, but they do have a fine plastic mesh that will stay in the soil. Of course the old environmentally friendly idea is to use spent cardboard toilet rolls as deep pots because they will simply rot in the ground.

Every Spring there seems to be a bigger range of pre-germinated trays of seedlings - both flowers and vegetables, available in the Garden Centres with ideas changing all the time about how to grow things. The old idea that you can’t transplant any root vegetable is not really true and these days you sometimes see some on sale in trays. Perhaps it is still true for Parsnips and Carrots, as the roots tend to fork with disturbance, but the likes of beetroot, Swede and turnip are o.k. Indeed, last season, one plot-holder tried transplanting a batch of beetroot seedlings that were too close together and he was quite successful.
It will soon be time to plant other things like Onion sets and Potatoes as March approaches.


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