Gardeners have lots to smile about

Award-winning onions.
Award-winning onions.
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You can easily tell the year-round gardeners as winter weather begins to take hold – they are the ones with smiles on their faces.

Not for them the idea that things horticultural are not worth considering until springtime, they are deep into the planning and action that makes this such a therapeutic pastime.

Typical of this are the people who grow big onions for shows.

Way back in the autumn, as top exhibitors were staging their giants, they were already sowing the seed for 2014.

As we entered the final days of December 2013, one local showman already had onions growing on in five-inch pots.

Granted, they need modest warmth and supplementary lighting to encourage such early development but what a flying start!

This does not mean that sowing the seeds of big onions on Boxing Day as tradition dictates, slightly later if necessary, does not work.

With a proven breed, well-prepared bed and good cultivation, you can still make it.

Some of the onions that will win our local shows might not even be sown yet – but don’t wait too long.

I start them in loam-based seed compost which can be bought pre-packed in the form of John Innes, but it can be home-made using your own loam and a base fertiliser.

The benefit is that soil is a good bulking agent that retains moisture well.

Transferring the seedlings into an equivalent potting medium ensures they have a substantial start in life.

Continuity is maintained by keen gardeners in various ways.

While young leeks and onions are already showing potential for the year ahead, some growers will have chosen their 2013 prize-winning specimens for seed production with 2015 shows in mind. It is never ending!

If, as we are constantly reminded, a mere 2 per cent of the nation’s gardeners actually enter their produce in a local show, you have to ask what millions of others are up to at present.

If this garden is anything to go by, the answer could be – almost everything.

Outdoor activity can be governed by the weather but if it’s dry overhead, several things are possible between 10am and 2pm – the best part of a winter day in my book.

Frosty mornings are ideal for construction jobs and access to the borders, where relevant shrubs or fruit trees can be pruned without harming the soil structure.

This is an ideal time to prune the apples.

Mild weather days were made for digging, mulching, dividing clumps of herbaceous perennials and relocating shrubs that have outgrown an allotted space.

Introducing new plants is ever possible, frost permitting, from now until a hint of spring fills the air.

This encourages us to visit the garden centre at least twice a month to find attractive seasonal plants for the borders, and achieve year-round colour.