FARMING: Catalogue advice and growing tasty treats

Hippeastrum - start growth off now, says Tom.Hippeastrum - start growth off now, says Tom.
Hippeastrum - start growth off now, says Tom.
Here we go with lockdown again, but at least we`ve had some practice in coping with the gardening aspect of it! Last time the prospect of warm summer weather and home-based outdoor activities appeared on the horizon, but now we`re facing whatever winter offers.

We clearly need a plan B for under cover gardening activities when the weather plays up.

For the sake of a phone call, postage stamp or email, a diversity of seed and plant catalogues could be winging their way to you. And you don`t necessarily have to order anything from them. It`s the information they contain on varieties, cultural details and the like that make them a virtual

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library of entertainment. Relax, thumb through them and dream!

Potted plants have long been known to contribute positively to our wellbeing in offices and homes, not least by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and enriching the oxygen content. Nor should the challenge of growing them and the thrill of a successful outcome be underestimated. Access a ready-planted bowl of hyacinths, watch them develop daily and think of the eventual fragrance. Buy a hippeastrum bulb complete with container and compost in a presentation box. Nurture it into life and marvel at the flower spike advancing skyward daily, then terminating in a cluster of large, trumpet-like flowers.

Grow something tasty to mix in a fresh salad or stir-fry and do it in double quick time. With one week between sowing and harvesting it offers instant success. This is a wonderful way of introducing younger family members to the cultivation of edible plants.

Look for the sprouting seed section in Suttons catalogue and you`ll find old favourites mung bean, alfalfa, and spicey fenugreek. They suggest sowing them on wet tissue or flannel, but I`ve always used a large glass jar with a mesh cover held in place by a rubber band. Soak the seeds, drain water off and place in the warm, dark airing cupboard. Inspect them daily and enjoy!

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Save the pips, seeds, stones, and tops of fruit bought in the weekly shopping and encourage them to germinate on the kitchen windowsill. Try planting citrus pips, apple seeds and date stones. Put cocktail sticks into the side of an avocado stone, suspend it over a glass of water and watch it grow.

A pineapple top will root in a pot of compost, and peanuts will germinate when

planted in their shells!

Lockdown has come in the middle of nature`s planting time but thankfully, garden centres remain open at the time of writing so I`m grasping the chance to hand pick and introduce more perennials. Dormancy has arrived making it possible to lift and divide up any spreading herbaceous perennials. Ornamental shrubs that have outgrown their allotted space can also be dug up and relocated. There are perennial weeds to remove and in the absence of rain we can lightly fork over the soil between plants. This raises the overall profile, and when followed by a dressing of slow-release fertiliser and organic mulch, the borders are set up for next spring.

It`s time to reconstitute the lawn edges with a garden line and half-moon turfing blade. This gives a crispness to the garden. Other autumn maintenance activities, including raking, aerating, top-dressing, and turf-laying, can follow in the absence of frost and in keeping with your grass management persuasion.

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Leaves are still clinging onto some of our key deciduous trees and shrubs, so any necessary pruning can wait until they`ve all fallen. There are also spring bulbs to plant, some in the garden others in containers. Recent gardening priorities led us to ignore the group of bulbs purchased some weeks ago, but there`s still plenty of time to plant them. They`re clearly better off in

the soil even if the late call delays flowering.

We`ve set up the outdoor feeding stations and water supplies ostensibly to help the birds through winter but it also provides live entertainment. Whatever the coming weeks have in store we`re maintaining regular visual contact with the flora and fauna in our garden because it inspires joy!

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