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DIG deep and carry on. That’s the message from The Sun’s legendary gardening expert Peter Seabrook.
In Day Three of our series to transform your home and life, Peter explains what we can be doing in our gardens, allotments and window boxes during lockdown.
The Sun’s gardening expert Peter Seabrook shares his top tipsCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
Peter said: “Time spent in the fresh air doing a little gardening every day will make you feel and be so much healthier. An hour or so digging will use pretty well every muscle, get the blood circulating, clear the head, improve your appetite and help you get a good night’s sleep.
“Additionally, your plot will look a million dollars and be so much more productive as a result through the coming seasons.”
Here are his task tips . . .
Here’s what to do in your garden, allotment or window boxCredit: Getty Images – Getty
CONTAINERS & POTS
Ensure pots are no longer standing in saucers or in areas of heavy rainfallCredit: Getty Images – Getty
EMPTY any containers holding compost and previous seasons’ plant debris.
Keep an eye out for the white, c-shaped larvae of vine weevil, which eat the roots of strawberries, cyclamen, begonias, fuchsias, sedum and more.
Spread out any infected compost thinly on a tray for robins to devour the grubs.
Repot woody perennials – including fruiting trees, hydrangeas, conifers and evergreens – that are outgrowing their containers, into larger pots.
Ensure pots are no longer standing in saucers or in areas of heavy rainfall.
Lifting containers on to pot feet will improve drainage and stop waterlogging.
Refresh some of the compost in containers of lilies and agapanthus.
Cut back dead flower stems on all but daisy-type seed headsCredit: Alamy
YOUR last chance to plant any remaining tulip bulbs. If planted by the third week in January they will still grow full size and flower in April/May.
Clear any frosted remains of tender summer bedding, cut back dead flower stems on all but daisy-type seed heads, such as perennial Rudbeckia, which provide seeds for goldfinches.
Big clumps of hardy perennials, such as hostas and day lilies, can be lifted, divided and replanted to rejuvenate them.
Delay this dividing of Michaelmas daisies and ox-eye daisies until the spring, when they will be more successful.
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Beech, hornbeam, privet, thorn and yew will all shoot out again Credit: Getty Images – Getty
WHILE it is not the perfect time, birds are not nesting so overgrown hedges can be safely trimmed.
Put a sheet down at the base of the hedge first then shear from the bottom up, so the trimmings fall on to the sheet as you cut.
Beech, hornbeam, privet, thorn and yew will all shoot out again – even when pruned back hard.
Once trimmed, cleaning up involves no more than lifting the four corners of the sheet and carrying away all the debris.
TIP: A packet of dried peas from the supermarket will give hundreds of seeds so sow a succession of punnets. Make sure these peas have a long sell-by date – you need fresh seed to germinate well and quickly..
There are five kinds of rocket you can grow in your window kitchen box Credit: Alamy
READERS with no garden and those cooped up indoors can grow salad leaves on well-lit windowsills.
Mustard and cress are the obvious, but seed catalogues now offer a range of salad leaf crops. They include corn salad, Oriental leaf mixtures and Mesclun mixed leaves that come with a “kick”.
Lettuce mixed salad leaves contain some coloured kinds to add interest, while Beetroot “Bull’s Blood” seedlings are dark red and have the sweet, beetroot flavour. There are also five kinds of rocket, all with the distinctive peppery flavour of brassicas.
With all these salads, if you do not shear too hard at the first cut they keep producing foliage to harvest.
Any half-used packets of seed can be used up in this way. Or there are plenty of kinds available from catalogues and online. There are also complete packs of trays, compost and seeds, with cultivating instructions.
The harder you prune, the stronger the regrowth is likely to beCredit: Shutterstock
SOFT fruit bushes, apple and pear trees can be pruned now as all the leaves have fallen.
Blackcurrants are easy, just cut out some of the old, very black-barked branches. Redcurrants and gooseberries fruit on short spurs, so prune back side branches to a few inches. (See our “How to” videos at sungardening.co.uk for demos on pruning).
Remember, the harder you prune, the stronger the regrowth is likely to be, and if in doubt, don’t! It is a good time to plant deciduous fruit trees and bushes. If you don’t have any, try a few canes of raspberries – “Autumn Treasure” and “Polka” are recommended.
The new canes they will make this year will start fruiting in August through to the frost. Then, where these fruiting tips are pruned off, the lower cane will crop in June/July 2022, after which it is cut out completely and the new summer’s canes take over.
I like to sow aubergine and peppers in JanuaryCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
EMPTY well-rotted material from compost bins to make space for the cleared remains of last summer’s crops.
When the surface soil is frozen, it is easier to barrow compost and manure on to cleared land, ready to dig in when temperatures rise.
It is a good time to either lift, split and replant large old crowns of rhubarb or plant new.
Cloves of garlic can be planted in the soil and in containers.
Strip off yellowing leaves from Brussels sprouts and if the stems are tall, stake and tie to support against the cold winter wind.
A cloche or cold frame cover will keep hardy winter salad leaves coming.
A start can be made sowing seeds indoors. Exhibitors growing large onions traditionally sow their seeds at the turn of the year. I like to sow aubergine and peppers in January, because they are slow to germinate and get established.
Choose compact cultivars such as aubergine “Pot Black” and sweet pepper “Redskin” to grow on window sills until late May.
Growing salad leaves is a great kids’ project Credit: Getty Images – Getty
AN easy way to grow salad leaves is to recycle a couple of clear plastic grape punnets, ideally one with no holes in the base (to keep the windowsill dry) and another with holes to sit inside.
If there is a gap of half an inch or so between the two even better, as this allows free drainage.
Run a wool wick from the compost down through the holes to draw up moisture. This makes watering less frequent and easier.
Put an inch or so of any moist potting compost in the top punnet, sow the seeds and place in a polythene bag somewhere warm until shoots appear, then move to a well-lit windowsill.
Most will be up in a few days and ready to cut in three or four weeks.
When shoots are two or three inches above the top of the punnet, scissor off level with the top of the punnet to leave enough stalk to shoot out again and again and give several harvests.
A great kids’ project.
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