Gearing up to grow

01:00 Tue 13th Feb 2001 |

By Tom Gard

LIKE plants and animals, this is the time of year gardeners begin to come out of hibernation and take their first tentative sniffs of the air outside.

The weather has not been kind this winter, which has set a lot of preparation work back. If it wasn't done in Autumn, January is traditionally the month for digging over beds and vegetable patches.

However, the unprecedented amount of rain has meant that all but the best drained soils have been too heavy to work properly. If conditions have improved where you are do it now so you can turn your attention to what is going to go into this year's garden as soon as possible.

Having spent the winter planning what you want in your borders this spring and summer it is at last time to start doing something about it. Annual and biannual seeds can now be sown under glass or in a propagator in a prepared seedbed.

Looking outside this might seem a bit on the premature side, but starting now will mean you have well established seedlings to plant out when the weather finally turns and will save you having to spend ten times as much stocking up at the garden centre in a few months time. It's also worth sowing a few sweet peas now for an early show.

Tubers, such as begonias, dahlias and cannas, should be planted out if you want them to flower this season and order summer flowering bulbs quickly to give you time to get them in the ground.

If you live in milder parts of the country, bare rooted roses can be planted out as soon as the frosts have subsided in holes containing plenty of well-rotted compost.

Climbing roses should have any dead or weak straggly growth pruned out, and it's worth checking the condition of the trellis supporting spring flowering climbers�such as clematis. Buddleia can be pruned back hard as early pruning produces early flowering.

In the kitchen garden, warm up seedbeds by covering with cloches or sheets of clear polythene. Broad bean and leek seeds can go in now, as long as your soil isn't still waterlogged, as can onion sets.

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