Warm weather

IT has now been announced by government that last year was the hottest on record since the 1850s and certainly the warmest in the last century and probably the wettest too.

These factors have given many gardeners a massive headache as many crops, flowers and vegetables alike, have been difficult to grow.

Amateur gardeners struggled over the last year and several nurserymen and growers have also disappeared from the scene. These factors have resulted in many retail outlets finding it difficult to come by stocks to fill their shelves and even some mail order companies have less seeds and plants on offer.

It was interesting to note that D.T Brown & Company in their 2024 catalogue have pledged to hold their products at last year's prices. Gardeners will no doubt be pleased.

Care of house plants

With all the cold weather around these days it is little wonder that many ‘green-fingered’ enthusiasts have turned their attention to house plants, and today we feature on many factors relating to indoor plants.

It is a very true fact that many house plants are killed by kindness - particularly by over-watering. Many householders assume that plants need to be given water daily but this is not the case.

Most plants will suffice with being given water about once per week and the best advice is to set aside a time each week to think about watering your plants.

Perhaps on a Sunday when you return from church, or on the day when you return from your weekly shopping trip or the day when you go to the bingo.

Each plant will need only enough water to survive. The temperature in each room will vary and thus will affect the amount of water a plant needs. Should you notice leaves turning brown the it would be wise to remove them.

Each room will be at different temperatures – the kitchen being warmest and living rooms a bit cooler and bedrooms even cooler. The space between a cold window and a curtain is even colder and detrimental to plants.

If you are unsure about whether a plant needs water just lift the pot and if it is light in weight, then it can probably do with some water. But if the pot is heavy then it will not need any.

If you see roots coming through the bottom of the pot you may be tempted to assume that the plant needs to be re-potted and for this we need to use peat-free or peat-reduced compost. It you intend to re-pot then add some grit or perlite to the compost to add drainage.

Looking at the various different plants, it is important that types such as African Violets and begonias are watered from below rather than from above, as the leaves will become marked and rot.

Spider plants are ideal for growing in the bathroom in a basket formation where they form many little plantlets which can be used to increase a multitude of little plants which can be given to friends.

Orchids make popular house plants and once they flower the blooms usually die off but it is quite common for them to flower a few months later. The are quite resilient and it is often said that they thrive on neglect. It is best to cover the surface of the compost with vermiculite to retain a bit of heat and the same product can be added to the compost to improve drainage.

Members of the pepper family can be grown indoors and because they need a long growing season it is best to start them off indoors as soon as possible. The plants can be sown from seeds and it is best to remember that the hotter the chilli or pepper is the longer it will take to germinate.

Although the plants need warmth to germinate, once seed leaves appear and they are pricked out and true leaves form they need to be kept warm but not too hot - otherwise the plants may become too leggy.

What lies ahead

Winter flowers give an indication that better days lie ahead and already some hardy types such as snowdrops are already popping their tiny heads above the soil and soon they will be followed by crocus.

The shoots of daffodils are also beginning to pop up through the soil, or grass if you have naturalised them.

Care needs to be taken when walking over the garden that you do not trample over them. I have had some readers report that their grass is beginning to grow again and in some cases has been growing all through the winter.

It is best to refrain from walking over grass, particularly when it is frosted, as each blade of grass will be broken and might just die off.

With the change in environmental issues of the past year or so, one can also sow seeds of parsley and other herbs indoors and sow successive quantities over several weeks. Excess crops can be dried or frozen and used in soups, salads and other culinary creations.

It is a bit early to start digging the garden but every effort should be made to protect your back from the cold and avoid backache and strain. Perhaps choosing the ‘no dig’ option is a better idea.

Over the coming weeks give trees and large bushes a winter wash using a proprietary product which you can purchase from your local garden centre.

Don’t forget the rock salt

Keep slabbed areas, steps and patios free from ice using it, but avoid getting the salt onto plants as it will kill them. Driveways can also be treated to avoid ice.

Horticultural talks begin

The talks are back on January 23 with a Burns Lunch as previously intimated and booking should be made in advance as stated in a previous article.